There were some things about this book that I could appreciate. First off, the author’s tackling of a subject that is uncomfortable. No one wants to acknowledge that friends, parents, and teachers sometimes miss the signs that a person is deeply depressed and ready to kill themselves. Some people wear their emotions on their sleeve, and everyone knows how they are feeling. But other people mask their emotions, so no one knows their private agony. If this book gets people talking and makes them aware that someone near and dear to them is contemplating suicide, that’s a good thing.
Second, it illustrates perfectly how deadly gossip and rumors can be. The things we say about people can destroy lives. Sometimes there’s a little truth mixed in with the false rumor, but that can be just as deadly as a total lie.
Third, there are moments in the story when Hannah perfectly expresses what a person contemplating suicide can feel like. Here are several excerpts from the cassette tapes:
“Yes, there are some major gaps in my story. Some parts I just couldn’t figure out how to tell. Or couldn’t bring myself to say out loud. Events I haven’t come to grips with…that I’ll never come to grips with. And if I never have to say them out loud, then I never have to think them all the way through.”
“You don’t know what went on in the rest of my life. At home. Even at school. You don’t know what goes on in anyone’s life but your own. And when you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re not messing with just that part. Unfortunately, you can’t be that precise and selective. When you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re messing with their entire life. Everything affects everything.”
Lastly, the book does not contain graphic detail or raunchy language, unlike the Netflix version. No, I did not watch the tv series on Netflix, but did check out the content advisory on the International Movie Database website:
There are marked differences between the book and the movie. For example, in the book there is no detailed description of Hannah’s suicide by taking an overdose of pills. In the tv version, unfortunately, they felt the need to sensationalize her death, and switched it to a graphic scene of her slitting not just one but both of her wrists and bleeding to death.
The next time you pop on Netflix and you see 13 Reasons Why in the suggestions, please, please pass on it. Once your eyes have seen something, there is no way to un-see it. If you are in the unfortunate situation that your young person has already watched it, either at home or a friends house, you need to talk with them about it. (You will have to decide for yourself if it’s necessary to read the book or watch the tv series so that you can have an intelligent conversation about it.) This story is just too disturbing to leave un-discussed once it’s seen or read.