My Reactions to 13 Reasons Why

It's finally happening. I finally finished watching 13 Reasons Why on Netflix. If you read my previous article regarding the series, you'll know my relationship to this story. If not, I'll make it quick: 13 Reasons Why changed my life when I read it in middle school. It taught me so much. It was one of those books that I couldn't stop thinking about, and I basically wanted everything I read after it to be the same thing. I've read the book a few times since—including over spring break to prepare myself for the Netflix series—and it's a big part of the reason why I love YA novels so much even as an adult. I could honestly go on for hours about my love for this book. 

Unfortunately, I was not as impressed with the Netflix series.

After writing 3 Things I Expect From 13 Reasons Why, I set out to watch the Netflix series as quickly as possible and write a review from the perspective of someone who’s read the books. It came out on a Friday, so after my 8:40 class ended I basically ran home, made myself something to eat, and got back into bed to watch. I barely made it through the first episode.

I still can’t place exactly what it was about the Netflix series that I hated, but here are my notes from the first few episodes that I forced myself to power through.

I ended up taking a few week break from the show and starting it again when I felt ready. I was much more engaged on my second go. None of the things I wrote about expecting were present in the Netflix series, and the things I didn't like about the show in the beginning stayed; Clay still dragged out his listening, Tony was way too present way too early, the dialogue remained mostly terrible, and most (all?) of the characters remained pretty unlikeable. In no way did I connect with the Netflix series as much as I did with the novel. 

But. I've decided both that that doesn't really matter and that it says a lot about me now versus me at 13. As a 21 year old who read the book at 13, I was bound not to be totally impressed with an adaptation of the novel meant for today's thirteen year olds. The filmmakers were bound to have to indulge certain changes in order to successfully adapt a book to a TV screen. Things had to change. Regardless of that, I believe the message of 13 Reasons Why remained the same. I think I changed.

At 13 I could connect to Hannah. I felt her pain, I understood her pain, and I never once questioned why she killed herself. I hated all her reasons the same way she did, and felt she was righteous in her decision, regardless of its tragedy. As an adult, though, I had a compltely different reaction. Both my time spent rereading the novel and my time spent watching the Netflix series were filled with me thinking about how Hannah didn't need to do this, about how all of this was a giant tragic mess that could have been prevented, about how, yes, the things that happened to Hannah were terrible and tragic but she could have recovered from them and lived her life happily. About how not all of Hannah's reasons are entirely guilty people who deserve to have to live with this for the rest of their lives (save for Bryce, obv). As an adult, I realized that Hannah may have seen all 13 of her sides, but never considered the other 12 sides to anyone else's stories. I think the Netflix series actually might have done a better job of showing that than the novel did.

The Netflix adaptation has become the most tweeted about show of 2017. People are watching it, reacting to it, and thinking about it (my high school, which my brother now attends, even sent home a letter to parents regarding the show). That's important. I hope people are taking away from the show—the novel taught me so much at 13, I hope the show is doing the same to today's teenagers. Regardless of how bad I might think the series is, my opinion doesn't matter; all that matters is that young people are learning something from it. I think it has the potential to save lives. I hope others are seeing it the same way. 

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AUTHOR'S NOTE: I know lots of people are angry that the show "glamourizes suicide". I don't have fully formed thoughts on that yet, but I think that it is another topic for another article. Hopefully I can get my thoughts together soon.

Cover image from IMDb