“13 Reasons Why” adapted to the screen
By Elizabeth Casella, Managing Editor
Netflix’s newest series “13 Reasons Why” was released Friday, March 31, and with it brought a book with some not so pretty scenes to life. The task of bringing this book (under the same title) by Jay Asher to life was not an easy one.
The story is about the suicide of Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) and covers some other heavy topics such as rape, depression, bullying, and abuse in vivid real life detail. Show-runner Brian Yorkey, while preserving Asher’s high-concept structure and thriller-like pacing of the book, has managed to bring to life the story in an incredibly realistic and striking form.
Many of the details that seemed to have bogged down the book and left readers deterred or simply uninterested have been pushed aside to get down to the real hard-hitting details and character development to make the heart swell. The grim material of the story is handled with elegance and nuance, and is incredibly uncomfortable, but real, all rolled into one.
The premise of the story is indeed grim, though, and viewers should recognize this going in. Hannah is a 17-year-old high school junior and has killed herself. Before she died, she recorded 13 cassette tapes detailing the reasons why she has committed suicide, and arranges for them to be sent to all 13 of the people whom she blames for her death. The boy who told rumors to the entire school that she was a slut, the boy who reduced her to the best a** in school, the girl who never believed her and blamed her for her breakup, and eventually and horrifically, the boy who raped her, are all on the list of people to receive tapes with others in between.
The series starts with the tapes traveling to Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette), the boy who secretly had a crush on Hannah and cannot imagine why he would be a reason she committed suicide. The story is told from both Clay’s and Hannah’s perspectives, as their stories run parallel to each other. Clay we follow in present day as he listens to the tapes one by one and frantically tries to relive Hannah’s final days.
The stories running in juxtaposition to each other at times gets slightly confusing, but keeps the tensions high. The viewers never know what will be next in Hannah’s or Clay’s story as they jump back and forth to explain the reasons why Hannah is now gone.
The best part of the TV show compared to the book is the slower pace it takes to really develop the story as well as the characters involved. It latches the viewers into the story even more and makes it that much more relatable. Each has their own self-identity issues that they face that ultimately affect Hannah’s story as well.
The story touches hearts with real world issues from which many like to shy away. This story hits these issues head on, and does so in all the gory details. There are warning signs at the beginning of the episodes that show rape, violence, and suicide to prepare viewers. The show strategically filmed scenes such as sexual assault to portray the awkward and scary vulnerability that victims of these situations actually face. A warning for those who are survivors of similar situations, this story could contain “triggers.”
“Thirteen Reasons Why” highlights other themes such as bullying between girls and boys, self-identity issues such as homosexuality, coping with death, learning how to deal with issues in high school, and even touches on slut shaming and victim blaming from adults.
This is an incredibly heavy series that shows the true grim reality of high school, and how every issue that adults’ can look past really seems like the end of the world to teens. It also shows how truly hurtful one’s actions can be to another and the storyline’s tense conflicts are compelling viewing. To top it all off, the energetic and charismatic cast is rich with characters that are highly developed. This adaptation transcends the book it’s based on by expanding on issues that the author did not necessarily go in-depth enough about.
The themes this story discusses may be hard to hear and especially view, but are important to face in modern day society when teen depression, suicide, rape, and violence are all on the rise. This series elegantly discusses the importance of facing these issues head on instead of pushing them under the rug, and brings discussions to the forefront of society (hopefully). It is an inspiring story that all should watch.