I was going to save this for tomorrow, to give myself some more time to think, but I can’t wait that long. When I first read Th1rteen R3asons Why by Jay Asher in 2008, I was 11 and
The book hit me hard. Not because I was bullied, or because I was suicidal (then), but because I knew someone who was bullied as much though differently as Hannah Baker was. I know Asher’s book is set in high school, and I’ve heard more and more people tell me about the horrors of high school, but for me… middle school is where the horrors lie, though it makes sense that those would last into high school (and even college, according to some people). I’ll say it: adolescents can be mean as shit and it’s obvious these behaviors don’t get eradicated in middle school when parents of bullies refuse to believe their child is a problem, schools look the other way, and our society breeds (cyber)bullying, slut-shaming, and rape culture.
When I first finished the book, I wanted everyone to read it and years later when I heard Selena Gomez was going to star in it, I got excited because I hoped it would get more of the exposure it deserved. It’s taken more than a few years for it to come to fruition, and Gomez is now only executive producing while Katherine Langley stars as Hannah Baker.
Since reading the book (in no particular order), I’ve entertained my own suicidal thoughts on at least 2 occasions, been to a school that had a suicide before I got there, a classmate who switched schools after reporting that she’d been raped, and a friend of mine who was definitely raped. I’ve been to 2 Take Back the Night rallies, and met more people who have been raped or sexually assaulted.
I’m currently taking a women’s studies class called Sexism in the 21st Century. It deals with a lot including slut-shaming and violence against women—both of which appear in this book and show. I couldn’t articulate all the issues that the book brought up when I first read it, despite emotionally knowing some of the issues first hand and the others as an observer, but I can now. We live in a flawed world that insists that teenagers overreact, that girls are overly emotional sex objects, and where many issues are swept under the rug. It needs to stop. Suicide statistics are skyrocketing, and rape and bullying are problems that has been here a lot longer than anyone likes to admit and won’t go away until they’re confronted by everyone.
The book needs to be read (despite being banned by some people who believe it glorifies suicide—believe me, it doesn’t) and the show needs to be viewed in middle school (the book was written as a young adult novel, after all), high school, college, and for however long it needs to be until people get it. Because like I said a few times now: the issues in the book and show are societal issues that affect everyone at almost all ages. I’m not saying you talk about rape and suicide to a pre-pubescent girl, but starting at age 3, girls start being put into boxes. By age 6, they’re conditioned to be passive. By 11, 12, or 13, all the issues in this book have happened to them or someone they know. How is anything going to get better if people ignore the issue exists or refuses to give younger people the education they need to not be cruel and to get help if they need it before it’s too late? Hannah gives 13 reasons why for her own suicide, imagine how many reasons exist for everyone else who has ended their life. Things need to change.