Warning: The following post contains spoilers from the Netflix show 13 Reasons Why. It also contains sensitive issues such as suicide, bullying, and trauma that goes with it.
Read with caution.
First, let me set the record straight. I don’t dislike the show. Then, this post is not a boycott of it either. This is just a reflection of what I think about the show since there’s so much hype now.
And you’ve seen it all over your feeds too. Your Facebook friend is “now watching 13 Reasons Why”. Tweet from @useryoufollow: “Just watched #13ReasonsWhy, huhu feels.” Another person suggests to watch it because of “suicide awareness”. Then you have another friend telling you how it triggers feels.
I’ve actually read the book back in 2011. And I like it, actually! A college classmate was raving about this and it got my curiosity. So, I went ahead to see what it was about.
Thirteen Reasons Why was one of those stories that grips you to the core. Now you ask: why wouldn’t I see the Netflix version of a book I’ve raved for before? I got two reasons:
- As an adaptation, it tried to divert from the main message of suicide and mental health
- Reading the story made it hard for me… Watching the show can cause triggers.
What To Know About 13 Reasons Why
Before we begin, I’ll give a short “about me” of the story.
Let’s start with the book, and how it got to Netflix. Jay Asher released Thirteen Reasons Why in 2007. The paperback hit #1 on New York Times‘ Best-Seller List in 2011. Originally, Selena Gomez was supposed to star in its film. But instead, she gets behind the scenes as an executive producer to a web show instead. Then, Netflix comes in, and the rest we now know as history.
We learn about Hannah from the POV of her friend, Clay. Everyone in their school knew that she killed herself. He then gets a set of cassette tapes from her through the mail. It turns out that Hannah recorded these tapes before her death and intended all the people who caused her demise to hear them. Now that leaves Clay to figure out where he falls under the story.
(I knew the show’s story thanks to Wikipedia and TV Tropes. So correct me if I get any info wrong here, BTW.)
What The Adaptation Tried To Do (And Did Too Much)
With every adaptation comes expansions. The Netflix series added characters and fleshed minor ones with back stories.
Tony did not appear in the book. In the show, he is the last person in contact with Hannah. He’s supposed to help her with the tapes, but is afraid in getting in the web of problems she has. The show explores how he later on regrets this as he tries to redeem himself by getting the tapes out there. Adding someone like Tony was a nice touch.
The major difference between the book and the show is we see how the results of their actions towards Hannah go back to them. After Clay listens to each tape, there’s always a present scene with others involved.
Maybe in the last episode it’s okay as a “where are they now?” scenario. But it diverts from Hannah and how everyone affected her mental health to the point of deciding to kill herself. The show presented a realer detail of how high school dramas really work, but they were all over the place.
The book ending wasn’t fully resolved either, but at least it had focus. Fleshing out the other characters and the story was still a good idea. But what I’m trying to get here is that we still have to get to the main message: how other’s actions affects mental health. The only one they did this, apart from Hannah, is Alex. It felt more in line with the story and this was the kind of change that felt in sync with the source.
You’re thinking right now: TF does this bitch need to rant on something she hasn’t even watched? Again, I read the source and did my research.
There are works of art meant to be appreciated only once. Eg., Oldboy. After you watch it, you’d realize that watching it only once is the best way to watch it. Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why is indeed, a work of art. It’s got:
- Consistent story presented in a creative format
- Social issue relevant to the target audience
- That after feeling the author wants you to get when you reach the ending
And if something’s brilliant art, it sticks with me.
I am aware that Thirteen has a particular audience who relate to it. It’s for those who struggled, those who are struggling, and those who want to help. These people reflect Hannah, Skye (the girl in the ending), and Clay / Tony. The main goal of this book is to make the people mentioned feel that they’re not alone in their struggles. That’s what I understood from the author’s intention, and I think this is a lovely one.
But reading what Hannah went through is tough. It’s even worse if you knew and felt it before. And that is why I only read it once. Because I was a Hannah. Luckily my case was mostly just bullying trauma. But it didn’t invalidate the feelings I felt before. It still left a scar inside until today. Reading it is like reliving what happened back then. At certain times, I felt alone.
But it’s past now. I feel better, and what didn’t kill me made me stronger.
So Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why did well, albeit a little too well, on the sad song of Hannah Baker’s tragedy. Some additions were good, some we could do without. But if it’s your type of thriller-drama then it fares well.
Also, just watch this show or read the book only once. If you’re strong, like my best friend who read it twice, then feel free to do so. I do suggest reading the book because it’s so good. But there are triggers, so you might wanna watch out.
But as for me, I’d skip the show. One read of the book is enough to satisfy my curiosity.
So, how did you find the show? Or did you read the book, like me?
If you feel triggered or if you need to talk to someone, feel free to contact your local hotline here.