13 Reasons Why, a story about the thirteen reasons that led a girl (Hannah Baker) to commit suicide. While on the surface, it may seem one dimensional, both the show and book delve into so much more. They talk about suicide, depression, sexual assault and harassment, bullying, stalking, you get the idea. The Netflix adaptation was recently released and reminded me of all the original feelings the book ignited way back when I was merely 14 years old. This review won’t spoil anything, but will in fact analyze why people should watch AND read 13 Reasons Why.
Of course there are many discrepancies between the novel and show, but none that make the show entirely unwatchable and untrue to the original book. The novel is less detailed and mainly focuses on Hannah and Clay, while the Netflix adaptation centers around every person Hannah put on her list. Similarly, while Clay listens to all the tapes in one go until 3 a.m. and has fewer interactions with the other members of the exclusive “Hannah Baker’s Tape Club”, show! Clay takes his time and drags out the listening process while talking to each person who’s received the tapes (which was a tad bit frustrating). The show is also far more graphic and potentially triggering to people who may watch it. The show includes trigger warnings before the more graphic episodes (episodes 9, 10, 12, and 13) however, the show has over arching themes of suicide/death, paranoia, grief, underage drinking/substance abuse, sex and sexist commentary, sexual assault, and even self-harm. The show gets graphic and if any of these topics are triggering to you, be careful.
The main story line revolves around how Hannah Baker was relatively new to town and throughout the first year, she met a ton of new people (for better and for worse). There was Clay (our main protagonist), Jess and Alex, Courtney, Marcus, Tyler, Tony, Zach, Justin, Sheri, and Bryce. All of these people had something to do (in a myriad of different ways) with her deciding to take her life. Some spread rumors about her that ruined her reputation, others sexually harassed and insulted her, some stood idly by and didn’t do anything to help her. Their actions and even inaction led her to react in a destructive way. Her tapes are her final goodbye to explain what they did to her (or didn’t do). The show does not deal with these topics lightly and in a similar fashion, this show should not be taken lightly.
Overall, 13 Reasons Why seems more like a list of what not to do. Hannah consistently isolates herself from everyone around her and doesn’t ask for help until she’s already made up her mind about committing suicide. She’s lost and alone and feels like there’s no way out. But it’s important to remember that there is always another option. The show does an interesting job of depicting the various different ways that people are handling Hannah’s recent suicide; many blame themselves for not being able to help her, while others deny they had any part in why she did what she did, some are angry, others heartbroken, but all are trying to understand. While others are scrambling to know the truth about what Hannah was going through, most brush it under the rug by claiming she was just looking for attention. To put it plainly, suicide is hard and neither the show nor the novel forget that. Suicide isn’t glorified by any means and many of the character’s reactions are not unrealistic. While the show may be graphic and potentially triggering for some viewers, it is well worth the watch.
When I first read the book I was about 14 years old, a freshman in high school who was simply a few months away from moving some place new; with a new school and new people. My years in grammar school weren’t the easiest to handle and being the new kid was a struggle, so in a few ways, I felt like I understood Hannah (at least at the foundation level of who she was/is). The novel taught me some really important things.
- Reach out for help because no matter how dark the path is that you are walking down, there will always be someone to replace the batteries in your flashlight.
- If someone needs help, help them, stand up for them, or just be there for them.
- Everyone is fighting a battle that you know nothing about.
- All of our actions have consequences.
- Be kind to people who deserve your kindness.
- Don’t isolate yourself, no matter how easy it may seem to do.
- Even the smallest things we do can affect people in drastic ways.
Here's the trailer: