I have really struggled with how to review this book. Let me start by saying that I didn’t enjoy it at all. Suicide is a topic that we definitely need to discuss with our teens, no question. But I was disappointed in Hannah’s propensity for blaming others. Hannah’s method of exposing the crimes against her leaves no room for forgiveness or change. While she does accept the ultimate responsibility for taking her own life, she lays a lot of blame along the way, becoming by her own actions, everything that others labeled her.
The main message of the book is that how we treat and interact with others truly has an effect. A quote from Hannah sums it up this way. “I guess that’s the point of it all. No one knows for certain how much impact they have on the lives of other people. Oftentimes we have no clue. Yet we push it just the same.” I think most of us, and our children as well, need a reminder of this fact. We can all be a little more kind, compassionate and understanding, because just as the people on Hannah’s list contributed to her fall, we each have the capacity to be the one who literally saves a life.
Also, suicide is never a solution. Hannah had some really hard things happen to her, but they were not insurmountable. Because she lacked a strong support system, she allowed herself to believe there was no other way to go on. We need to teach kids that they can overcome anything. We need to empower them to face and solve their problems, not give up and run away.
I also struggled with the heavy sexual content. I don’t think that we need rape, premarital sex, and a girl allowing (and by her own admission she does allow it) a boy she doesn’t even like to misuse her body, in order to discuss suicide and how our actions affect others. I am a married 40-something woman and I was very uncomfortable with the hot tub scene. I felt dirty reading it. What will young adult women feel when they read it? We can discuss suicide and the consequences of our actions without this kind of content.
Overall I can’t recommend this book for anyone younger than 18. I can already hear the emails being written about how these are real issues teens deal with today, which I completely understand, but I think there are appropriate and inappropriate ways of dealing with them. And while books do offer opportunities to discuss difficult topics with our children, they are by no means the only avenue to start a conversation.