Eleven years ago, I was an avid reader and young adult novels were one of my guiltiest pleasures. I would search google for new books that would be coming out soon and then head to the store to grab any and all that interested me.
Thirteen Reasons Why was no different. I bought and read this book almost immediately after it came out. The concept seemed intriguing – a young girl takes her own life and records tapes directed at each person that she feels is to ‘blame’ for her decision.
Ten years after the release of this book, it had been made into a tv show and I was eager to see how it stacked up to what I had read. The differences were very minimal.
After the first season came out the controversy over this show rapidly grew. Petitions and boycotts and anger ensued from angry parents whose teenagers had watched the show and were now traumatized. Parents swore the show was exaggerated, things like this do not happen, it is all nonsense, the show was too graphic, etc. The complaints went on for quite a while and finally died down just in time for season twos arrival.
It has been eleven years since I have been in high school, but I can tell you that the scenarios this show portrays are real, they are scary but they are real. These situations happen on a daily basis to teens (and even younger) all over the world and to be honest, some parents that do not think it does are just very out of the loop in my opinion.
Was the show graphic? Yes, 100%.
Was the show real and raw? Absolutely.
Should your teenager watch it alone? Probably not.
I have read a lot of articles stating that watching this show if you suffer from anxiety or depression is terrible and that is has CAUSED others (or shown others how) to commit suicide, but I strongly disagree.
If you suffer from depression, which I have, you have probably already thought about suicide. Considered that the world may be a better place without you, or that no one will care if you are gone. Which I have. This show did not show me how to do something that I was not already aware of. It did not tell me that I should do it. What it DID was show me that I am not the only one that has ever gone through some of the things I have.
The first season dives deep into all of the different people in Hannahs life and how she places blame onto them for her choice. From rape to bullying to lying to just not trying to help. But at the end of the day, Hannah made the choice on her own.
The second season shows you a back story to each character, a little more detailed glimpse into each relationship with Hannah.
To me, the series has a lot of lessons to learn about life. Hannah blamed a lot of people for her life and was not always proactive in helping herself to get passed it.
I have complied some of the lessons that I learned from Hannah Baker and her “friends”.
- Tyler. There is a real, sad truth about kids like Tyler. Sometimes there is a kid in school that is picked on despite their best effort to fit in. Tyler is a character that is damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t. Even when trying to talk calmly and use what he learned during his summer away, he is STILL brutalized. It is a devastating reality, but some kids just cannot escape their bullies. It happens everyday. Be aware of signs that your child is being bullied, be proactive, be there. Tyler feeling helpless is what lead to the final scene, his attempt at a school shooting. In our world today, THIS is actually happening so often. It isn’t always a gun law problem. It steams so deeply for some of these kids that they resort to the shootings to regain power where they do not have it – against their bullies.
- Jessica. She spends much of the second season refusing to testify and not allowing anyone else to testify about the rape. The thought of testifying against Bryce was the scariest thing she could do but she learned that living in silence was in fact scarier. She testified and while the outcome was a lot less harsh than ANYONE would have liked, she was free of the strain it was putting on her. I hope anyone that watches this series learns a lesson from her – standing up for herself will always outweigh hiding in fear.
- Ryan. I was not a fan of this character at any point in time but what he taught me is that is someone EVER presents you with something (like a poem) that suggests that they are contemplating taking their own life, harming themselves, or others – DO. NOT. IGNORE. IT. A person does not write something so deep, mentioning something like that, and mean it lightly. Not EVER. Tell someone, tell anyone.
- Zach. The relationship portrayed in season 2 episode 6 between Zach and Hannah was one of the most beautiful things to watch. They were so comfortable, so at ease. It was such a lovely thing to watch knowing that Hannah did experience such a love in her life. Though Zach’s cowardly behavior and inability to be honest with the people in his life about his relationship was sad. I want everyone to come away with two lessons here. The first being that depression is not cured purely because someone is in love or finds love somewhere. The second being that just because you have bad experiences in love, like Hannah did with Justin or Bryce, does not mean you will never find love. No two people are ever the same and they will not always bring the same to your life.
