books to movies · fiction · young adult

Books to TV Shows: 13 Reasons Why

To start off, I have to admit that I watched the show without reading the book first. Sometimes I like doing that because often reading it will get my expectations too high–but there was so much hype and controversy about this series that I wanted to start watching it without having any of it spoiled for me.

First I wanted to talk about Thirteen Reasons Why visually. It wasn’t particularly stunning, structured like a typical teenage TV show. Most of the scenes take place in a high school, or a coffee shop it seems that every kid in school goes to at all hours of the day. If you’re going to tell a story about contemporary teens, you don’t have very many choices, so I’ll give them that. What really got to me was that it seemed like, eventually, half of every episode was spent with multiple, extremely slow, zoom-ins on characters staring soulfully at nothing, while various other characters repeated their name. Seriously, I think that’s how I learned everyone’s names, because these scenes happened so much. I just wanted to fast-forward and push on.

Speaking of, let’s talk characters. Most of them are pretty unlikable throughout; only a few seem to have a spark of redemption, or explanation for why they may act they way they do throughout the series. Jeff and Tony were my absolute favorites and probably the only people that I would really want to befriend. High school is rough for everyone, but this one seems exceptionally horrific.

There aren’t too many characters seen that don’t attend or work at the school. Most of those other characters are the parents of those involved in some way–most importantly, Hannah’s and Clay’s. Hannah’s parents . . . I felt terrible for them. I could understand their struggle to find something, someone, to blame for this tragedy, because to them it came completely out of nowhere. It was impossible for them to know her school life as intimately as her classmates did.

On the other hand, there are Clay’s parents, who seem to know there are horrible things happening to him, and that he has problems with anxiety, and yet can’t seem to enforce any rule that might help him heal, grieve, or grow. To me it felt like every time they doled out a punishment or decided they were going to force him to do this or that to help him, there was absolutely no follow through. No mention of it again, beyond a few arguments after he disobeys them. Obviously Clay has realized his parents have no real intentions of forcing him to do anything.

I’m not going to go into any detail about the tapes or anything, though if you do watch it or have read it and want to discuss more specifics I’d be happy to in the comments! Honestly, I think what confused me the most is that I never really had a clear idea of what Hannah’s intentions were by making these tapes. Some kind of revenge? Desperation? Or did she just want everyone else to feel that same nothingness she had been? By the end of it, I was left feeling like she’d created them to make others feel so guilty, so bad, that they might be driven toward suicide, too.  I’m not sure this was the intention, but it slowly ate away at how I’d felt for Hannah throughout the series.

I’m still left with conflicted thoughts. It wasn’t the best series I’ve watched, just judging from composition, and wasn’t the best when it came to content, either. I don’t like how I felt while watching it. I don’t like how I felt after watching.

Have you watched the Netflix series? What did you think of it?

 

 

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