It will shatter your heart, but Thirteen Reasons Why is a must-watch for everyone.
Based on the 2007 best-selling young adult book by Jay Asher, Thirteen Reasons Why is the story of why Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford), a 17-year-old high school junior, killed herself. Before she died, Hannah recorded a set of 13 cassette tapes detailing the 13 reasons for her suicide, and arranged for them to be sent to the 13 people she blames for her death. Each person is required to listen to the whole set and then pass the tapes along to the next person on the list, like a demented chain letter: the boy who told the entire school she was a slut after they kissed once; the boy who reduced her to the best ass in school; the girl who believed the rumors and blamed Hannah when her boyfriend dumped her — and, eventually and horrifyingly, the boy who raped her.
Both the book and TV show begin when the tapes reach Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette), a shy and awkward boy who nursed a crush on Hannah and who cannot imagine what he might have done that would drive her to suicide. Clay and Hannah’s stories run parallel to one another: we follow Clay as he bikes frantically through town, seeking out the places Hannah describes as he listens to her tapes through his headphones. The juxtaposition of the two stories keeps the tension high, and this frame for the storytelling is responsible for the show’s relentless momentum. Even when not all that much is happening, everything feels more ominous because the show is rapidly switching points of view and timelines. Thirteen Reasons Why is a visual podcast that is as captivating as season 1 of Serial.
The mystery that drives the narrative of 13 Reasons Why is the question of why Clay is on the tapes. Clay is, we are told again and again, a nice guy who liked Hannah – so what did he do? Why does Hannah blame Clay for her death? What could Clay possibly do, without even realizing, to break Hannah’s spirit? How do “nice guys” damage the girls that they like?
“Everything affects everything.”
We are all responsible for how we treat one another, and we are all complicit in each other’s self-destruction. We can all fail one another, even if we think we are nice and blameless.
Thirteen Reasons Why is unapologetically true. Issues of teen suicide (and the reasons that push teenagers to such a tragic outcome) are unfortunately always relevant. Thirteen Reasons Why provides an unflinching, realistic, and incredibly important depiction of issues we face today, including bullying, sexual assault, and teen suicide. If not from their own firsthand experience with the subject, most people know someone, in their own friendship group, school, or community, who has sadly had some kind of an experience with suicide, bullying, or sexual assault. And when stories confront those issues, they can feel painfully true to life.
Thirteen Reasons Why is both easy and difficult to watch. The story will suck you in, it will mesmerize you, but it may also hurt you. Grab a box of tissues and settle in for a thirteen hour binge session – once you start Thirteen Reasons Why, you will not be able to look away.
Creator: Brian Yorkey
Release Date: March 31, 2017 (Netflix)
5 out of 5 Stars
We can all help prevent suicide. The National Suicide Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.