Book Review | Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

I don’t doubt for a second you’ve heard of this book. Nor do I doubt you’ve watched the Netflix series. I’m here today to talk a little about both (mostly the book!). 

For August, I decided to randomly generate my TBR. This is the book I was least looking forward to because there’s so much negativity surrounding the content. 

There is a lot that I want to say in regards to this book, so let’s get down to it. 

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

You can’t stop the future. 
You can’t rewind the past.
The only way to learn the secret . . . is to press play.

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker–his classmate and crush–who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah’s voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why. 

Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah’s pain, and as he follows Hannah’s recorded words throughout his town, what he discovers changes his life forever.

Mental Health

Hannah’s mental health is never really properly addressed and I have mixed feelings about this aspect of the novel. She never seeks help. Sorry, I can’t consider her going to the English teacher/guidance counselor as seeking help… Her parents never really question what’s going on with her. The mental health aspect of this book did not live up to what I hoped for. 

Let me be clear about this. I am NOT saying Hannah NEEDED a diagnosis to justify her actions. The tapes were simply a glimpse into her thoughts that lead up to her actions. Honestly, the reviews stating Hannah had no reason to take her own life make me really angry because YOU, angry reviewers, can’t decide what makes the actions of another person worthy. 

So I’m torn because I wish she would have brought her ideations to the attention of someone other than the English teacher/guidance counselor. That man did not have the proper training to intervene with a suicidal teenager. He did not have the proper credentials and that’s the part of this book that makes me so mad.

I understand Hannah was seeking help where she thought she could get help, but it also makes me question her relationship with her parents. My mother was always really perceptive of the mental health of her children, so I wonder what could possibly be more important (sorry, the mall going up wasn’t reason enough for me) than Hannah in her mother’s world. 

Basically, I wanted there to be a message in this book that it’s okay to seek treatment and I was disappointed that it was lacking. 

The Tapes

I’m going to come right out and say I enjoyed reading this format of story telling. I like the idea of hearing the story through the point of view of the person telling their story, while simultaneously reading another character’s POV. It was interesting and engaging. 

The content is another story…  

The Main Idea

Look, it’s really hard to do justice for a book that deals with such heavy topics. Am I doing okay so far? I think I am, but I’m also treading really carefully to not anger readers. This is hard. 

I saw the main idea of this story not as Hannah’s taking of her own life. Instead, I saw the main idea as treating others with respect or at least being mindful of how we interact with other people. I didn’t like that this was almost a placing blame game, but it certainly has made me more mindful of the ways in which I speak to other people. 

I don’t think the author’s main idea for this book centered around placing blame. In fact, I really believe his whole point was to make other people see that the way they treat people can affect them. You don’t get to decide you didn’t hurt someone. That’s what I think Jay Asher was trying to drive home. And I, for one, think he did a hell of a job doing it. I don’t think he could accomplish this without the seriousness that is suicide. 

Overall

I’m not going to sit here and spout praises for this book. I liked the writing, but the content was disturbing. It’s not as deeply disturbing as the show (good God), but still, it’s there. I would not recommend this to everyone, in particular I wouldn’t recommend this to someone struggling with suicide ideation. Nor would I recommend it to someone who is struggling with depression without help. It’s hard to read, but at the same time, the writing is so goddam captivating I couldn’t stop reading. 

One more thing.

I hated the ending. Like, what the fuck. 

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟

I thought I was going to have to gift this to the library, but I’m definitely keeping it. 

Let’s Chat!

I don’t always like to read books that are as heavy as this. I have a few in my collection though (trying to be a well-rounded home librarian). What are some books you liked that feature heavy content like this? I’m looking at The Way I Used to Be as my next hard to handle book, but I’m open to other options. Share your thoughts in the comments!

Book Review | Hot Dog Girl by Jennifer Dugan

I make efforts to read diverse books.

I especially like books with non-straight narrators or characters, but the selling point for me was not that the main character was bi-sexual. The selling point was the setting.

An amusement park in summer? I can’t think of a more perfect summer reading option than a book set in summer at an amusement park.

I mean, I live pretty close to a pretty large chain amusement park (this is a thing right?) but I grew up near a local amusement park and my days at this park were always some of the best.

Reading this book was almost like vicariously living through a character to live out my high school dream of being able to work at my local amusement parks.

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Elouise (Lou) Parker is determined to have the absolute best, most impossibly epic summer of her life. There are just a few things standing in her way:

* She’s landed a job at Magic Castle Playland . . . as a giant dancing hot dog.
* Her crush, the dreamy Diving Pirate Nick, already has a girlfriend, who is literally the Princess of the park. But Lou’s never liked anyone, guy or otherwise, this much before, and now she wants a chance at her own happily ever after.
* Her best friend, Seeley, the carousel operator, who’s always been up for anything, suddenly isn’t when it comes to Lou’s quest to set her up with the perfect girl or Lou’s scheme to get close to Nick.
* And it turns out that this will be their last summer at Magic Castle Playland–ever–unless she can find a way to stop it from closing.

Jennifer Dugan’s sparkling debut coming-of-age queer romance stars a princess, a pirate, a hot dog, and a carousel operator who find love–and themselves–in unexpected people and unforgettable places. 

