Review: It’s been a few days since I finished this book, and now that I’m sitting down to review it, I’m not 100% sure how I feel about it. Would I recommend it? Yes. And here’s why:
The topic of suicide, particularly amongst teens, is one that should be discussed a LOT more than it is. And not just suicide, but mental illness in general. Because really, suicidal thoughts and ideation are symptoms of mental illness, and until we fully engage with the core issue – learn about it (really learn about it), accept it, eliminate the stigma of it, and find a way to provide meaningful help – things will continue as they have been.
A lot of times, people are genuinely shocked that someone they know committed suicide, and I honestly believe that’s because most people have a very limited and overdramatized idea of what mental illness looks like. Mental illness is really a sort of spectrum, and except for very extreme cases, those red flags you’re expecting to see aren’t always as glaring as you’d expect AND they are different from person to person (why I say “spectrum”). And they can be very different in teenagers than they are in adults. Education is the key to understanding. And books like these, fictional or not, provide lots of exposure to a critically important topic. Perhaps some education and understanding is gained from reading it, but it is fiction. So while it may garner empathy and understanding (both important!), the more important thing is that it may very well encourage some readers to learn more, or to ask more questions, or perhaps to consider the behavior of someone in their life in a different way, to take notice when they hadn’t previously.
Now, I’ll step down from my soapbox, and talk a little bit more about the actual book.
The approach was very different. Hannah, who committed suicide, has left behind audiotapes for certain individuals to listen to, and we are going along with Clay as he listens to the tapes. Throughout, we are getting a sort of before and after, everything leading up to her suicide unfolding bit by bit, as well as the reaction from someone who knew her as he starts to see what he hadn’t seen before. There were times when I was little confused, where the transition from past to present got a bit blurred for me, but not often enough to impact my feel for the story.
And while I loved this book, and would absolutely recommend it to anyone and everyone, I felt like the subject matter should have left me a little more wrecked than it did. It isn’t that I had no feels, they just weren’t the intense feels I was anticipating. It is entirely possible that my soul has finally died or is temporarily checked out at the moment, which wouldn’t be a fault of the book (I feel like I’ve been complaining a lot lately that books I expected to be emotional weren’t). Regardless, the lack of shattering emotional trauma is why I couldn’t quite get to a A+ rating. But, I still say…
Read it. Read other books like it. Please.