Literature Vs. Adaptation: 13 Reasons Why, ‘A Glorification of Suicide’

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***TW: Suicide***

Thirteen Reasons Why quickly started trending when it was released on Netflix in 2017. But what a lot of people who were fans of the show don’t know was how incredible the book it was based on is.

Written by Jay Asher in 2007, a whole decade before the show was released, Thirteen Reasons Why is a young adult novel filled with emotion, mystery and a heart-wrenching plot-line. Reaching number 1 in the New York Times Best Seller list in 2011, it was definitely a popular book. So popular that in 2017, a good few years after it was published, the show was picked up for a Netflix series.

When this was announced, it was exciting. Fans of the book couldn’t wait to see how the adaptation would fare, whilst people who had not read the book, but obsessed with the trailers released by Netflix. Unfortunately, the Netflix adaptation did not live up to the hype.

In the book, the characters are all teens at school, but it’s not cringe-worthy. It’s fairly typical of a young-adult fiction, but deals with more mature topics, like mental health and suicide. The book is incredibly successful in dealing with these topics in a respectful manner, whereas the show has gotten much criticism for its potential glorification and romanticising of suicide.

The characters in the Netflix show are hard to watch at times. Of course, American teen shows usually have that bit of cringe to them, but in 13 Reasons Why, it is a lot to deal with. Season 1 was watchable, though, and actually quite good. Having read the book years earlier, it was nice to relive the plot visually and I liked being surprised by things that I had forgotten. But that’s the only positive thing I can say about the Netflix adaptation.

Like many other Netflix shows, it dragged on too long. Somehow a novel with less than 300 pages was worthy of 4 whole seasons, with a whole 49 episodes. I understand the need to deliver to consumers of a product if they ask for more, however when adapting a novel, the story-line should not waver far from it in my opinion.

What is most annoying is  connotations associated with Thirteen Reasons Why. Rather than being known as a progressive young-adult fiction novel, that deals with mature topics in a very respectful way, it’s known as that show that didn’t give sufficient trigger warnings for some of it’s episodes.

If you’ve seen the show and you liked it, or you weren’t a fan of how it dealt with sensitive topics, then read the book. It’s well-written and extremely memorable.

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Live Editor 2019/20 & second year English student. Can usually be found procrastinating my degree at a gig, or trying (and failing) to complete my Goodreads challenge

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