Elouise and Seeley

They have the best version of best friendship. I loved Seeley’s character. She’s much more than her wild colored hair and I just loved her sassy, sarcastic attitude.

Elouise was not always my favorite but in all fairness, most leading ladies never are my favorite. There’s always something about the leading ladies in YA novels that makes me want to shake them and say “LOOK BITCH!” Elouise is no exception. She’s incredibly dense, but so lovable. I was rooting for her the whole time, even though I was rooting against what she thought she wanted.

A teensy tiny bit of cliche

There’s a fake relationship in this novel.

If you’ve read To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before you know how this goes.

I’ll leave it at that.

Bi Girls Date Girls for Boys Attention?

This is something I’ve read a lot of on Goodreads lately, especially in regards to this book. I don’t see it that way at all though. If Elouise fake-dated someone for the attention of her crush, don’t you think she’d be walking around in all her PDA glory for said attention? Or is that just me? Spoiler alert: that’s totally not the case.

I don’t get some of the internet critics so if you are one, can you enlighten me please?

Overall thoughts

You all know I love a good debut. This one was decent. Totally a cutesy summer story about love and friendship and it was exactly what I needed when I picked it up.

Overall, I wasn’t disappointed and if Jennifer Dugan writes another book I’d read it. She has a really sweet writing style that I can’t stop thinking about.

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟💫

This was v cute (my goodreads review lol).

Let’s chat!!

What’s your favorite childhood summertime memory? It doesn’t have to be childhood, but a favorite summertime memory in general.

My favorite summer memory involves a trip to San Diego to visit my bestie when I was about 24. We went to Disneyland on that trip and it was one of the best days of my life.

Book Review | A Sky for Us Alone by Kristin Russell

A Sky for Us Alone was among my most highly anticipated books of 2019. I knew, from the second I read the synopsis, that I’d want to read it. Let’s talk about whether it lived up to my expectations.

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

In Strickland County, there isn’t a lot of anything to go around. But when eighteen-year-old Harlowe Compton’s brother is killed by the Praters—the family who controls everything, from the mines to the law—he wonders if the future will ever hold more than loss. Until he meets Tennessee Moore.

With Tennessee, Harlowe feels for the first time that something good might happen, that he might’ve found the rarest thing of all: hope. Even as she struggles with the worst of the cards she’s been dealt, Tennessee makes Harlowe believe that they can dare to forge their own path—if they only give it a shot.

But as Harlowe searches for the answers behind his brother’s death, his town’s decay, and his family’s dysfunction, he discovers truths about the people he loves—and himself—that are darker than he ever expected. Now, Harlowe realizes, there’s no turning back.

A powerful story of first love, poverty, and the grip of the opioid crisis in the rural South, Kristin Russell’s gorgeous debut novel asks a universal question: When hope seems lost, are dreams worth the risk?

Opioid Struggles

One of the aspects that’s at the forefront of this novel is the struggle with opioids. It’s sad, and makes this story feel really real. Especially because the drug use hits so close to home for the main characters.

The thing is, even though I read the synopsis and knew the story would deal with the opioid crisis, I still expected it to be meth that got Nathaniel killed. (Call this residual effect from All the Ugly and Wonderful Things). This story felt like it could actually happen and it’s one of the main things I liked about this debut novel.

From there it went south.

Character development

While the characters were believable, I felt they lacked depth. I couldn’t really picture them because they weren’t really described. In fact, aside from context, I didn’t even know Harlowe was FOR SURE a male character until about 25 pages in. Tennessee has blond hair and tanned skin and maybe some freckles – I have no idea what color her eyes are because I can’t remember if it was stated. Harlowe has red hair, but we don’t know that until almost the end. I don’t need crazy character descriptions, but I at least like to be able to picture them. I couldn’t.

Mama Draughn is probably the most stand out character in the book. She’s the only one who didn’t fall flat and literally lives up to her Mama nickname. She is the caretaker of this novel and helps not only Harlowe when his mama goes through her drug struggle, but also Tennessee and Omie when they have their issues with their daddy.

Also, I’ll just say this – one of the more unbelievable aspects of this story is the second straight up murder. There’s no way the person who killed the other person did it because of what happened to him earlier in the book. (Names redacted – NO SPOILERS).

Concluding thoughts

My expectations were high for this one because of the synopsis. While we did gain a little closure at the end of the story, the true end of it was heartbreaking. All Harlowe’s hope that was built up over the course of the novel was completely shattered. I didn’t like the ending. I get that first love is rarely last love, but for this one, I expected it to be.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. It was well written for a debut and a pretty easy read despite the heavy material. I would buy another of Kristin Russell’s novels should she write more.

However, because of the lack of character depth, I found myself struggling to really get into this book as much as I get into most books. I didn’t really fall into the story like I would if I were able to picture the characters. This, for me, is a big deal breaker in books and therefore I had to lower my rating.

Rating: 🌟🌟💫

Like I said, I would read another of Kristin Russell’s novels, but this one fell a little short for me. I thought it was a great principle on which to build a novel and enjoyed some aspects of it. My question for you is, have you read any other novels that center around the opioid struggle in the south? Drop your recommendations in the comments.