The other day, my Mom returned home from the store with a book in hand. That book was 13 Reasons Why, and I immediately knew that she had bought it for me. 13 Reasons Why was never a book I intended to read. I have watched the series – all apart from the last episode – and I just thought that there was too much controversy surrounding the show to really enjoy the book. That, and I was afraid that the book was going to be as graphic as the series and make me feel even worse. However, seeing the book had been bought for me, I decided to start reading it and ended up finishing it within a day.
Now, I’ve only watched the first season of the Netflix original, so I can’t speak for the entirety of the show itself. This is down to the fact that there was so much debate around the series, and I didn’t know if I agreed for a second season to be made after the effects that the first one had. I didn’t agree that a show should be continued just because it’s ‘popular’ when it had such a negative effect on its young audience.
That being said, I went into reading the book with a lot of hesitation. While I have seen some reviews of it, I haven’t necessarily taken much note of them because I never thought I would be interested in reading the novel.
13 Reasons Why tells the story of young Clay Jensen after he receives a box of cassette tapes recorded by a classmate who committed suicide. Throughout the tapes, the classmate – Hannah Baker – provides reasons for her decision and dedicates each tape to a classmate that played a role in her ultimate choice. While he doesn’t believe that he should’ve been featured on the tapes, Clay Jensen’s name is on the list.
Now, it’s been a while since I saw the television show, but it’s safe to say that both the show and the book follow a similar plot. However, the show definitely drags out the narrative a lot longer than the book does, allowing Clay time to digest what’s happening while also interacting with the other classmates who make an appearance on the tapes. The book, however, follows Jensen as he listens to all of the tapes in one night, which I believe allows it to flow a lot better.
Instead of following Hannah’s journey directly, the book is written from the perspective of Clay Jensen as he works his way through the tapes and visits the locations on the map that Hannah left behind.
The book was an easy read in the sense that it was physically easy to read – the content, however, was jarring. I didn’t find it entirely all that emotional, though I was able to pick up on the emotion that the characters were experiencing at certain moments. The topics that the book focuses on where, however, intense and very realistic. Not only does it bring attention to the element of bullying, but it also highlights the issues that young girls have to face – such as being sexually harassed and abused and being made into ‘play things’. I think the attention to the detail of the narrative was good, and I’m glad that it focused on problems that a lot of people in society would prefer to just ignore and brush off.
The written version of 13 Reasons Why really wasn’t as graphic as I was expecting it to be, and I blame that on the impact that the show had on so many viewers. I purposely avoided the last episode because I didn’t want to see the scene that was causing so much controversy, but this scene doesn’t even make an appearance in the book. That leaves me to further question why exactly they thought it was acceptable to openly show such a harrowing scene, even if it wasn’t in the original book.
Though, I agree that the book does a good job of showing the impact that Hannah Baker’s decision had on those around her. Not only does it show the effects that the situation can have on the other people involved in her life, it also indicates how a situation can build up to the point of causing somebody to make such a decision.
I think there was quite a bit of victim blaming from Clay Jensen himself, but I believe that this was also done deliberately to show who he was as a character. He constantly says about how Hannah could’ve reached out to him, how she had already made up her mind, and how nothing he did would’ve helped. In this sense, I think the character wanted to justify his own actions. He didn’t want to feel guilty or be held accountable for being on the tapes, so the book shows you his thought process surrounding his denial.
13 Reasons Why, as a book rather than a series, is an immersive look into the effects that abuse can have on an individual. Though I was expecting more raw emotion and to feel moved more than I did, the book does indeed do a good job of bringing attention to important issues throughout society.
Have you read 13 Reasons Why or have you seen the show? What did you think?
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