Usually, I do not write personal posts. But with the recent popularity of the 13 Reasons Why series that has been released on Netflix, I thought I should weigh in with my thoughts.
Let me start this by saying that I am a suicide survivor. Generally, this is not something that I talk about. But it is because of this that I am very sensitive when it comes to novels involving suicide, and I usually avoid them. However, I did read 13 Reasons Why several years ago, and it severely let me down.
13 Reasons Why came out during the time when I was at my darkest, and I turned to the book in hopes that it would make me feel less alone. It had been praised as the “it” book on teen suicide at the time, but after reading 13 Reasons Why, I only felt more alone. The book is inaccurate on many levels, and as someone who has been in Hannah’s position before, I am angered by the injustice that the book brings to those who have committed suicide or are survivors from it. Please just hear me out and try to understand where I am coming from.
In the book, Hannah is very one dimensional. Jay Asher doesn’t delve into Hannah the way that he should since the book involves her suicide. The tapes also seemed to popularize suicide and make it romantic, which is not something that should be done with teen suicide. After reading through Hannah’s reasons as to why she committed suicide, her reasons seemed menial and Jay Asher painted her as a “classic” teenage girl haunted by generic, stereotypical teenage girl problems. One major problem with this is that Jay Asher has never been a teenage girl, and his description of Hannah is very flat. At the end of 13 Reasons Why I ended up despising Hannah – the one character I should have felt connected to – and none of the other characters stuck with me. It seemed to me that Jay Asher was very much an outsider looking in, and his take on teenage suicide was a popularized version of what it really was. He also didn’t evolve the other characters in the novel who contributed to Hannah’s suicide. All they seemed to be were random people that were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Jay Asher used these menial characters to show how “small” things affected Hannah, and how she had “taken them out of context”. Each reason said more about Hannah than those who hurt her, and it seemed to me that Jay Asher was blaming Hannah for feeling the way that she did about what happened to her. The message seemed to be “don’t take things so seriously” instead of “don’t bully others” and this message did not sit right with me.
That being said, I was not sure how to feel about the new 13 Reasons Why series on Netflix. I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to watch it after what I have been through and how the book originally made me feel. But after watching the series, it has completely changed my mind.
If you do not want to read the rest of my review of the Netflix series of 13 Reasons Why, then just know this:
THE SERIES IS 100% MORE ACCURATE THAN THE BOOK, AND YOU WOULD DO WELL TO JUST WATCH THE SERIES AND NOT READ THE BOOK AT ALL.
It seems to me that those who created the Netflix series had the same issues with the book that I did, that it was sending the wrong message and the all of the characters were portrayed incorrectly. It is because of this that the series took each character to the next level – including the all important Hannah – and gave them justice. Not only did the series expand on why Hannah was so deeply affected by “menial events”, but it also addressed those who contributed to her suicide and why they acted the way that they did. Everyone has a backstory, and this series is the master of exposing backstories. Each character was an important player in the series, and they were all impacted positively and negatively by one another. The series explored how intense it is to be a teenager, but it in no way made fun of the severity of what teenagers go through. Watching the series made me remember my years of being a teenager, and even though it was very sensitive, it did make me feel less alone. This is all I ever wanted from 13 Reasons Why, and I have finally experienced it. I am sure that so many others have as well, and I am now proud to say that the Netflix series of 13 Reasons Why has portrayed teen angst, bullying, and teen suicide in a perfect light.
If you want to understand more about teen suicide and bullying, this series will suit your needs. It is also an excellent series to ignite your deepest emotions. Just understand that suicide is, and always will be, a sensitive subject. And please never believe what certain novels on the subject tell you unless you have experienced the symptoms firsthand.
One thought on “13 Reasons Why – A Discussion”
Great post Ashley!