le plus loin le plus serré

le plus loin le plus serré
mourning art

in memoriam

"yet I tell you, from the sad knowledge of my older experience, that to every one of you a day will most likely come when sunshine, hope, presents and pleasure will be worth nothing to you in comparison with the unattainable gift of your mother's kiss." (Christina Rossetti, "Speaking Likenesses," 1873)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

new experiment: booking through thursday

I've decided to try participating in the Booking Through Thursday meme (a word I really do not like). This week's question:

What’s the worst book you’ve read recently?
(I figure it’s easier than asking your all-time worst, because, well, it’s recent!)

This is not an easy one to answer. I don't pick books that sound bad; I usually go for books that I've heard or read something positive about, or books where I know the author's other work and like it. That said, I guess I'd have to say the book I've read recently (in the last six months or) that was worst is Jay Asher's 13 REASONS WHY.

13 REASONS WHY has been pretty popular with younger readers; I guess vindictive, suicidal girls have their appeal. It's entirely possible that this *could* have been a good book; the premise isn't terrible, but Asher is not that skilled as a writer. Ultimately, the book left me cold and puzzled: Hannah's reasons for killing herself seemed awfully petty, and I never once felt, from the tone of her narrations, that she was in the kind of despair that leads to suicide. She sounds more petulant than anything else. Similarly, the position in which she puts the novel's main narrator, Clay, is appalling.
The novel ends with a weak attempt at producing a silver lining to Hannah's suicide, and this is maybe where the book is at its worst. Hannah's suicide – her 13 reasons – seem so utterly banal that it's hard to feel like any big impact has been made. There is NO silver lining to suicide, but the book wants to leave us on an up note, so Clay decides to be especially nice to a misfit depressed girl at school. The book closes on his decision; we never see if he carries through, or if he has any success.

This is not the most poorly written book I've ever read, but it's not particularly good, either. The prose is just so-so. Hannah's voice is not convincing; or perhaps, it's convincing as an unhappy, bratty teenager, but not one genuinely driven to the kinds of misery that lead to suicide. Clay is more convincing, but the narrative screws him over so badly it's hard to feel anything but misery for him. The misery is made worse by the book's belated effort at giving us something positive to latch on to (Clay's last-page decision to reach out to his classmate). Either leave us with the bleakness that attends suicide, OR give us something genuinely positive or hopeful to take away. The half-assed attempt at an up ending only highlights the shoddiness of the entire text.


Allison said...

I haven't heard of this book. It sounded interesting.. but if the writing itself is lacking, I usually find it all not that worth even reading.

Susan B. Evans said...

You're the second person I've known who hasn't liked it. Guess I'll need to avoid it.

I chose The Reader by Bernhard Schlink as my most recent bad book. You can check out my thoughts here.

Frances Ivy said...

I have heard something about this book before. Now, I'm not liking it even more.

Here's mine.

Anonymous said...

I actually quite liked it - thought it was an interesting premise, and while the thirteen reasons weren't convincing enough, there have been people out there who have killed themselves over far less... I don't know - maybe cumulatively, they added up?

The ending is disappointing, and the whole "pass it on - the thirteen tapes" seems a little mental, and there's the whole thing of, more oft' than not, people driven to suicide do it impulsively as opposed to thinking it out meticulously, and leaving a guilt trail in their wake.