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  • Writer's pictureKara Chatham

Netflix | Thirteen Reasons Why

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This post is focused on how they took the book and turned it into a show. That's it.

The show based on the book. How does it really match? Like any adaptation, it takes it's liberties and stretches the narrative to fit the method chosen to tell the story. Where many may feel like the way that books are transformed into other media forms is wrong because "it's not exactly like the book", I'm not so sure that it's always a bad thing as some make it out to be.

The Netflix take on Jay Asher's novel definitely does not stick to the book. If it did, maybe it would have been a movie instead of a thirteen episode series. But by choosing to make it thirteen episodes, it allows the audience to gain a different perspective on the story as a whole as well as experience it in a more realistic manner. We also get the opportunity to get to know the other characters that are merely mentioned in the novel. In this series, we are getting to see how the tapes impacted them and how those who listened before Clay really feel about it all.

Slight spoiler - Clay's process of listening to the tapes doesn't happen in one night like it does in the novel. Makes sense, because I'm not really sure how they would have been able to stretch the story out to thirteen episodes if they had the timeline in a single night. Because of the stretch in timeline, the paranoia of those who came before him is rather ridiculous, in my opinion.

Now in the novel it's not like we're given any kind of glimpse of how the tapes really impacted everyone. We know what Clay thinks about it all, but we have no idea how it impacts how he interacts with those found on the tapes. The way that the series was set up, gives us that chance at seeing how things really messed with those involved.

There are quite a few choices that were made that take away from the timelessness the novel has. From specific technologies to simple changes to some of Hannah's stories, it time stamps the experience. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it changes the experience more so than just the fact that you're seeing faces and hearing voices that are connected to the characters you're introduced to in the novel.

One of the changes that they made to Tape 2, Side B (Episode 4) I felt like it took away some of the innocence (not that there was really a whole lot there to begin with) of that particular tape. I did not see it as a necessary thing. The change did not change the creepy feeling that the tape already possessed. I guess it fit with the change of seeing the aftermath of it all? I don't really know. It just felt super not needed. Almost as if they were trying to throw in a certain topic because it's "popular' right now, which is not a reason to put a specific part in a specific character's story.

And that was a pattern I was noticing throughout the series. I'm not really one to complain about changes that are made when a work is adapted, but there were a number of changes that felt very not needed, in my opinion. I am not going to say which ones, because my list was ever growing. And it would spoil things. Try to be spoiler free here.

The camera work that helped differentiate between what was present and what was past was beautiful. It was subtle, yet noticeable. I really liked it!

Now as a heads up, and Netflix has warnings at the beginning certain episodes for a reason, once you hit episode 9 - things get extra heavy. The content is dark. It's not meant to be taken lightly. This is another slight change that was made from the book. It's a change in the respect of the order of the tapes. This does a better job of setting up the kind of Clay we are getting to know in this series better than the Clay we get to know in the book. But that does not change the seriousness of the content that happens in the final five tapes.

In regards to tapes 9 through 11 - the order that the series has them is not the order from the book. While I can see why they chose to make that change, I'm curious how the show would have turned out had they kept the original order.

There is a line that Tony says in Episode 11 at 10:35 - she's telling her truth. There are so many characters that complain about "Hannah lying" in the tapes. Maybe from their perspective she is. Maybe the way that these characters remember the events happening, Hannah Baker is lying. But can we as an audience truly know the difference between the truth and the lie when it all comes down to a matter of perspective? No. So please do not try to side with any of the characters. I challenge you to watch the series with an open mind and a third-person-observer perspective. The tapes are told from Hannah's perspective. Not Clay's or Jessica's or Alex's or any of the other persons who are on the tapes. Just remember that as you decide to take the plunge into the series.

While I think the content of the series is something that should be addressed. I still stand by my statement of read the book first. The book is not as intense as the series. Part of that, I think, is because it is entirely different to actually see something happen verses reading about something happening. So the book could be a way to prep before your emotions go on this insane ride.

Something this series shows - people, in this case high school kids, can be completely cruel. Compassion is important. You never know what someone else is going through. I know all of that has been said by everyone who has watched it. But let me add some of my own personal experience. Never tell someone to kill themselves just because you don't like where they stand on a choice or opinion - don't ever say that, honestly. You never know if that will be the thing that confirms the thoughts they have had the whole time and give them the justification they have been looking for to actually go through with it.

I am not going to tell you whether or not you should watch this. Only you can make the choice for you. I have given you my opinion of the show and warned where I thought was necessary. So make your choice, but I hope you choose to make an informed one.

AUTHOR'S NOTE 2: If you need help, please reach out to someone. I know it isn't always easy to reach out to those who may actually have the knowledge to walk you through the steps needed. But reaching out to someone is better than never reaching out at all. Whether it is someone you trust or someone who is on the other end of a phone call - REACH OUT if you need it. And only you can make that call.

Suicide Hotline - 1-800-273-8255

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