Before actress/singer Selena Gomez decided to produce it, before millions of people awaited its arrival on Netflix, before it exceeded expectations by immediately gaining 5 stars, 13 Reasons Why was a book. Written by Jay Asher in 2007, the young adult novel has made its way through several book clubs and gathered a few awards. In October of 2015, it was announced that Netflix would be turning the book into a mini-series and on March 31, 2017, the show was released on the streaming site.
13 Reasons Why is about high school junior, Hannah Baker, and the 13 people she blames for her death. After a year and a semester of bullying, Hannah decided to take her life, leaving tapes depicting the horrors she endured and the lack of support she had throughout the whole ordeal. Each tape is the story of how each person has contributed to her committing suicide. Her goal was to have everyone on the tapes listen to them and learn what they did or didn’t do to help and how the others contributed as well. The show begins with Clay Jensen receiving the tapes and it follows him on his journey of listening to the tapes and dealing with the information Hannah gives him. He is forced to see his classmates in a new and incriminating light, as well as do some serious introspection once he discovers how he had played a part in her death.
The show was compelling and interesting the whole way through. The things that happen to the students of that high school are unimaginable and the fact that they occur so often is even more devastating. Topics such as rape, bullying, substance abuse, stalking, and sexual identity are all addressed in large ways. The fact that there are so many heavy topics tossed around in a 13 episode series was pretty daunting. It had the potential to be overwhelming and poorly executed. However, the episodes are about an hour long each, giving the characters time to dwell in their issues and the viewers to understand why Hannah was so negatively impacted.
What helped to keep the audience watching was the switch between the past and the present within the show. The scenes would go from vibrant and light during the flashbacks to gloomy and grey within the present. Clay would get so absorbed in the tapes that viewers would be taken into the moment that things went wrong. It was captivating and gut wrenching to actually see Hannah interact with her classmates and, like Clay, we would become emotional and angry that nobody took the time to help.
The show has faced some criticism from the internet, complaining that Hannah was overreacting about some of the things that were happening to her. Critics claimed she should have been able to get over some of the things that she endured and that suicide shouldn’t have been how she escaped the pain. Even some of the characters posed the idea that Hannah had other options and shouldn’t have taken her life. The fact of the matter is, regardless of how others feel about an event happening to someone, everyone is entitled to their feelings. A lot of Hannah’s point on her tapes was that there were people who saw her being taken advantage of and didn’t do anything to stop it.
The series is definitely one to binge and if the 5/5 stars on Netflix wasn’t enough to tell you to watch it, nothing will be more convincing.
Picture Credits: YouTube