Unless you’ve been living somewhere completely disconnected from the internet, you’ve probably heard of the newest Netflix sensation 13 Reasons Why. My husband and I recently binge-watched the entire show in a couple of days. It was compelling.
I read the book early on in high school, but I don’t remember it having much of an effect on me. I think this was mostly due to my young age, but I also know part of it was I didn’t relate to the story; it was hard for me to understand something that I had never experienced myself.
Now that I’m older and have more life experience than I did then, the story has a much different effect on me.
In case you aren’t familiar, 13 Reasons Why is about a boy named Clay who mysteriously receives a box of cassette tapes from a girl who committed suicide a few weeks prior. Her name is Hannah Baker, and each side of a tape includes one reason why she killed herself. These reasons aren’t intangible; they’re actually people she met throughout her time in school. After facing excessive bullying and torment from her peers, Hannah decides she would rather fall into a place of ‘nothingness’ than face another day at her high school.
Each person mentioned in the tapes is supposed to listen her story in its entirety and pass them onto the person discussed after them in the tapes. While it may seem a little cruel at first, you begin to understand why she wants each person to know what they did to hurt her, and why she wants everyone else on the tapes to know, too. In some way or another, everyone is connected.
The story itself is very gripping. You ‘listen’ along with Clay as she recounts the horrible experiences of how her reputation was destroyed with no hope of getting it back. You, the reader, see her warning signs as she explains them, but everyone around her turns a blind eye during her most vulnerable moments.
It is a very tragic but realistic story. Since she had no confidant or someone to talk her down, she became a slave to her own demons. The story shows how much of an effect words and actions can have on a person, especially when you don’t know what’s going on in their life at the moment. Without the tapes, each person would have blissfully continued on with their lives, not knowing they were a contributing factor.
It also shows that there are no second chances with suicide. She would never know what her life would bring in the future because she couldn’t see through her darkness. There were experiences she’d never get to have with people who actually cared about her. I think it’s easy for us as outsiders to tell people in pain that life gets better after high school, but the thoughts Hannah was having were so deep-rooted; it takes a lot more time and attention than just those few words.
There are actually some pretty major differences between the book and the TV show, so if you’re at all curious I suggest finishing them both! The book has a solid ending, but the TV show left some open ends (which could possibly mean a second season!) The acting in the beginning is a bit cheesy at first, but it gets better as the characters start to evolve. Overall, the show did a great job reimagining the situations and I thoroughly enjoyed watching it.
I think both the book and TV show share an important message, and I hope the recent spike in popularity will deliver it to a lot more people. Mental health and bullying are serious issues, and sadly, they’re often overlooked. The subjects are intense, but more people need to be aware of the signs and symptoms to stop them before they cause too much damage.
Have you read or watched 13 Reasons Why? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!