I haven’t been able to stop thinking about 13 Reasons Why. This time last week I hadn’t even heard of Netflix’s new drama, but saw so many people talk about it on Twitter that I couldn’t resist jumping on the bandwagon. I’m so unbelievably glad I did.
The show tells the devastating story of a teenage girl’s suicide through the medium of 13 tapes recorded before she took her life. Each tape focuses on a person, or event, that culminated in her death. Her name is Hannah and she leaves instructions for the tapes to be given to each individual mentioned on them in a specific order. We follow Clay, Hannah’s crush, from the moment he discovers the tapes until the very end of tape 13. This means we’re kept in suspense to find out exactly why Hannah committed suicide.
Unapologetic, heart-wrenching and extremely hard to watch in places, the show tackles issues like slut-shaming, bullying, sexual assault, and rape. I was astounded by how realistic the portrayal of difficult scenes was. But, they absolutely needed to be. These are challenges faced by teenagers, and adults alike, on a daily basis and shouldn’t be shied away from. There was nothing gratuitous about them either; the show’s producers wanted the rape and suicide scenes to be painful to watch. I covered my eyes, I looked away, I cried, I screamed, and that’s exactly what they intended.
Based on the young adult novel by Jay Asher, the page-turner element of the story translates effortlessly to screen. I was so engrossed by each episode and anxious to find out what happens next that I binge watched all 13, hour-long episodes in three days. I found the high school setting to be reminiscent of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, complete with Logan Lerman lookalike Dylan Minnette (Clay) at the helm. I’ve found myself left feeling as though I was a part of Hannah’s world, as though I’ve lost her too.
The show doesn’t provide much closure and there has already been an outcry for a second season. While I would love to find out what happened to all the characters that made the show so compelling, I feel as though another season would detract from the purpose of it. 13 Reasons Why is Hannah’s story; one that needed to be told and ended when her life did. Hannah wasn’t perfect; she could and should have done more to help herself. But, the most honest part of the story is exactly that – we’re not perfect and sometimes we can’t find the strength within us to survive.
The central message is simple, yet pivotal – you never know what someone else is going through. So, be kind. Be compassionate. Be patient. Reach out to those who may be struggling and let them know they’re not alone. If you find yourself consumed by mental illness and suicidal thoughts, then seek help. It exists. There are people out there who care about you and things will get better. You’ll never know what life has in store if you cut it short.