After watching the Netflix adaptation earlier this year, I was interested to read Jay Asher’s novel because if there’s one thing I really love, it’s adaptation. Just as in the Netflix series, Asher’s novel follows the character Clay Jensen after he discovers some tapes left on his doorstep which appear to be from Hannah Baker – a girl from his class who has recently committed suicide. On these tapes she details why she committed suicide, and that if you were listening to the tapes you were one of the reasons why.
I loved the Netflix series. It was compulsive watching for me: it hooked me right in with the whole concept, lulled a little in the middle, and then went full throttle when it got to that end point. I loved it, and after reading the novel it was based on I’m really craving watching to watch it all over again to see the comparisons between them.
Asher throws you right into the action – when Clay discovers the tapes on his doorstep. One thing I really loved, was the adaptation used pretty much the same opening dialogue that Hannah uses in the novel. I could picture the adaptation so clearly in my head throughout most of the novel because of how similar Hannah’s dialogue was – it was so damn gripping! A stylistic point of view that I absolutely adored were the play, pause, and stop symbols that were used to break up the sections of the narrative in relation to Hannah’s tapes. Both that and the interspersed interjections from Clay broke the novel up into easy digestible chunks, so I didn’t realise how much I’d read until I’d finished the chapter.
Clay is such a cute protagonist – as much as he’s trying to listen to what Hannah’s saying, he’s hurt that she could blame him for her death. One thing that did annoy me was the overshadowing of victim blaming that came from the various character’s attitudes, even Clay at points. It was almost accusing Hannah of not reaching out enough – which reminded me of what I’ve heard people say about the adaptation in relation to victim blaming. You never know what someone else is going through.
The pacing was brilliant – even though I’d watched the series adaptation and felt that there was a lull in the middle episodes, that didn’t faze me about the novel. There didn’t seem to be the same slow pace – every chapter moved smoothly into the next, a true testament to Asher’s skill as a writer.
I’m not sure if I would have loved this novel as much if I’d read it before watching the series, as parts of the filler stuff that was included in the adaptation filled in some of the background of the novel that I might have questioned had I not seen it. I might have said that some of the characters weren’t as fleshed out as they could be, though we are only seeing them through Hannah’s narrative. Her bias would cloud them, and paint them with the vicious reality that she would have seen them with.
I don’t know if I’d have been as satisfied with the ending either – it was abrupt in a sense, though you couldn’t miss the comparison between Skye’s character and Hannah’s. Almost as if the novel had come full circle, and that Clay had realised if he had also reached out to Hannah sooner, she might still have been alive. It was a beautiful comment on being caring for others, and to try and think about what other people might be going through.
I really loved this novel – it was really beautiful, and I especially loved how Asher played with form. The use of italics to showcase Hannah’s narrative as different from Clay’s was brilliant. Overall, I would give this novel a 5/5, and it’s not hard to see why this has become a cult classic.