Thirteen Reasons Why: Book vs.Series

Thirteen Reasons Why: Book vs.Series

Thirteen Reasons Why.

Everyone has been talking about the TV series on Netflix.  It has gotten a very bad rep because it deals with the topic of suicide.  Teenage suicide.  Ugg.  Quite a heavy topic and not one I was super gung-ho to delve into, but many of my friends on FB kept talking about it.  I was intrigued.  If you’ve been hiding under a rock, it is the story of Clay Jensen, a teenage boy who was left with cassette tapes that his friend Hannah Baker had made, explaining thirteen reasons why she committed suicide.  He is instructed to listen to the tapes in order, each highlighting a specific person who had created turmoil for Hannah up until her dying day.  Pretty morbid, eh?

Of course, being the bookworm that I am, when I found out that the series was based on the book Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, I had to read the book first.  A big thanks to Krysten for offering to let me borrow her copy.  If I were to wait for the ebook to become available at my library, it would’ve taken another 6 months! So I read the book.

I liked the book.  It was quite easy to read.  Each chapter told the story or “reason” that led up to Hannah’s suicide, as told by Hannah via the tapes.  Hannah seemed quite sweet and although few teenage girls would enjoy having a reputation as a “slut”, I found it hard to believe that all these things would lead to a girl committing suicide.  She was not outright bullied or taunted.  The characters on the tapes were mostly able to move on after her death.  The ending wasn’t super sad.  My thoughts were, “Really, Hannah? Was it really that bad??” I know the teen years can be hard but I also know it can be much worse than Hannah had it.  Certainly not life-ending.  I still gave the book 5 Stars because it was different than any other book I’ve read.

Then I started watching the series on Netflix.  

SPOILER ALERT!!!! Don’t read any further if you don’t want to know what happens!!

Wow,  The series on Netflix took this story to a whole new level.

The story starts very much the way it did in the book; Clay comes home to discover a box of cassette tapes.  Obviously the producers needed to embellish the original story to create a good TV drama but they changed soooooo much!!!! I didn’t take notes as I read or watched, but several differences stood out.

Tony.  He was not a super huge or important character in the book, but he played a very big role in the series.  Everywhere you looked, there was Tony.  Observing everyone and being the savior when needed.  

Hannah’s parents. In the series they were pursuing a lawsuit against the school, alleging that the school was at fault and that they didn’t do enough to stop Hannah from being bullied. 

Clay.  He was portrayed as a nerd in the series and they had him looking like he was going off the deep-end (ex. the scene when he is riding his bike away from Blake’s house, all bloodied up and looking crazy as hell).  He beat himself up mentally about Hannahs death and how he could possibly be involved. Also, his mom was an attorney representing the school district in the series.  That was never included in the book.

Courtney.  In the book she was a very naughty girl who was excited about the idea of a creeper watching her through the window.  The scene with her and Hannah basically had the girls pretending they had a drawer full of sex-toys that they were excited to use.  In the series, however, Courtney was a somewhat shy Asian girl who was raised by gay dads.  And she was hiding in the closet herself.  In the series she and Hannah were making out and the creeper took photos of them in action.

Zach.  In the series he was this handsome, smart jock.  A much bigger part of the overall story than he was in the book.

Alex.  Alex had a much bigger role in the series.  The series also ends with Alex blowing his brains out. WHAT?!! Then they just left us hanging.  

Hannah.  In the series, Hannah was raped by Blake.  This never happened in the book.  My theory is they needed a really strong reason to really push Hannah over the edge.  This did it.  In the book she never lost her parents’ money, and she died after taking pills.  The series showed a graphic scene of Hannah slitting her wrists in the bathtub. 

The entire group.  In the series they conspired and even plotted against Clay.  They never planted marijuana on him in the book. In the series there were even references of taking him out because they were afraid he would share the tapes with school or the authorities. They also called Hannah a liar and would hardly admit any involvement or wrongdoing

These are just a few of my takeaways.  Has anyone else read the book and watched the series?? What did you think?  I hear there will be a second season to the Netflix series.  

6 thoughts on “Thirteen Reasons Why: Book vs.Series

  1. I don’t mind spoilers so I read your whole post, I haven’t read the book or watched the series yet but I want to and I wanted to be as prepared as possible because it is such a heavy topic. I am surprised by the drastic differences between the book and TV show, but I’m guessing they wanted the TV Show to be more showy if that makes sense! I’m still planning to both read and watch, thanks for your thoughts!

  2. Ok…now I must watch AND read!! lol…seeing as I have a tween daughter, sounds like a good idea.

  3. I didn’t really read about the TV show because I’m not too far in. haha I really loved the book back when it first came out. I think it shows that even the little things can all add up and cause someone to become depressed enough to commit suicide. Of course, the TV show is definitely different – because it’s longer and has to show how things can be even just 10 years later when it comes to bullying.


  4. That’s really interesting. I think I would like to read the book before watching the series too. It is interesting as something things that will put some people “over the edge” just results in new coping mechanisms for others… from your review, I feel like the book is capturing the essence of that, where I’m not sure the TV series is…? Anyway, I guess I will have to read and watch for myself to find out!

  5. for a time i was an education major in college; one of the requirements was human growth and learning, regardless of whether your focus was elementary or secondary. it was a big class, compared others i’d taken (i spent the first two years at a small women’s college, and the largest class size there was maybe thirty students); i’d say there were easily at least fifty of us in this one. anyway. a huge chunk of our grade was a presentation. i’d done mine on child suicide. i talked about my experiences in third person, gave my findings and summed up my report in first. at the conclusion of it, a man said, “so you wanted to kill yourself because you didn’t think you were a good daughter, sister, student and friend?”

    i was eight the first time i thought about death. by the time i was ten, i had a plan. i talked myself out of it numerous times, every day for a decade.

    i was insulted that he’d asked the question. i was flabbergasted that a man who hoped to become a teacher could belittle anyone’s feelings so easily. i said, “when you’re eight, the only jobs you have are being a good daughter, sister, student and friend, and when you’re failing at all of them, like i was, then that’s a hell of weight to carry. we’re studying to become teachers; we’ll see these children more than their parents will. it’s not your place to judge the weight one of them carries; it’s your job to help them carry it, and if you can’t, then you find someone who can.”

    hannah was shamed mercilessly and relentlessly by her peers; she witnessed a rape, but did nothing to stop it, and the guilt wore at her; she was raped, and the guilt intensified exponentially. all of this obliterated her sense of self-worth, so much so that she thought it was beyond repair. that her life was on a train careening into hell, and she wanted off. yes, she made a choice hardly anyone could ever understand.

    i suffer major depressive disorder. i take medicine to keep me sane, to temper the moodiness and anxiety in me so that i am more agreeable and personable to the world. so that i can live in it.

    it’s not your place to judge why anyone would feel inclined to take his or her life. i would rather you find compassion for these individuals than voice your confusion over their choice. that is my prayer for you.

    i have read the book, by the way. and my heart broke for hannah. but maybe it could because i understand her.

  6. Hey Kristi! This is the very reason why I’d like reading the book first before watching it on TV or big screen and honestly it’s always best to read first. I’m going to read Thirteen Reasons Why no more Netflix for me. 😉

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