Voice of ‘Reason’: Netflix series is a rough emotional ride

Jamie Lansberry, Contributing Writer

Minnette stars in “13 Reasons Why” as Clay Jensen, Hannah’s classmate who attempts to unravel the mystery of her suicide. 

 

     On March 31, Netflix released its new, highly-anticipated series “13 Reasons Why,” based on the 2007 novel of the same title by Jay Asher. The series, just like the novel, follows the life leading up to and the suicide of high school student Hannah Baker.
The series begins with Hannah’s classmate, crush, and former coworker Clay Jensen finding a package addressed to him; inside, he finds seven double-sided cassette tapes that Hannah recorded before she died. On each side of a tape, Hannah goes into great detail describing thirteen reasons why she took her own life.

     Each reason corresponds with a specific person and moment in the year leading up to her death. A note included with the tapes instructs Clay to listen to all thirteen sides used to make the tapes and then pass them on to the next person.

     In the Netflix series, there are thirteen episodes, each corresponding to a side of one of the tapes. In every episode, the viewer hears what Hannah recorded on each tape and gets a close look at the people she addresses. The Netflix series follows the main plot of Asher’s novel surprisingly well with a few key  Dylan changes that really make the series its own story.
                                                                                                                                            

     The first is that the series goes above and beyond in providing backstories to the people Hannah mentions, who all had parts in driving her to kill herself.

 

     This is quite different from the novel, which focused almost solely on Clay listening and reacting to the tapes. Take Justin Foley as an example of a detailed backstory not present in the novel; the series explores Justin’s home life and relationship with Jessica as well as his involvement with Hannah and how their interactions aided in her suicide.

     Viewers are able to see different sides of Justin other than just the one that Hannah speaks about on the tapes. It is interesting to see how Justin reacts to his presence on the recordings, even though he doesn’t necessarily think his actions earned him his place.

     Viewers are able to see different sides of Justin other than just the one that Hannah speaks about on the tapes. It is interesting to see how Justin reacts to his presence on the recordings, even though he doesn’t necessarily think his actions earned him his place.

     Another variation from the book to the Netflix series is the amount of time that it takes Clay to listen to all the tapes. In the novel, Clay makes it through the tapes in a caffeine-induced haze, riding his bike around town to all the places that Hannah mentions while trying to piece together what he’s hearing. In the Netflix edition, Clay is hesitant to listen to any of the tapes. It takes him several days to get through them, even refusing to continue to keep listening to them at times.

     Clay feels so many different emotions with every tape he listens to, often wondering if Hannah knew how he felt about her and what he could have done to save her. Clay and all the others on the tapes desperately try to get Clay to pass on the recordings without finishing or starting trouble with them, while in the novel it was simply Clay on his bike deprived of the opportunity to speak with his classmates who were also on the tapes.

     Although the novel was incredibly powerful and beautifully written, the Netflix series just adds another punch to the gut. Seeing the novel acted out with gleaming insight into the people on the tapes as well as Hannah is exactly what makes this project even more powerful than the novel itself.

     Mixed in with the plot are the emotions of the people who drove Hannah to suicide, their reactions to Hannah telling them all the ways they hurt her, and whether or not each character owned up and took responsibility for part in her death. Whether it’s the book, novel or both, everyone should familiarize themselves with the harrowing words and story of Hannah Baker.