13 Reasons Why
March 31st, 2017
I may get a little bit into some details of the show
13 Reasons Why is based on a novel by Jay Asher. It’s about the aftermath of teenager Hannah Baker’s suicide.
We follow her friend/crush Clay Jensen’s journey through a set of cassette tapes Hannah made before her death that tell her story and give the reasons for her suicide.
Clay receives the tapes and is followed by a friend, Tony, who is making sure he goes through all the tapes exactly as Hannah wanted. The only people to get the tapes are the ones that are on them–she wants each person who played a part in her misery to hear how they were responsible for her decision.
A reminder of high school days
The story has a little bit of everything you’ve lived through or witnessed going through high school (or the rest of life). It’s got bullies, victim blaming, vicious teens, rumor, and assault. Parties with drunk and predatory jocks, adults that don’t get their kids, shy geeky kids and stalker loners.
It’s got a pretty great soundtrack too–I found it interesting that the story appears to be present day, but the music is a hybrid of today’s pop and my generation’s memories with songs by Joy Division and The Cure, as well as an interestingly placed Echo and the Bunneymen cover.
We follow Clay as he listens to each tape, finding out truths he didn’t know about his classmates, as well as himself. At first, we get the sense that Hannah might be an unreliable narrator, but eventually we see that she’s been accurate in all the ways that matter. This is a kid who has had misery after misery piled upon her; rumors, humiliation, isolation, heartbreak, and an assault that finally brings her to a place where ending it all seems attractive to her. Neglect and victim blaming push her over the precipice.
We see someone who has been wronged, and all the ways those around her might have been able to prevent her death with little but an ounce of humanity. It brings home the fact that any of us could save a life by simply paying attention and showing a little concern for our fellow humans.
The story is told
Throughout the episodes, we see how over time, Clay had fallen in love with Hannah, but was too afraid to reach out and tell her. By the time anything starts to develop between them, it’s already too late. He discovers that although Hannah claims that his only part in her death was in walking away after she’d pushed him away, he feels like he carries a large portion of the fault because he didn’t insist to know what was wrong and stand firm on remaining there for her. Hannah put him on the tapes so someone would speak for her.
As much as her death hurts, Clay finds it gives him the spine he was missing and that standing up for someone else is sadly easier than standing up for himself. He pursues the rest of the people on the tapes to see that they understand their impact, and face some sort of justice. In the end, he gains the confession of the person who committed crimes against not just Hannah, but other girls at the school as well.
For me, seeing each horrid thing that happened to Hannah hit home pretty profoundly. People being horrible to one another and then gaslighting and bluffing their way out of it is something I’ve seen happen over and over. Wanting friends, and wanting people to like you is something so very essentially human, it’s easy to see each hurt as it finds its mark.
If you watch this impactful, great series (and you should)–bring tissues. Plenty of tissues.
JL Jamieson is a strange book nerd who writes technical documents by day, and book news, reviews, and other assorted opinions for you by night. She is working on her own fiction, and spends time making jewelry to sell at local conventions, as well as stalking the social media accounts of all your favorite writers.