I read Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher when I was in eighth grade. All I remember was that it was a good book and I liked it a lot. It was recommended to me by a friend and it quickly went through my group of friends. We were all vivacious readers who were constantly throwing (and sometimes we quite literally threw) books at each other and telling each other to read them. When I heard Netflix was making an original series I was super pumped as were some friends of mine from school who loved the book as much as I did.
However, as with any book to TV adaptation I am wary. I thought it interesting that Netflix chose to do a show because I have been saying for years, and Tumblr users agree with me, that books should be adapted into shows because there is much more room for play instead of trying to cram everything into a two hour time period. That all being said I was excited to see what Netflix would do because they have been doing great things since they started streaming, which let me tell you was pretty crappy when it first started. All they had was B movies and maybe just maybe a few good movies. In fact when my dad first signed up for streaming he hated it, thought it was a waste of money and got rid of it. It wasn’t until we moved, bought a smart TV and decided satellite was too expensive that we looked into streaming. BEST decision ever! Of course watching the entire season five of Supernatural in one Saturday was probably not the best decision I ever made, but eh. I digress.
I decided that in order to fully appreciate the Netflix adaptation I needed to reread Jay Asher’s novel and decided to order the tenth anniversary deluxe edition because it came with all these extras plus the original ending, which I’m not sure if it makes the novel complete or not. Personally I don’t think it does because this books main theme is suicide and Clay realizing that he missed all the signs. If Hannah Baker had lived (sorry that is a somewhat spoiler as to the original ending) it wouldn’t have the same impact. Clay didn’t know the real Hannah. Despite the fact that he liked her and wanted to know her, he didn’t put in the time and effort to know her.
There is a lot of grumbling out there on the internet about this book and the TV show. In fact before the TV show was a thing I am sure not a lot of Americans had even heard of this book, so why suddenly do they care? People don’t read and it is only when it is on a screen will they pay attention. I recommend reading the book first if you want to watch Thirteen Reasons Why. It’s really for one main difference between book and show and that is Hannah’s means of suicide. She doesn’t slit her wrists in a bathtub. She takes pills. She explains it all in the tapes, but of course Netflix couldn’t have her falling asleep and never waking up. It had to be dramatic because that is what keeps people’s attention these days. Gore, violence, and sex are what keep people glued to their screens and that’s all Netflix needs from you. Don’t get me wrong I love Netflix but I am not blind as to what they are doing. If you look at any Netflix original there will be sex, and there will be violence of some kind (with the exception of Kimmy Schmidt but they have ways of keeping you coming back to that show even, only three more days!).
I’ve only watched two episodes so far, so maybe you’ll write me off because I don’t know what I am talking about but I’ve watched enough and maybe I will finish and maybe I won’t. This book is not glorifying suicide and I don’t think the show is either. Not that I would recommend this book to someone who is suicidal rather I would read it to better understand suicide. Sometimes the warning signs can all be there and yet we simply ignore them because that person cannot possibly be suicidal. I bet if I told any of my friends in eighth grade I had thought about killing myself none of them would have taken it seriously. Sure they would have listened and advised me but I don’t think any of them could have seen me do it (I don’t want to kill myself but I would be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about it). The point of this novel is to show that you cannot really ever know someone and that the snowball effect is real. Don’t ignore the signs either. Clay ignored them, Tony ignored them, everyone in Hannah’s life ignored them and she killed herself.
One other thing. This book is marketed towards teens. That’s right adults that keep weighing in and sharing your opinion. You are not the target audience. I read this book when I was fourteen years old. FOURTEEN, not FORTY! Yes, you are entitled to have an opinion but the young adults that read this book understand it because it is written about them, to them and has characters they can understand. Don’t pretend you understand teen angst and what teens go through. Maybe you do because at one time you were a teen so why do I read such comments as “Hannah Baker could have handled her suicide better”. Excuse me?! “Handled” her suicide better? How could she have handled it better? She was a sophomore in high school. She moved to that town and thought she could start over. Yet, due to one stupid list and one extremely stupid high school boy a reputation was created that Hannah could not escape from.
Thirteen Reasons Why is a good book. It gives teen suicide a face and a name. It does not glorify suicide in any way rather it just tells a story. You literally have to take it and leave it. It’s the story of a girl who killed herself and wanted those who hurt her to know they hurt her. I’m not saying she was justified in her actions, but she did what she did. She truly did reach out, she tried everyone she could to help her and they all just turned away. So before you claim this show (and potentially the show does) so before you claim the book glorifies suicide think about the fact that Hannah did reach out. She looked for a reason not to end her life. She didn’t find one. Next time you see someone hurting give them a reason not to.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255