'13 Reasons Why': After Hannah

*The following contains major spoilers regarding 13 Reasons Why's second season and discusses potentially triggering material.

Jay Asher’s YA novel 13 Reasons Why was published in 2007. The novel chronicled the personal torments of high schooler, Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford), whose peers drive her to suicide. The bestselling novel, when released, was met with both praise and controversy, as adults questioned whether the book romanticized teen suicide. Last year, the novel was adapted to a Netflix series, which, again, was met with controversial backlash. However, 13 Reasons Why became a viral sensation overnight.

I read the book as a teen. I don't remember how old I was, but as an avid reader and someone that had a habit of naturally gravitating towards the darker topics, I loved 13 Reasons Why. The novel was poignant and well-written. Personally, I did not internalize Asher's work as the glamorization of suicide, rather, the unspoken realities of high school life for teenage girls: failed friendships, bullying, and sexual assault.

When news spread that the book was being turned into a series, I was skeptical. It's been proven time and time again that the original is always better than the made-for-TV version. However, I was pleasantly surprised, and found that the first season was well-acted and faithfully followed the plot of the novel.

This was not true for the second season.

Unlike the first, the second season continues past the ending of the novel. We witness the court case — Hannah Baker's parents (but essentially her mother, alone) file suit against her high school for negligence, which led to her suicide. The plot line itself is already shaky, but the addition of brutal violence and a provocative lens on teen sexual assault, it is truly brutal.

As someone who has been through four years of high school, at a large, fairly poorly run public school at that, I can personally say that, yes, some of what is shown does exist in the real world. There are bullies that don't get caught, there are victims that remain quiet, and there are boys (and girls!!) that are never held accountable. This is all true. But while watching 13 Reasons Why's second season, I had to pause it and take breaks on more than one occasion. The season intensely focuses on assault and rape in a manner that has been unheard of for teen television.

We watch Hannah's friend Jessica Davis (Alisha Boe) attempt to be "normal" after coming to terms with being raped by Bryce Walker (Justin Prentice). Bryce Walker was also responsible for raping Hannah, shortly before she took her life, in a hot tub scene graphic enough to make anyone squirm.

But perhaps the most disturbing, and the scene that has caused arguably the most outrage, is one where high school outcast Tyler Down (Devin Druid) is raped by three of his male peers. He is held down in a bathroom stall, face in the toilet, and sodomized with a mop handle.

It has been argued that for kids and teens that are already at risk of suicide or experience bullying, this series may trigger them. It has been argued that Season 2 is dramatically more controversial and problematic than Season 1.

There were scenes I could not watch. There is a scene where the female characters in the show stand up and testify with Jessica, as she confronts her rapist for the first time, as if she is representing all of them. They each tell their own story of their experiences with rape and sexual assault, the youngest of them being twelve. It took my breath away.

I believe that education regarding sexual assault and mental illness is vital to the success and well being of one's life. I believe that the acknowledgement and education regarding men who are victims of sexual assault is equally as vital. But as someone that read the book and had high hopes for the show, I have to say that this is not it. This series is not creating a positive dialogue regarding sexual assault or mental illness; rather, it is graphically displaying the horrors of those themes.