As soon as I woke up on Friday I had to binge-watch the first five episodes of the newly released Netflix series and avoid all of my actual adult responsibilities. It's good. So good. It opened my eyes the way they were opened the first time I read the book when I was, you guessed it, thirteen. Little eighth grade Terri was a huge book enthusiast and honestly, I thought the cover looked cool, so I picked it up at my library while I was waiting for my brother to be done with his meeting and I didn't put it down until I was left sobbing in my bed at 3:00am the next morning. It's sad. So sad.
For those of you who don't know, Thirteen Reasons Why is a book by Jay Asher about a girl named Hannah Baker who committed suicide during her sophomore year of high school. Instead of a single note, she makes 7 cassette tapes (with two different sides) meant for the 13 people/reasons why she decided to end her own life. It's sad, it's awful and it's incredibly heart-wrenching. But it rings the truth. People can be mean and high school can be absolutely awful.
After reliving the story through the new series, I had to write about it. Yes, Hannah Baker decided she had 13 reasons to end her life, but that's never the right answer. She had people that hurt her feelings and awful incidences that made school difficult, but there were so many ways it could have been prevented. I found myself realizing that her story is more relatable than it should be and I wanted to address the reasons she killed herself and what we, as decent humans in society, can do to prevent it. It's about to get real. Here are the 13 reasons why Hannah Baker killed herself and the 13 reminders for why we should all be better people.
1. Sometimes A Rumor Based On A Kiss Can Cause A Snowball Effect
Boys (and girls) like to exaggerate about their experiences to try to look cool in high school. Girls sent pictures to the wrong boys and the whole school saw them. Justin exaggerated about a kiss and somehow the next day Hannah was labeled a slut. It happens everywhere. Do me a favor and take some time to self reflect. Every time you spread a rumor about someone or stretch the truth about the date you just went on, realize that your own insecurities don't give you a reason to negatively affect someone's life. Don't start them and don't share them. It's hurtful, it destroys reputations and it never ends well for either side.
2. Putting A Label On Someone Has Repercussions
People are not things. We do not need labels. Alex's list was unnecessary. "Best Ass" is not a compliment. It's demeaning and its wrong. Labeling Hannah immediately put a target on her back. The rumor about her and Justin on top of her new title gave her an immediate reputation that she didn't do anything to deserve. It put a spotlight on her and it changed the way people treated her. All it took was a label on a stupid list. Life isn't all about Mean Girls, just stay away from the Burn Books guys. How would you feel if you had a label on your ass?
3. Believing in Rumors Causes Scars
Whether your ex-friend Jessica physically hits you in the face and leave a rockin' shadow across your eyebrow or you buy into the latest gossip around school, rumors can cause some major scars. When you truly know someone and you hear something nasty about them, don't just believe everything that's said. You have the power, as a decent human, to ask the individual if the information is true. Don't take everything you hear as gospel. Especially if it comes from others. Think about it from your point of view; who knows you better, you or everyone else?
4. Candid Shots of The Student Body Aren't Always Welcome
Don't stalk people. Yes, I'm talking about Tyler. I was in his shoes once, the Student Life Editor of the yearbook. It's a great job because it allows you to actually have a reason to talk to the cute boy in your math class about his experiences over summer. It's not weird to ask for his number, too. Tyler took it too far. Taking pictures of someone in their home is illegal. Don't do it. Sharing the pictures you take of them in their home is the next level of wrong. Especially when it adds onto the slut-shaming titles they already possess. It's anti-Nike: just don't do it.
5. Posing Isn't The Same As Being Yourself
Courtney Crimson, the popular girl in school, said everything to please everyone she met. She pretended to be Hannah's friend to get more votes and be more popular. She played the game to get what she wanted, then she started her own rumor about Hannah because she didn't need her anymore. This, my friends, is called manipulation. It's wrong. It hurts. Being fake nice to everyone doesn't actually count. You have to be yourself. You have to actually give a care about others. You have to be an actual friend to those you love. That is all.
6. Don't Ever Assume Anything About Anyone
In the diner, Marcus assumes that Hannah is willing to fool around because of all the stories he's heard. Of course, believing in the rumors is where everyone always goes wrong. Instead of listening to people talk about individuals they've never met, actually take the initiative to talk to them yourself. Take into account that you never know the full story unless you're involved or you've talked to everyone involved. Better yet, if you're not involved in the issue at hand, stay out of it! Problem solved.
7. Don't Worry About What Other People Think Of You
I know it's easier to say than do, but it's true. You have to understand that boys tell rumors because they wish you'd be with them. Girls tell the same rumors because they're jealous of you. The best thing to do in these situations is to know that you're better than the people who have to participate in the twisted game of gossip roulette. You know who you are and you cannot let the opinions of those who have never even met you affect your view of yourself. As George R.R Martin wisely said, "A lion never concerns himself with the opinions of a sheep."
8. If It Isn't Your Information, Don't Share It
Hannah trusted Zach with her poem and he shared it with the entire school. It was deep. It meant a lot to her and he stomped all over it by spreading it around. When someone trusts you with something, whether it's a poem or a secret, don't go blasting it to everyone. If it's not your information, it's not your job to share. Some things are personal and you have to respect that.
9. Never Hold Back From Telling Someone How You Feel
Poor Clay had to listen to the tapes of the girl he had a crush on. He had to sit through her stories of struggle and realize that he could have been there. It wasn't his fault because, no, he couldn't read minds. But he never told Hannah how he truly felt. Guys, if there's one thing I've learned in my short 19 years on the planet, it's that you have to tell people how you feel about them. There's really nothing to lose. Just be genuine. Don't be afraid to show that you care. It's important to know that you're loved in this world, the least you can do is share it.
10. If You Are Witnessing A Problem, Fix It
If you see something going wrong, do something about it. I'm not saying to put yourself in danger when you encounter violence, you can get other help for things like that. I'm talking about knowing that your friend Jessica is too drunk to make decisions and still allowing Bryce to take advantage of her. I'm talking about not confronting Bryce about the issue, even after the fact. Just say something. Even when the incident is as small as watching someone flick the back of someone's head. Say something. Being a bystander is just as bad as doing it yourself, my friends.
11. When You Do Something Wrong, Own Up To It
Jenny knocked over the stop sign that led to an accident and ended a young boy's life. Hannah couldn't get over it. The situation could have been avoided if they would have immediately reported it. Whether you accidentally break your mom's favorite lamp or you lose your best friend's favorite sunglasses, own up to your mistakes. They don't always lead to the loss of a life, but you need to take charge of your decisions and learn from them. When you don't acknowledge that you've done something wrong, you not only hurt yourself, but you hurt others as well.
12. No Matter How Upset You Are, Never Let Anyone Take Advantage Of You
Hannah was upset and she didn't stop Bryce from taking advantage of her. It doesn't matter who you are; you are worth so much more than that. Never allow someone to do something you aren't comfortable with. You are in charge of your own body. Be proud of who you are. Know you're valuable and make sure others respect that. If someone does take advantage of you, make sure you contact authorities immediately and take necessary action. On the other hand, don't take advantage of others. Make sure you're safe. Make sure you have consent.
13. If Someone Says They Need Help, Listen
Mr. Porter didn't take charge when Hannah told him she wanted to kill herself. Don't be like him. Be a friend. Let people know that everything will be alright. If you or someone you know is struggling, not just with thoughts of suicide but with any kind of crisis, please use these resources:
The Crisis Textline: text CONNECT to 741741