Last night we drove for far too long and finally staggered into a room at a Hampton Inn & Suites in West Sacramento, CA. At first, there was good TV — The Daily Show and The Colbert Report — but then I turned off the satan-box for some downtime. Mom complained, saying she needed some mindless background chatter to make her mindless paperwork seem bearable. So I turned it on and went to the SyFy channel.
I picked up Thirteen Reasons Why recently because it was on my list of “to read” and it had received much critical acclaim. Also it was one of two books I’d brought with me while traveling (not including the two I read on mom’s Kindle). I figured it might be okay, at least.
Allow me to give you 13 reasons I dislike it. And by “dislike”, I mean “hate psychotically.”
[TRIGGER WARNING: RAPE AND ASSAULT]
1.Support of the “Well, she didn’t technically say ‘no’ so it’s not technically rape, right?” trope. The character who gets raped [I’m talking about Hannah; the other character who gets raped is tossed aside like a piece of garbage, her views never explored] is herself unsure if it was rape or no, which is very common because we all get taught that we’re dirty and naughty unless we shout no! in a loud voice — but we’re trained from an early age to never say no, because then the menfolk might get violent. That’s not what I have issue with; I have issue with the book itself seeming unsure regarding the conclusion. If the character who’d been raped could not unequivocally call it that, then another character who knew about it (there were three) should have been clear. Without that clarity it seems the author is saying he agrees that it’s “grey-area rape”. Anything short of enthusiastic consent is rape. Not saying no does not equal consent. The fact that the character was crying and clenching her teeth just to get through it should have alerted the others who knew about the situation that it was rape. Instead, we get vague hand-waving of “well maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t,” and this is wholly irresponsible of the author and holds up standards of misogyny and rape culture.
2. The structure of the book is highly manipulative. The reader is lead on a very deliberate route, leaving no leeway for interpretation. Asher has a conclusion that he wants you to reach and he makes sure you reach it. This leaves you feeling used and abused once the book is done.
3. Horrible characterization: there is no sympathy for Hannah Baker. She’s badly written. Hannah is portrayed as cold, calculating, selfish and childish. Suicidal people get portrayed as selfish all the time, so this is an old, tired, trope. Instead, you feel sympathy for Clay Jensen, who is a basically good guy [even thought he’s been raised steeped in patriarchal rape culture but that’s not really his fault and despite it he seems to turn out okay, at least] who is in love with Hannah. He had no idea how deeply disturbed she was, and feels she didn’t really give him a chance to help her. The added blow of giving him the tapes will give him guilt and anger towards her, which is unfair and childish: suicidal people usually don’t plan big manipulation games like this. We’re too lost in our own pain to even fucking care about how our deaths are going to affect others — and no, that’s not being selfish, that’s called having bodily autonomy. Also, if you can’t understand what it’s like to just want to die because you’re in so much pain, shut the fuck up about suicidal people being selfish. You have no idea.
A book or series of books you’ve read more than five times
Ugh. I really really really wish I could say The Black Jewels Trilogy for this one, but unfortunately I keep on losing my copy of that one and haven’t replaced enough times to have read it more than five times (I have read it four times). So in the interest of full disclosure…Freedom’s Landing, by Anne McCaffrey.
Don’t judge me! I was young! I did it for the money sex scene!
To be fair, though, Freedom’s Landing is a pretty good book, even if it is a prime example of some of Ms McCaffrey’s Favorite Tropes (that sounds like it should be a holiday dish of some sort: Favorite Tropes! Made of tears and repetition!).
She does ease up on the RACE A GOOD, RACE B EVIL (because A is for Aryan and B is for Black, see?) thing a little bit, but then puts all the blame on RACE C (for…cookies. They are a NEVER food!). To wit: book starts off with the Catteni established as the Bad Guys (with the exception of one, Zanial, who’s “good” even though he did try to rape the main character within the first 10 or so pages of the book) and the Terrans, Rugarians, Deski, and…some other alien races I’m forgetting the names of being the Good Guys. Catteni go around subjugating planets and taking slaves. One of the uses for slaves: making them colonize less-than-friendly planets for the Catteni, who will then move in and take advantage of all the slaves’ hard work. Apparently this works very well for them, and is important, as it is the basis of the entire book.
So, Kris Bjornsen and her fellow slaves get dropped on this planet…along with Zanial (it’s her fault she’s there, by the way, because when he made a move to grab her and rip her clothing off, she hit him over the head with a blunt object and then went to toss him in a deserted street of the main town of Barevi, only to get gassed because of the slave riots), whose life she saves by convincing the self-established leader of the slave-colonizers that Z would be useful.
By the end of the book it’s revealed that the Catteni are being controlled by a greater, EVILLER race, the Eosi (so I suppose they’d be Race E), who possess Catteni and make them do really gross things (like vote Republican). It is also revealed that Zanial has an amazing cock.
Because oh yes. Kris falls in love with him. And they totally do it. And it’s actually pretty hot, granted, but perhaps not the best thing for an impressionable 10 year old to be reading. Not because of the sex scene — I’m fully sex positive, and think kids can learn about sex and know about it a lot earlier than we give them credit for — but because of the relationship dynamic.