Reading: 13 Reasons Why

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Oh man. Have you read/watched 13 Reasons Why? I saw the show a few months back when it was released on Netflix. It haunted me for quite a few days after finishing the last episode. Sure, I’ve seen some tough stuff over the years, but this was different…

Before I get ahead of myself, let’s back up a bit.

The Netflix show is based on the book, with the same name, written by Jay Asher. This is Asher’s first book, and it’s pretty darn good. Written with simultaneous perspectives (not easy!), the reader learns why Hannah Baker decides ending her life is the only option (incorrectly, yes) and Clay Jensen (a classmate with a crush on Hannah) is the vessel we “listen” to her reasons through.

Over the course of an evening, Clay learns how experiences one might perceive to be “no big deal” can, in fact, completely devastate a person. He learns that incidents are not isolated, because they cannot be. Everything about a person is tied to every part of them – whether others are privy to it or not.

Words can always hurt.

I borrowed this book from the library two days ago, and finished it last night. Despite knowing what happens after having watched the show, I could not put this book down. When I finished, Sean had come home from work and we sat on the couch so I could think out loud.

My mind was rather shaken up, and what kept coming out wasn’t connecting entirely at first. After processing for a bit, I realized a few reasons this book resonated so much.

  1. Sorrow, shame, loneliness, longing, joy, etc. are universal emotions. I don’t have to walk through your exact story to empathize with the way it makes you feel.
  2. Much like Hannah longed for someone notice her pain, I long for my own pain to be noticed. I long for people to truly understand.
  3. In my longing to be a mother, and not having that role to validate me, it often feels the very least people could do is validate my emotions.
  4. I, too, have been in a very dark head space. At its worst, infertility has caused me to think about what it would be like to just stop – everything. I’m so thankful to be far removed from that time. It was horrendous.
  5. I look back at my moments of deepest depression, and know what Hannah felt like. I understand the feeling of drowning, even when you know things will eventually pass. It’s like a rational irrationality. Irrational because it could be so much worse, because there is so much to be thankful for, because it won’t last forever. Rational because these things do hurt, do wound, do damage.

If you haven’t seen the show, or read the book, I’m not necessarily recommending that you do. I’m not sure it’s worth it. My brain and heart feel pretty heavy after it all. I appreciate the ability to look where I’ve come from and see how the Lord has actually saved me from myself, but it’s not a walk in the park.

The natural thing to do at this point might be to describe the kind of person who would benefit from this type of story. However, I just don’t know who that is.

I will say that the manner of suicide that Hannah decides upon is vastly different in the book than the show. The producers have said they chose to alter this portion of the story to deliver a more powerful impact. It’s definitely powerful, but I do not ever ever want to see those images again. I urge extreme caution in viewing that portion of the series. There’s no need, at least for me, to see what I already know happened. Maybe that’s different for others. For me, I was very nearly physically ill.

As I’ve said to some, my blog is first and foremost a place for me to “be.” Sometimes, that means I think and write about super sad stuff. Life is full of both ends of the emotional spectrum, and it helps me to wrestle with the deeper things sometimes.

Thanks for reading, if you have.

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