Books

My *Spoiler-Free* Thoughts on Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why

“I hope you’re ready, because I’m about to tell you the story of my life. More specifically, why my life ended. And if you’re listening to these tapes, you’re one of the reasons why.” – Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

 

Last Friday Netflix released season one of its highly anticipated original series, 13 Reasons Why. The series, based on a young adult novel by Jay Asher, got a lot of attention even before its release due to the novel’s cult-like following and superstar Selena Gomez’s involvement in the project as an executive producer.

In seventh or eighth grade I discovered Thirteen Reasons Why through a teacher at school. It was my first experience with books with a mental health theme, and it proved instrumental in forming my taste in literature. More importantly, Thirteen Reasons Why was just the book I needed at the moment I needed it. Did my teacher give me the recommendation because she knew what I was going through? Or did she just know I was a nerd always on the hunt for great new books? I’m honestly not sure. But I read Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher and my life was changed forever. I discovered a love for mental health in literature and I discovered that I wasn’t the only one struggling with the feelings I had.

Clearly I was not the only reader who connected with Clay and Hannah and the story of Thirteen Reasons Why. Excitement for the series was all over bookstagram, and a number of my friends (and a cousin) shared articles about the release on social media.

I started watching Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why on the day it came out. I planned to binge-watch most of the season, and I know some people who did, but I found myself getting depressed and emotionally bogged down by the dark story. As  a sufferer of mental health issues, watching bullying and suicide and rape tear apart a community for hours on end wasn’t a healthy option for me. It ended up taking me about five days to get through the thirteen episodes.

Today I’ll be sharing brief, spoiler-free thoughts on Netflix’s adaptation of 13 Reasons Why. If you comment, please try to keep it spoiler-free as well! For those of you who’ve finished the series and want to discuss it more in-depth (without the spoiler-free restriction), keep an eye out for another post about the series early next week.

Overall I enjoyed Netflix’s adaptation of Jay Asher’s debut novel, 13 Reasons Why. Was it easy to watch? Hell, no. It was uncomfortable and emotional and heart-wrenching. But it was good. And it was compelling. And important.

The series has a broad appeal; one needn’t have read the novel to enjoy the show. My husband, who’s never heard of 13 Reasons Why and only caught about half of the episodes with me, liked it and was upset when I finished the last few episodes in his absence. Sorry, babe.

I was impressed with the show’s seamless blending of scenes from before Hannah’s death with those occurring after, in the “present” as far as the story line is concerned. Scenes taking place in the same location might be played one after another, spliced together in sections, or even played over top of each other with Hannah appearing, ghost-like in a place she no longer belongs.

One of the changes made in bringing Asher’s novel to the screen was in the story’s scope. While the book focused mainly on Clay’s experience listening to Hannah on the tapes, the series explores multiple other characters and features plot lines which exclude both Clay and Hannah. I truly enjoyed this broadening of scope. The focus on multiple characters allowed the book to be stretched into thirteen hour-long episodes and helped to drive home the point that small actions can have big consequences. Some of the inclusions were great addition to the series. I particularly loved the additions that were made to the character of Tony, one of Clay’s friends.

The broadening of the scope of the story also allowed for the inclusion of some new plot points I’m not so sure I love. I won’t discuss them in detail here because I promised no spoilers, but I would be more than happy to discuss my thoughts with you if you’d like to reach out via my contact page. I also felt that some of the earlier episodes were too drawn out; the pacing was slow and the episodes just felt too long. The series feels much more dramatic than the book did, as well. I’m not sure how I feel about all of that yet. What do you think?

 

 

Despite not being sold on every aspect of the new show, I can honestly say I enjoyed watching Netflix’s adaptation of the Jay Asher novel. I was fairly impressed by how the show handled tough issues, and the trigger warnings at the start of some of the later episodes are very good guides to when things might get a little too heavy or graphic for some viewers.  For the first time, I found myself glad to have these warnings so I could prepare myself or turn away when I realized that something was about to happen. 13 Reasons Why is by no means a light or cheery show. It deals with some of the toughest topics for anyone to talk about – depression, suicide, sexual assault and rape, etc. – but manages to do so in a way that is both entertaining and educational but not preachy.

These are just my personal opinions about a new show, of course, which I have only watched once through. You might feel differently about Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why, and that’s okay. Opinions are personal and everyone likes different things. I might feel different upon a re-watch or after discussing it more with my friends (and you!). My thoughts have already begun to evolve as a result of a conversation with my friend who pointed out a very brief (but significant) scene that I missed.

Will you watch 13 Reasons Why? Have you started (or finished) already? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments (no spoilers, please!!).

Happy Reading!

Erynn

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