When news first broke of an impending adaptation of Jay Asher’s well-loved novel, Thirteen Reasons Why, I, like many others, was extremely excited. I had read the book years earlier and remembered with surprising clarity the complex characters and sordid events of the book. For those who haven’t read it, the novel is narrated by Clay Jensen, a seemingly ordinary high schooler who is left reeling after the suicide of his friend–and long-harbored crush–Hannah Baker. His questions regarding her suicide are answered by a set of thirteen cassette tapes prerecorded by Hannah before she took her life, naming thirteen people (including Clay) who she deems responsible for her death. The book has been crediting for addressing what is often a taboo topic: teen suicide.
The fanfare of the book itself, paired with the news that Selena Gomez would be an executive producer for Netflix’s Thirteen Reasons Why, were enough to create a wave of anticipation. Now, after binge-watching all thirteen episodes of the series, I can say with utmost certainty that it lives up to the hype.
Although the series follows the same plot, it has a bigger focus on other characters. Viewers receive insight into each of the characters in the series. Netflix’s adaptation also focuses heavily on Hannah’s grieving parents, while the book scarcely mentions them.
The show was as disturbing as it was entertaining. It addresses everything from bullying to drug use to sexual assault, all in graphic detail. I found myself compelled to watch the show even when it was upsetting. Netflix impressively managed to combine quality performances and entertainment value with a heavy, heartrending lesson about the importance of kindness, making the show necessary viewing.
And now the question remains: Will there be a Season 2 of Thirteen Reasons Why? The series ends on a number of cliffhangers that were not present in the book, and the show’s stars and fans alike are already clamoring for a continuation of Hannah’s story (despite her graphic death at the end of the series). Even Jay Asher has said that he would like to see where the story goes. Did Alex, one of Hannah’s very first tormentors, attempt suicide out of guilt? Will Tyler, Hannah’s stalker, turn to violence against the student body now that they have rejected him? And will Hannah’s parents win the lawsuit that they’ve filed against the school now that they too have heard the tapes?
I find myself torn. Part of me desperately wants to see where the story goes, while the other wonders when exploration of this morbid story becomes excessive. The uniqueness of this show is what makes it so impactful, and I worry that with each subsequent episode, it loses its captivating quality. Regardless of Netflix’s decision, Thirteen Reasons Why is jarring and complex, bathing the entire storyline in varying shades of gray. I’m usually not one for heavy television (I tempered this series with copious amounts of The Office.) But to end my viewing simply because of discomfort would have been a disservice to the genius storytelling exhibited in Thirteen Reasons Why.