Last week a couple of people recommended a new TV show to me. Its name is “13 reasons why” and it’s a Netflix show based on a book of the same name. Now I haven’t read the book before, but I’ve heard that it’s a story about the suicide of a teenage girl and how it affected everyone in her life. Sure, that story seems pretty interesting, only I remembered that the title is “13 reasons why” and I wondered… could it be that someone really wrote a suicide story and explained it with 13 reasons? Sadly I was right.
Now I’m not here to talk about that TV show. In fact, if you want to watch it, I can tell you that the acting is good and that there’s a suicide scene that may not be easy to see. But this TV show made me read a book I wanted to read for a long time (I’ve seen the movie a lot of times). The subject is similar, of course, it’s a story about teen suicides only this time there are no 13 or even a 100 reasons why… The story is much more complex than that.
You’ve probably seen this movie. It was one of the movies that made me really afraid when I was a teenager. I didn’t understand much, only the sense of great fear was always left when I watched it. And it is a beautiful movie, with beautiful girls and beautiful scenery and even if you couldn’t really understand what it was about you had to admire the way the story was told, how the lives of ordinary teenage girls who almost never left the house looked so interesting.
The story is told by a boy who never reveals a lot about himself, only that some time has passed after a group of girls, all daughters of the strict Lisbon parents committed suicide for an unknown reason. Now the narrator goes back to the past, trying to understand what made those girls do that. Was it the fact that they had very strict parents? Was it the fact that all the boys wanted to sleep with them but not really date them? Was it because their youngest sister Cecilia killed herself first, during a party, showing no visible signs that she’ll do it? The narrator remembers rumors, gossips, and some facts, remembers the girls the way he saw them when he too was only a teenager. Is it possible to really know someone, even if you go to school with them all your life? Even if you visit their home? Even if you read their diary?
I know a lot of people read this as a criticism of American middle class that only watches things happen to others and makes it okay until it happens to them. It certainly is that kind of story. When the first girl kills herself, every parent blames the parents but their own children do unimaginable things too.
Cecilia’s suicide is the first one and it happens in the first part of the book. After her first attempt she says something really important:
Dr. Armonson stitched up her wrist wounds. Within five minutes of the transfusion he declared her out of danger. Chucking her under the chin, he said, “What are you doing here, honey? You’re not even old enough to know how bad life gets.”
And it was then Cecilia gave orally what was to be her only form of suicide note, and a useless one at that, because she was going to live: “Obviously, Doctor,” she said, “you’ve never been a thirteen-year-old girl.
What happens in the mind of young girls? Not many people pose that question until it’s too late. The fact is this: we don’t think of children and teenagers to be complete people. For us, they are almost people. We don’t think of them as people with hopes and dreams, with depression and secret lives. We ask them to do the same things we were told to do and never think for themselves because they are too young for that. Only when they do something we couldn’t imagine we see that they too had a power we knew nothing about.
Suicide cannot be explained in 13 topics, the same as no one’s life can be told in 13 stories. Humans are incredibly complex and nobody really knows what makes them want to live or die. The rooms that were left behind when these five girls were gone shows that even if they were living their whole life in one house, their inner life was so much bigger than that. This book makes us question how we see young girls. Are they half a person because they are young and haven’t seen anything in the world or are they already a complete person, their age only a number?