There are major differences between the TV series and the book, but both the plots were as good and impacting as it turned out.
I’m still binge watching on Episode 6 because of the poor internet connection in my place (and taking shifts from doing college paperwork to watching Netflix takes time), but since I was aching to know the details, I ran through some of the spoilers of the series and noted the changes that contributed to its huge success.
Years before its television release, I never thought that there would be a show for the novel Thirteen Reasons Why. When Jay Asher, the author, announced on his page that it will be on Netflix this year, I knew that I should see it. When the social media gave the news that Selena Gomez would be one of the producers, it stirred the curiosity that has been brewing in my head for months.
If you haven’t watched the series or read the book, then you should know that the storyline is about this girl, Hannah Baker, and why she committed suicide. In all of her tapes, she gave out names of 13 persons and the reasons why, because of them, she is now dead.
As most television adaptations do, there are changes that make the story different from the book and most of us have witnessed how painful and cringing it could be for us fans who followed through the story but only to be disappointed with the director’s version of it.
Well, Netflix proved them wrong.
In the show, it did not only revolve around Hannah Baker’s side of the story, but also on how it affected everyone around her: the boys she liked, the girls she was once friends with, her parents, her school, and also the strangers who she never got the chance to talk to while she was still alive.
For me, it is one of the most brilliant young adult show that could help people understand the facts about suicide, and all the repercussions it has to people’s lives.
By the way, there are also young adult books as good as Thirteen Reasons Why such as All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven and Suicide Notes by Michael Thomas Ford. If you wanted to see the world in the perspective of a person similar to Hannah Baker so that you would understand the weight of what they’re feeling, go ahead and read those books.
Going back, I think that both the book and the series, in addition to the different ways to raise awareness about mental health, spoke for those suffering from issues that most commonly lead to suicide.
I am mostly fascinated by the story because I could relate to Hannah Baker. I have been bullied for my appearance when I was in gradeschool and college. While those people have moved forward to face the next day, they unconsciously left a psychological scar that held me from accepting myself for a long time. But this piece is not about me, it’s Hannah’s.
Hannah Baker may be the one to commit suicide, but she wasn’t the only one who was the victim of it. Before her death (as portrayed in the series), she has suffered greatly from bullying, sexual harassment and rape, and she also experienced being trapped in a circle where there is nowhere else to go and no one to talk to. Her parents had no idea why she did it because they were oblivious to the signs that she was exhibiting. Thus, asking the same question posed in the story: what was her reason why. Unlike in the book, Netflix showed how Hannah’s parents were trying to understand their daughter’s choice to take her own life instead of talking to them, and even went to great length suing the school for Hannah’s suicide.
As the story progressed in the show, Mrs. Baker saw how Hannah became the subject of bullying, and she tried to piece together her daughter’s story by talking to her friends and counselors at school, and browsing through Hannah’s books to see if she kept the answer as to why she did what she did. It was tragically crashing having lived to witness her daughter’s suicide, and even when she’s got it all figured out, it would still be too late to save Hannah because she’s dead. And she’ll stay dead.
There was one thing I noticed from Mrs. Baker on Episode 2 (or 3), when she was shuffling through Hannah’s books—she was wearing a blue nail polish on her left hand’s little finger. I’m not sure if that was intentional or not but this gesture is a silent protest against sexual harassment. I know this because I wear it at school and it started as a web campaign.
Aside from Hannah’s parents, there were characters in the show that took her death and the tapes massively. Alex Standall, the third person on the list to receive the mixed tapes, attempted suicide (which is not on the book). The guilt ate most of those who listened to the truth, and their lives started to fall apart because they could not accept they were part of the circumstances that led to Hannah’s suicide.
On Episode 3, Alex would be seen tearing the large poster about suicide and bursting to Clay (non-verbatim) “How could they say that suicide is not an option when it actually is?” Alex did not just nail the target, he also had it straight in the heart. It was true. It is that moment where living is suffocating, and the only way to stop that pain is to not breathe at all. Most of you would say that suicide is not an option, but for those who successfully committed it, it was. It is true for Hannah Baker.
After Hannah’s suicide, the students at her school seemed to be saddened by her death, but the irony of that situation was they were the same people who laughed and stared at her in the hallways, called her slut and gave her names, and ultimately, they could not have cared less when she was still alive. This is astonishingly the case in our generation; we act the way we want to around people, uncaring of the words we say and the way we behave in public, but when the damage has been done and there seems no remedy for it, all of us line up to be the tagged as the good Samaritan.
Even the school was in denial. Hannah was just one of the thousands of students enrolled in the school, her life did not cost much compared to their name and reputation. But we look at things the way we want to see it, and sometimes that is how we become blind.
The show was also about one’s identity and sexual orientation. Even in this day and age, in spite of all the coming out of the shell stunts, there are still those caged by confusion and fear to reveal who they are. Courtney, a lesbian character in the series, refused to recognize her truth because she was scared of how others could perceive her. Labels, ladies and gentlemen, is still an issue in the present.
There were more stories than I could write, and putting all of it together is not enough to commend the great masterpiece to reflect the lives of those facing the same situation.
But you see, Hannah created a circle that rippled and affected everybody’s life—the same way it destroyed hers—because they were all guilty of leading her into the situation that brought her to the decision to quit living.
But in the book, it was evident that she somehow wanted salvation, she just could not bring herself to say it. When she finally asked for help, the counselor did not seem to help at all. So, things ended in the most horrific way, where Netflix showed the gory details of Hannah slashing her wrists.
I think that in some way, it is somehow comforting that Hannah created her tapes for people to understand why she did what she did, her 13 reasons why, because in reality, we are only left with the mystery of someone else’s death through suicide. No notes. No reasons. Just death.
There are those who don’t exhibit the signs, those who don’t leave notes or record videos, those who carry the weight of the world as they struggle every day to look for a reason to live but couldn’t.
But after reading this, or knowing Hannah Baker’s story (with whatever device you’re tuned in to), please do not look at it as a mere story of why a girl killed herself because it is more than that.
Hannah Baker’s story is not just a novel or a Netflix show, it is our story too. The choices that we make affect everybody, the words that we say could either heal or hurt someone, the pictures that we take could either tell a lie or the truth, and all these things could either make or break us—which is dependent on our choice too.
So, from this day to the next, know that you are not only creating your own story, you are part in someone else’s too, and it is on you if you belong to one of the reasons why they stopped creating colors that shine or continue living the story of their lives.