T-minus twelve hours since I finished the first season of Thirteen Reasons Why and I am still reeling from the emotional aftermath.
Thirteen Reasons Why is a Netflix Original Series based off of the 2007 young adult novel by the same title by Jay Asher. The show is the story about why a high school junior took her life. Instead of leaving a single suicide note, she records thirteen cassette tapes explaining the events that led up to her decision. Each tape is dedicated to a different person who she feels is partly responsible for her decision due to their actions or inactions. These tapes are left with strict instructions for the person to listen to all the tapes and then pass them onto the next person responsible.
I won’t lie. This story is a powerful one if you give it a chance. With its Pretty Little Liars meets Degrassi feel, some viewers may waive it off as another melodramatic teenage story that tries to deal with tough issues, but fails. I think Thirteen Reasons Why is a beautifully horrific embodiment of the worst-case teenage suicide scenario.
Certain topics are just difficult to talk about and/or portray, but Thirteen Reasons Why dives right into the heart of suicide, sex, rape, bullying, and teen culture including drinking and partying. Having only been out of high school for four years, the behaviors I witnessed and experienced are still fairly fresh and so far this show is the truest depiction of how high school actually functions; the so-called popular kids aren’t all perfect nor were they always popular, friendships suddenly end with no warning, the social groups interlace, and the school staff brushes off opportunities to engage in students’ real lives.
I love how Tony, the “keeper” of the tapes, keeps telling Clay that the tapes are Hannah’s truth. I think that one phrase is so important to situations like these, because how actions are perceived by another person are a complete mystery and we never really know how someone will react to them. The events leading up to Hannah’s suicide are brutal, sometimes hard to watch and sometimes hard to hear, but the events are brutal and hurtful enough to push Hannah over the edge. Some of the events might seem harmless or stupid or petty, but when these events are all stacking up on one person it makes a difference.
Thirteen Reasons Why makes you sick. You feel sick because you want to binge-watch it, but then feel guilty for feeling entertained by a real problem. You feel sick because some of the images and events will haunt you to your core. You feel sick because once it is over, you will be begging for another season.
For Book Readers:
It was very creative the way they incorporated this book into a television show. The original book probably could have successfully been made into a movie, but to make into multiple episodes and possibly other seasons, the writers had to do something to draw it out. I was pleasantly surprised by what they came up with. Instead of leaving it from only Hannah and Clay’s perspectives, you get to see what happened from multiple point of views as well as get background information on the supporting characters.
I read Thirteen Reasons Why probably seven or eight years ago during my first year of high school. Back then I had not experienced much involving the tough topics explored in the text, so I read it in one sitting and raved about it. It made me think twice about how I treated people for awhile, but the effects didn’t last as long as they should have. Now, having watched the show, I felt it not only did the book justice, but it was incredibly impactful!
The ending was remarkable. It was tragic yet had an air of lightness. The setup of the story was that you get to experience the aftermath of Hannah’s suicide through the different supporting characters’ lives. More death. More lies. More drugs. More drinking. More hurt. More depression. There was a lot of spiraling out of control that is easy to miss while you are watching the first twelve episodes, because you are so focused on Hannah, but the season finale brings to light how everyone else is reacting and coping to the tragedy. It was provoking and brilliant.
If you choose to watch Thirteen Reasons Why, I hope the story stays with you for a long time and I hope it changes the way you see the people around you and the way to treat others. Let this story change you!