13 Reasons Why – Review (Netflix Adaptation)

I had been anticipating the release of 13 Reasons Why, that was adapted from the book written by Jay Asher. I have not read the book so I can’t speak to how true or untrue the series is to the original story, however, the series does have merits: High production values, excellent casting and acting, topnotch writing.

Although I didn’t intend to binge watch all 13 episodes, I did find the story compelling enough that I simply didn’t want to wait to see what happened next.

Themes: Depression, Suicide, Bullying

Premise: Before a teenage girl commits suicide, she records 13 tapes that detail the 13 reasons why she killed herself and leaves them with a friend for specific distribution.

Story

Hannah Baker is an outspoken, creative teenager whose family has moved to a small town for a fresh start. She’s pretty, funny, smart, and uses humor and wit to cover her many insecurities. But we see she is somewhat damaged already in her young life.

She befriends Clay Jensen, a co-worker at the local movie theater, and they form an interesting alliance. They both dance around their true feelings for one another and never acknowledge those feelings out loud to each other. Which may be the true tragedy of the story.

The story alternates between Hannah’s narration of her tapes and the live action (both past and present) of what’s happening and what happened.

The story is largely told from Clay’s point of view, how he reacts to Hannah’s death, and how his reactions escalate as he listens to each of the 13 tapes – growing increasingly angry and anxious as he anticipates what she will say about him on ‘his tape.’ The 13 reasons are actually fellow students with whom Hannah had interacted with disastrous results. In each case, Hannah went into each relationship with the hope of friendship, love, and comradery, and in each case she is betrayed. Severely.

As Clay listens to the tapes he becomes more outraged, sorrowful, and determined to make the offenders take responsibility for what they did to Hannah. And no matter how much they try to stop, intimidate, or scare Clay, he is relentless in his pursuit of the truth in getting justice for Hannah.

Conclusion

This story is heartbreaking and illuminating about the subject of teen suicide, and how bullying can lead to the deterioration of a person’s spirit. It also accurately depicts the utter nightmare that is high school. And even though it’s been lifetimes since I was in high school, the story churned up memories of my own miserable experiences as an unpopular student in high school. As though it were only yesterday when I was finally freed from that prison. As well as memories of a friend who committed suicide and the fallout that followed. It touched me deeply and I suspect it will touch you if you are brave enough to watch it.

For as damn good as this series is, it is also extremely difficult to watch. It will break your heart, remind you of your own struggles with bullies, feelings of unworthiness, insecurities, and of loved ones you may have lost through suicide. It may depress you, as it did me. It will certainly make you think and ponder about how you treat others. And examine any dalliance you’ve had with mob rule or group think.

I highly recommend this series with the caveat that it contains countless emotional triggers that may be difficult for some.

 

 

 

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The Empty Chair (a word about suicide)

the empty chairA few days ago a friend of mine took his own life. I’ve been on this planet for quite a while and though I’ve lost friends to death (the bastard) it’s never been to suicide.

My initial reaction was to reject the whole idea. I’d just seen him and talked to him. In fact, the day before he died. How could he possibly be dead? By his own hand?

The thoughts that quickly followed were of our last conversation. Had I said something wrong? Had he left me a clue I didn’t pick up on? Should I have given more signifigance to that last look? He had seemed a little quiet. A little distant. Should I have known what he was planning to do?

As the weekend progressed, we tried to learn more about what happened. But the police wouldn’t release information because none of us were the next of kin. We still know very little.

He wasn’t my best friend but he was a family friend. He sat at my table for every holiday meal for the last nine years.

He gave me advice about my car or latest do it yourself project.

He was thoughtful.

He was kind.

He always offered to help.

He had a good heart.

But though he liked to talk, he rarely spoke about himself in any personal way. He never shared secrets or confided. He was manly in that way – old school I guess you’d call it. Like a lot of men, he didn’t share his feelings.

I would have been happy to listen. But he never asked. I tried to encourage him. But he never said a word. I hope that he had someone who he could talk to. But my guess is that he didn’t.

And now he’s not talking to anyone.

And there’ll be an empty chair at my holiday table this year (and every year after). And I’ll miss him.

And I wish that he’d have talked to me or to someone. I wish that he’d have known that nobody would be happy about his choice. I wish he’d have known that those of us he left behind would have an empty place in their hearts that shouldn’t be empty.

I wish that he’d have known that life is worth living. That it’s a gift. It’s also a bitch. Life. It ain’t for sissies and that’s a fact.

I hope that if there is a next life that he’s happier there. That he finds a friend he can talk to. And that he doesn’t feel so awfully alone anymore.

And if anyone who is reading this is considering suicide, I ask you with all my heart to please reconsider. You matter to someone. They will care that you’re gone. They will be heartbroken that you’re gone. They will have a hole in their heart, where you should be. They will forever ask themselves why?  And they’ll spend the rest of their lives never finding the answer.

Writer Chick