Going into the book, I knew Thirteen Reasons Why was a controversial book. I have personally battled depression in the past, but have never been near suicidal. So while I can't comment on the authenticity of how this story represents the mindset of someone who is suicidal, I can certainly believe that it rings true to at least some people. I watched the Netflix series as well, and there were differences. There were parts I thought played out better in the book and others I thought were more impactful in the series. I'll focus on the book here.
Hannah isn't a particularly likable character. In some ways, I'm glad for that though. The reader has to work a bit harder to maintain empathy with the narrator, and working harder for it makes you think a bit more about the circumstances.
I don't think this book had anything that was a profoundly new concept. As I read through each of the 13 reasons, I had a memory flash of when something similar happened to me growing up. Things for teens may be more pronounced these days with the inclusion of social media, but it's not new stuff. Kids are cruel - always have been and always will be. Those cruel words and actions will have an impact on others. Some will get over it and some won't. Some will even be able to use it to make them stronger. I do think it might be more difficult to escape these days from cruel behavior because of how easily rumors and bullying can spread through social media, and I know that can be a real challenge. So even though not a profound new look at the struggles of teens, it's a unique way to bring forth the reminders that if we could all just be a bit kinder then we might actually make a huge impact in someone else's life.
I do wish the book would have gone more into Hannah's mental health. Many kids go through similar experiences, yet they don't commit or even attempt suicide. Someone who is willing to carry it through has much deeper needs - and unfortunately the book didn't touch on that at all.
I'd also like to point out that this is the kind of book that parents should read with their child. Some have slammed this book for the danger it causes because it glamorizes suicide and somewhat gives a pass as to why it's OK. Some will see it that way. Others won't. That's why it's important to read it with your teen and talk about it.