I first read Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher a few years ago and absolutely loved it to pieces. My reaction to both the novel and tv adaptation were to devour each in one large binge. I remember getting excited after finishing the book and finding recordings of Hannah’s tapes on YouTube, never expecting to see this compelling story on screen. Little did I know, that producer Selena Gomez would grant my wish.
Hannah Baker is a young girl trying to settle in to a new high school with very little fuss. From the first episode, we know Hannah has killed herself and recorded her story on a series of tapes. Those who have heard the tapes drove Hannah one way or another to her suicide and just like Clay, you can’t stop listening to what she has to say.
If you’re a fan of Pretty Little Liars, this story will intrigue you. Each episode is a painful unraveling of Hannah’s story, tear by tear. With a morbid curiosity, the viewer is desperate to see more of the raw and bloody details. Can Clay be trusted? Is he really as ruthless as the others?
This isn’t the type of show for people who crave lighthearted high school drama. As Clay learns more and more of Hannah’s sinister story, the scenes on screen become more graphic and shocking. This is one of the greatest strengths of the show. I doubt in any way that Thirteen Reasons Why could be seen to romanticise suicide or the other serious issues addressed. More than once, a few scenes made me cry and dwelled in my thoughts. It’s one of the first times I’ve seen all the bloody details of a suicide on screen. Thirteen Reasons Why through its graphic scenes seems to say ‘BAM! What happened to Hannah was devastating and we’re not going to let you forget it, viewer!’
Something I really loved about both the novel and the tv series is their focus on the damaging nature of rape culture. Some people will just roll their eyes when rape culture is mentioned, yet this show is a brilliant example of why slut-shaming and victim-blaming should be stopped. One little rumour can bubble into something much more serious if given enough wind, especially in high school – Hannah refers to the butterfly effect. Bryce was the fictional equivalent of the Brock Turners of the world, glorified athletes who think they can do whatever the hell they want without repercussions.
Another strength was its representation, lots of the main characters were POC/Asian. Kinda related but not, for those who love Gilmore Girls, Keiko Agena, aka Lane Kim is a teacher in the story. Additionally, there are numerous gay characters (some POC) whose sexuality don’t function as a plot point!
However diverse Thirteen Reasons Why can be, no book adaptation is perfect. Netflix is lucky, I read the novel a few years ago so I haven’t nit-picked as much as I usually would, but nevertheless, here are my criticisms! EVERYONE IS PRETTY – Everyone. Thirteen Reasons Why is a narrative about a girl driven to a nasty suicide. Why does she have perfect skin, hair, and eyebrows all the time? With depression even the most menial self-care tasks are difficult. Besides Langford’s acting, Hannah doesn’t look too worse for wear (she looks better than I do on a good day!) which is damaging for viewers who suffer with depression themselves that don’t look like Hannah when they get out of the bed in the morning. To be honest, if Hannah had been at my high school I’m confident she would have been considered popular, unapproachable even. Maybe not the best choice of casting for the underdog. Although, this may be my inner English student popping out to say hello, the photogenic casting could have been intentional. It may be used to teach a Dorian Grey-esque example: although pristine on the surface, anyone can be rotten from the inside.
Another thing that got on my nerves was aspects of Clay’s character. His recession into guilt-ridden and volatile culprit was fantastic, yet I can’t remember Clay being crap at riding a bike. His head injury was clearly fake too and looked like something you’d wear at Halloween, even if it was used to distinguish between past and present. There were even scenes where I noticed the injury moving lower down his head. Simply fixed, yet annoying.
Overall, Thirteen Reasons Why is a tv show dying to tell its story and will poke your tear ducts at any given chance. You’d be dead silly if you decided to pass it up. Watch! Watch! Watch!