I can see why so many people don't like this book. Elizabeth isn't really an aspirational figure and it's not one of those it's-ok-not-to-be-ok books where even if the characters are miserable, it still validates their misery. I think 13 WAYS is commentary on fatness, and the double-standards of beauty for women. I think it also shows how unhappy people often fantasize about external things solving all their problems, but because the source of their happiness is on the inside, getting what they want doesn't make them any more happy or satisfied with life.
I just watched a dark comedy called Pretty Problems that touches upon many of the same themes as this book, except instead of revolving the discussion around fatness and skinny privilege, the movie revolved around wealth and financial privilege. Among other shocking twists in the movie, I would say that the takeaway is that money doesn't make people happier; it just gives their problems a gloss which often takes on the appearance of the illusion of happiness. For Beth, I feel like the book kind of shows that her weight ends up being more of an excuse than a reason for her misery. She's not a likable character and the message is grim so, again, I see why people didn't relate. But I read a lot of these sorts of unlikable female protagonist-type books in the aughts and I've always had a fondness for them.
That said, I think the beginning with Beth as a young woman is leagues better than the parts of her at the end where she's a slimmer adult. I wish this had just centered on her as a heavy teen living her life. The alternative 2000s cultural references were just so good. Loved the London After Midnight shoutout.
3.5 out of 5 stars