3 Things I Expect from 13 Reasons Why

Jay Asher's young adult novel 13 Reasons Why changed my life. I know that might sound dramatic, but I really believe it's true—this book taught me so much about being nicer, about understanding that everything you do matters, and about being conscious of the fact that you can never truly know what is happening in someone else’s life. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve read it. When Netflix announced its upcoming 13-installment adaptation of the novel (with Selena Gomez as producer!!) I was understandably excited. In fact, I was stoked; I followed all the related social media immediately, and over spring break I reread the book for the thousandth time so it would be fresh in my mind for March 31. After watching the full trailer, though, I was worried; there were so many moments there that hadn’t been in the novel, like Clay confronting the other students on the tapes, and Hannah’s parents reaching out to the school. To me, it feels really important that the Netflix series is true to the novel, but it doesn’t seem that’s going to be the case.

I’ve watched the first episode of the series so far, and I’m bummed to say that it really disappointed me. I’ll write up a full review after I’ve finished all 13 episodes but, until then, these are the 3 things I expect from this series that it has not yet delivered.

  1. For Clay to listen to all the tapes in one long night. I already know this won't happen in the series because I've watched the first episode and read a review, and I’m pretty annoyed about it. Clay staying up all night, desperate to know where he fits into Hannah’s story, is imperative to the plot. It made the book matter more to me, drove the action, made it heavier and darker and more intense. Spreading the action out over a few days breaks it up too much and, I think, really takes away from the story.

  2. To spend a lot of time in Clay’s head. This is important. As the tapes continue and it gets later in the night Clay gets less and less reliable. And that is important for our experience reading the book/watching the series. We get as exhausted as Clay does—which makes the heavy material even heavier, even harder to deal with, and even more effective. I have to come up for air pretty often every time I read 13 Reasons Why—I don’t think I would if we didn’t get to spend as much time in Clay’s head.

  3. A significant lack of adults/adult perspective. In one episode of the Netflix series I’ve already seen way too many adults for my liking. I think the lack of adults and adult perspective in the book is part of what makes the material feel so intense. It’s an important piece of the psychology of being in high school—when you’re Hannah’s age, in Hannah’s mind, nothing exists further than what’s right in front of you. There’s no out for Hannah because it’s hard for her to think beyond what’s happening to her right now. Adult perspective takes that away, I think. For us to understand Hannah we need to think like Hannah—we need to see no other options, the way Hannah did. It’s not that adults are always able to help young people out of their depression, or that adults don’t experience depression—rather, it’s Hannah’s isolation (and Clay's, as he listens to the tapes) that is important here.

Clearly, I’ve gone into 13 Reasons Why on Netflix with a bad attitude. As I continue to watch, I’m going to try to be more positive about it. I really, really want to like this. You’ll hear more from me about it later.