Like many people I binged watched Netflix’s Thirteen Reasons Why when it came out; I’d hoped read the book ahead of time but my library had a wait-list. The series and the novel are incredibly different, sure the same beats are hit but the series expands around the bare bones of the novel to justify thirteen episodes.
“No one knows for certain how much impact they have on the lives of other people. Oftentimes, we have no clue. Yet we push it just the same.”
So Clay Jensen receives a mysterious box of tapes with no return label. These tapes chronicle the reasons why Hannah Baker, a student at Clay’s school, killed herself a few weeks ago. Each tape is addressed to a different person who needs to listen to the whole story and then pass the tapes along to the person whose name comes after their own. Clay, who had a crush on Hannah, is horrified to hear he played a part in her decision to end her life and he listens to all the tapes in one evening.
Hannah meets up with a boy from school one evening and he exaggerates his time with her for his friends which leads to a lot of bad rumors about Hannah. The bullying continues driving Hannah in to isolation and depression. There is also a rape scene, a pivotal plot point that may make some readers uncomfortable.
While I think a conversation about teenage issues like depression and bullying is needed, especially in today’s world, I think the execution of the tapes romanticizes suicide. While I think Hannah’s depression is warranted it just seemed like the author had an idea and instead of really starting a conversation about depression & bullying he used a cute idea to thread together various plot points.
The book is more concise than the series; besides Tony, the keeper of the second set of tapes, Clay doesn’t really interact with anyone else on the tapes. There isn’t a big cover up and the Bakers aren’t suing the school but the teen actors really do elevate the source material.
If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts and depression I think it’s best to skip this one and seek proper counseling.