August 19, 2010 § 2 Comments
I’m not sure what the deal is, but the last two books I’ve read has been about suicide–and no, this is not my own personal cry for help–but I think it’s interesting in how the authors present it.
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher is about a high school girl, Hannah, that commits suicide, and instead of leaving behind a note she leaves behind a set of cassette tapes where she detailed the reasons why she decided to kill herself, and each reason has to do with a person. So the tapes get sent to the first person, he listens to them, sends them to the second person, then the third, and so on and so on. And the book is about this one guy, Clay, that apparently is kind of in love with her, and doesn’t understand why he is on the tape.
I really like the concept of this book, that her life is on tapes and this guy is listening to them. I think it’s an interesting approach to suicide. However, it’s sort of hard to follow. The voice of Hannah and the voice of Clay are not well distinguished from each other, so sometimes I lost contact of who was saying what and then I had to backtrack paragraphs to figure it out. But the thing that bothered me most was that however original the approach to suicide was, the reasons why Hannah killed herself are pretty standard: misunderstood, bullied, lonely, etc.
I’m not morbid, but I think if you’re going to take a really cliche topic to write about it, and then you decide to write about it in non cliched way, you’re going to have to pick out non cliched reasons for this character to end her life. The mistreatment by her school peers is not enough for me.
On a second note, I also read The Pact by Jodi Picoult. What I like about this one is that it approaches suicide with cliched reasons: Emily gets pregnant, it’s going to ruin her life, she must kill herself. However, Picoult does approach it with an interesting twist. Emily’s boyfriend Chris is there when she blows her head off and her suicide gets treated like a murderer; until her death is proven to be a suicide, he is held in jail on charges of manslaughter. So I thought that was pretty interesting.
The thing that got me though was when I read the end notes. Picoult said she wanted to write a story about what can happens when two families can get too close to each other.
So in the book, Chris’s family and Emily’s family live next door to each other. Their mothers are best friends, their fathers are best friends, the kids were born three months apart and there is not a single memory of childhood that doesn’t involve one another. So when Emily and Chris start dating, Chris is absolutely enamored, but Emily feels more like Chris is her brother, so the sex and the kisses feel almost incestuous. That, plus she carries his baby, and all the pressures, blah blah blah, push her over the edge. And I thought that was the most interesting part of the book, the relationship between the families and the dynamic of what happens when their kids date and when one is charged with the murder of the other.
But at the same time, I didn’t buy it. I thought Picoult was more concerned with the trial; how Chris felt about trying to get the story across of why she killed herself and he did not. The two family dynamic is hit on throughout, but not enough for me to really buy into it. It’s almost as if her idea was great, but her execution didn’t hit the nail directly on the head, if you get what I’m saying. Not only that, this is about the fifth novel of hers that I’ve read, and though the storyline was one of her bests, the approach is very similar to all the other plotlines of her other novels.
I feel like both Picoult and Asher’s novels were interesting to read, but overall left me with a feeling of wanting more. I wanted more reasons from Hannah, more definitive and less cliche reasons. I wanted more play on the incestuous family mergings in Picoult. I wanted more of Emily’s feelings about Chris, and more of Chris’s feelings about Emily, and less of Chris being on trial and the ultimate storyline of how to present a truth.