Th1rteen R3asons Why: Paperback Vs Netflix Review

Th1rteen R3asons Why is one of my all time favorite books. It’s not a happy story. It’s not some fairy tale where everything turns out all right in the end and the princess finds her prince charming and the bullies apologize and everyone’s best friends. It’s a real story. It talks about a girl’s life, and her death. It forces us to open up our eyes and see just how cruel and cold the world really is. It makes us think. If you’re a fan of the book or a Netflix watcher or both then you’re probably aware that Netflix came out with an original series based off of the book. When I first heard that Netflix would be producing the show I was a little skeptical, but after watching a few of their other original series I was ready to give Th1rteen R3asons Why a chance, and they did not let me down. This blog post is to compare the original book to the Netflix series and to highlight some of my favorite moments in both. There will be spoilers so if you haven’t read/watched the book/show don’t read. You have been warned.

Rated TV-MA for:

  • Strong and/or crude language
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Intense sexual situations (some episodes briefly depict rape)
  • Violence (car accident scene, suicide)

To be quite honest the rating was always something I was worried about with this book. The book deals with some pretty intense stuff. Suicide, rape, a stalker/peeping tom, etc. I felt that, in order to do Hannah’s story justice it would have to be rated R, which would be a challenge since it’s built-in audience would be high school students, most of whom couldn’t get into the theatre without a parent or guardians signature. A TV-MA rating is essentially the Tv rating’s version of R. While they do show enough that you get the idea that rape and suicide take place they do a fairly good job keeping the scenes short and showing as little as possible.

Major Differences:

Let’s talk about the major changes the show made first, because they did make a few.

First of all Clay Jensen is supposed to, according to the book, listen to all of the tapes in less than 24 hours. He receives them in the afternoon when he comes home from school and drops them off at the post office before school starts the following morning. However, in the Netflix series Clay takes his time listening to the tapes. If I were to guess I would say it takes him somewhere around five days to listen to all thirteen sides.

Due to the lengthening of the timeline Clay has plenty of time where he is not listening to the tapes. He goes to school as well as the various locations Hannah mentions on the tapes. When he’s at school he often comes into contact with others on the tapes and when he does he confronts them about the tapes and what Hannah claims they had done to her. This lengthening also allows us to see another side of the story, one we didn’t see in the book. We see how Mr. and Mrs. Baker are handling Hannah death. The couple ends up suing the school and Clay’s mother, Mrs. Jensen, is the defending lawyer.

Another major change the Netflix series makes is in one of its characters and their motivation. Courtney Crimson is a very sweet and very popular girl according to book Hannah. In the book her tape exists because she invites Hannah to a party as a means of keeping up appearances, not to be Hannah’s friend. At said party Courtney spreads more rumors about Hannah. In the book it isn’t really clear why she spreads rumors, however the Netflix series makes her reasons very clear. In the Netflix series Courtney has been made into a gay character. Due to a prior incident involving both Hannah and Courtney (an incident that does take place in both the book and Netflix series) a photo has been leaked of Courtney and Hannah kissing. In an attempt to keep her secret Courtney spreads rumors about Hannah, but not at a party, at the Winter Formal.

One last, major change to the original story is actually in the way Hannah Baker commits suicide. According to the book Hannah swallows a bottle of pills and the passes out and dies in the bathtub, but in the Netflix series Hannah does die in her bathtub, but rather than swallowing pills she slits her wrists. I want to warn you that Netflix is not shy about showing this scene and it may be difficult for some to watch.

Touching reminders:

Their were parts I underlined in the book which aren’t exactly in the Netflix series, although they are paraphrased or the idea is implied. Here are some of tide quotes:

I guess that’s the point of it all. 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.

– Cassette 4: Side A, pg. 156

You don’t know what goes on in anyone’s life but your own. And when you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re not just messing with just that part. Unfortunately, you can’t be that precise and selective. When you mess with one part of a person’s life you’re messing with their entire life. Everything… affects everything.

– Cassette 5: Side A, pg. 201-202

The above quotes remind us of how little we really know about the lives of those around us and how we must be careful what we say and do because our words and actions have consequences.

I do think it’s good for teens and young adults to read this book and/or watch this series. I think it captures how depressed/suicidal individuals feel and act. Knowing these things raise awareness and can possibly help to prevent those who are suffering from attempting suicide.

If you or someone you know is struggling and/or contemplating suicide please visit this website for a list of warning signs and resources: Suicide Prevention Life Line or call this number 1-800-273-8255

Please, be kind to those around you. You don’t know where they’ve been or what they’re going through. Don’t be another stumbling block, but instead be the hand that helps them up, be the ray of sunshine that offers them hope.

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