13 Reasons Why – The Book vs. The Series

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It’s seldom that I watch a visual remake of a book because I often find the remake doesn’t do the book justice.

I read 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher earlier this year and the book was a spine chilling story of high school bullying and how disastrous it can get in the age of social media.  After I read the book, I heard that there was going to be a Netflix series based on the book and for some reason, I felt compelled to watch it – and boy I’m glad that I did. The story is one of a girl named Hannah Baker who commits suicide because of the bullying that she endured in high school.  She leaves a series of 13 tapes for the people that had something to do with her high school experience and inevitably became one of thirteen reasons why she chose to end her life.

This story is one that doesn’t end well and that brings to light the impacts of bullying. The story forced me to reflect upon my own high school days and think back to the many instances that I bore witness to bullying in some form or another. High school is a time for self-realization and unfortunately with that comes a fragility to handling bullying. The bullying can manifest itself from something as simple as wearing the wrong thing, having a situation taken completely out of context, and eventually leading to the premature conclusions teenagers form of one another.  This story was no different. Add to the mix the element of social media and being able to absolutely tarnish someone’s reputation at a speed where before you know it, you’re the class slut and there’s seemingly nothing you can do about it.

After reading the book and watching the series, I found that I ‘enjoyed’ the series much more than the book. The book is told predominantly from Clay’s point of view and goes through his thoughts as he uncovers how 13 people, in their own way, took the life of Hannah. What the series allowed was to really build the stories of these 13 people where you got an insight into their lives and what might have lead them to do the things they did to Hannah. The series also explored the various intricate webs of lies and deceit that these 13 people’s stories had and I felt that really helped build the story. In addition to talking about suicide, there was the exploration of rape, assault, and the general treatment of teenagers in this school.

I don’t often cry or get emotional but I have to admit, the end of the series had me in tears. It’s disgusting how people can treat eachother (especially during teenage years). High school is a time that’s tough for everyone in some way or another and I simply don’t  understand how “taking someone down” bring people a sense of self or pride.  Things that we pass off as being “typical high school behaviour” like rumours or making fun of someone can be detrimental.  It’s not a matter of having thick skin or taking things too seriously – words hurt.  Actions (and in most cases, in-actions) can be devastating.

You don’t know what goes on in anyone’s life but your own. And when you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re not just messing with that part. Unfortunately, you can’t be that precise or selective. When you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re messing with their entire life.  – Jay Asher, Thirteen Reasons Why

Some feel that the series glamorizes suicide and that for someone who is feeling thoughts of suicide, it allows them the opportunity to easily blame things on others and take no responsibility on themselves. It essentially perpetuates the feeling of them vs. me. I understand that and agree with that to some degree however, my perception of the graphic content around Hannah’s suicide was a bit different.  I felt that suicide scene was powerful in that it showed the aftermath or the effects that suicide can have on people you may love.  Seeing Hannah’s parents finding Hannah’s body lifeless in the bathtub was a prime example.  I told my husband that every teen must either read the book or watch the series and use it to help re-evaluate the way they treat others.  In the series, someone might be able to identify with one of the 13 main characters and if they are able to identify with any of the characters, then it’s time to be more self-aware of the way you conduct yourselves because even the smallest thing in your eyes (a joke or a tiny rumour) can have a monumental impact on another person’s life. This can be a good time for self-awareness and to shift behaviours before something tragic like suicide takes place.

The book itself is highly recommended, but if you’re able to watch the series as well, do it. Do it and take a moment to reflect. Your actions define you, but they also impact others more than you know…

Have you watched the series or read the book?  What are your thoughts on 13 Reasons Why being a conversation starter?

 

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