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REVIEW: 13 Reasons Why Series vs. Book

If you haven't been living under a rock recently, then there's every chance you've heard of 13 Reasons Why. It originated as a book, but Netflix recently released a series based on the story and it's gained quite a lot of popularity for both good and bad reasons. I don't want to go into all the ins and outs of why it is good or bad, because I really would be here all day. I've seen so much controversy and so many mixed opinions on the representation and the visual detail the show goes into that my head is spinning just thinking about it all. After watching the series, I decided to read the book so I could form a more informed opinion on it as a whole, but we'll get to that in a minute. Obviously this post will have some spoilers from both the series and the book, but I will try and keep it as spoiler free as possible for those who haven't read or seen it but are interested. It's going to be a long one, so get comfy!

13 Reasons Why is about a girl called Hannah Baker, an American high school student who has recently committed suicide. She has recorded 13 tapes as a sort of suicide note, each one about someone she's had some form of encounter with. Almost all of these encounters have been horrible, although some much worse than others, and each one could be described as a reason she felt the need to take her own life.

So here is my opinion of the Netflix show first of all. No one else's influence, just mine. First things first, this show could be very very triggering. There are graphic details and scenes of suicide, self harm and rape just to name a few. I found although that there are trigger warnings at the beginning of the 'worst' episodes, a few others could have used them too. If you struggle with ANY of the issues I just mentioned, I strongly recommend you don't even try to watch this series. There were times during it where I wished I hadn't watched it, but now I've come to the end I'm glad I did.

The episodes are primarily a mixture of present day and flashbacks, the flashbacks being the events Hannah describes on the tapes and the present day showing the struggles of her parents, the people on the tapes and Clay Jensen, the boy who was in love with her but too scared to admit it. The story is so complex and detailed which made it really gripping from the start for me, I don't think I could have stopped watching it even if I tried. I think the show could have dealt with the portrayal of mental health a little better, but the moral of the story is spot on. Be kind to people, you don't know what could push them over the edge. Another thing I really enjoyed about the show that you don't get in the book was getting to know the other characters that featured on the tapes. For me, seeing the others interact with both Clay and each other was a crucial part of the story and I found it really added to the overall effect of the show.

I also love the relationship Clay and Hannah had. It really struck a chord with me. It was messed up in places, with the whole hidden feelings element and through some of the things that happened, but before the main incident (this is so hard not to spoil oh my) I really liked their friendship. I didn't think there was enough of it in the book at all.

The book differs from the show more than I thought it would. I honestly expected what usually happens when a book gets adapted for tv/film: a lot more detail in the book and some extra scenes that weren't featured in the adaptation. 13 Reasons Why was the opposite. I think if I'd have read the book before watching the series I'd have enjoyed it a lot more than I did, but because I was used to the way the show goes into detail and actually has scenes without Clay in them, I was a little disappointed.

The main difference was that in the book, Clay listened to all the tapes in one night. As you'll know if you've seen it, this is not the case in the series at all. Obviously this meant you only saw the different characters through what Hannah says on the tapes, and then a little through Clay's internal monologue. We do meet Tony, but it feels brief and we don't really know much about him. As I said before, getting to know the others and seeing how they interacted with Clay and each other was really important to the story for me, so I missed this a lot when I read the book.  Clay's tape was earlier in the books as well, which was a little bit strange but also better because Book Clay didn't have to wait as long to find out what he did wrong, and Courtney's story was completely different which I didn't like at all.

Another thing that really surprised me when I got to the end was that the suicide method is different. I won't go into detail because I'm trying to keep this relatively spoiler-free, but I definitely thing they should have stuck to the book on this one. Although there is still the mentions of rape which could trigger people, I personally found the talks of suicide less graphic and therefore less triggering. Also, Clay didn't know Jeff. He isn't even named in the book, which kind of broke my heart.

On reflection, I really wish I'd have read the book first. This was actually my original plan, but my curiosity got the better of me and I couldn't wait any longer before watching it and I think that ruined the whole experience of reading it for me. I didn't hate it, but I definitely didn't love it. As for the series, although it has it's problems I really did enjoy it. It was a very, very hard watch and had me in tears a LOT but it was worth it. I love Clay as a character and really feel for him, and that feelings was consistent throughout the book and the show for me.

I hope this post wasn't too long and rambling but I really had to put my thoughts down somewhere! If you've seen or read 13 Reasons Why please let me know what you thought of it!

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