- Justin. Drug addiction is a serious problem. Even after Justin tells Clay that he thinks he is happy right after finding out the Jensens are going to adopt him – he still uses. It is not always what it seems and keeping up appears does not always mean a person is doing well. Clay, Tony, and Sheri stand by to help him get through his withdraw and try to help him in any way they can. In the end, you can only help them if they are willing to accept it and they aren’t always willing. Part of his struggle, in my opinion, steams from not doing the right thing by Jessica. Allowing his friend to take advantage of and ultimately rape her was literally eating him alive. Doing the right thing is always the right thing.
- Mr. Porter. Of all the characters there are, to me Mr. Porter feels the guiltiest of all. While I do understand that Hannah reached out to him, she only gave him so much to work with. He had been trained a certain way to see certain things and sadly, they both fell short. But I truly believe he would never let another student out of his office after they made small remarks like that again.
- Bryce. We will encounter many people like Bryce in our lives. The kind that think money makes them untouchable, invincible. Sadly they sometimes are. The lesson here is to steer clear of these types of people entirely. If you meet someone who immediately seems like a bad person, like a person that thinks they will never get in trouble for their actions because they can buy their way out – stay away.
- Courtney. Sometimes the inability to face ones own inner demons causes them to project them onto others. This is a prime example. She couldn’t come clean about herself so she allowed everyone to believe that Hannah was the lesbian, not herself. All you can do for someone is provide them support, if they chose to take advantage or turn their back, that is a testament to their character. Not yours. Never project your own struggles onto someone else because you don’t know what they are also struggling with.
- Alex. Many, many things were poorly handled by Alex in this series. He treated her badly when he started to date Jessica when all Hannah wanted was to still feel included. She was upset at feeling left out, feeling like they were hiding it from her, and he lashed out on her. Then having heard something going on – he and Monty did not look further into it. The guilt eventually ate away at him, causing his suicide attempt. I don’t believe that was the right route to go, obviously, but it shows you how hard somethings that can be to deal with for some. Again, offering your support is sometimes all you can do. Just be there. Alex needed someone to talk to, someone that didn’t give up or blame him like a lot of the group were doing.
- Clay. I have a love/hate relationship with this character. We saw in the first season how much he loved and idolized Hannah, wishing he had made a move to really let his love for her show. Wishing he could have done something to help her before she took her own life. But then in season two we watch him speak poorly to her because he finds out more about her than he had ever known. He gets mad that she loved Zach, mad she talked to Justin, mad she was friends with Bryce. It almost makes me feel as though if he had known all of this about Hannah, he wouldn’t have been there for her in the first place. If you love someone, like he claims he did/does, then you accept the flaws and things you don’t necessarily like. He really didn’t seem to love who the real Hannah was and that makes me slightly happy that he didn’t get to be with her at all. He clearly didn’t accept her as she was. Not all love is real, some is rather toxic and I feel this is an example of that.
- Marcus. This guy is so caught up in himself, always wanting to portray the correct image to others. He was already politicking just like his father. Taking the bet from Bryce was a bad move, acting on it was a bad move, treating Hannah like a piece of meat when he really wasn’t that kind of guy was a bad move, and then allowing himself to be black mailed was a bad move. He was more of a coward than Zach ever was, not to mention a slimy coward. What I learned is that he is one of the worst kind of people to be around – always looking out for himself and quick to turn on everyone else. These kinds of “friends” are always watching what you’re doing so that if they get in trouble for anything, they can quickly turn on you. Not a good “friend” to have. Always looking out for yourself and no one else may seem like a good idea, but it leaves you with.. well, just yourself in the end.
- Sheri. This is a disappointing situation because someones life was taken away by what is really just a simple mistake, yet she didn’t come clean. Once the truth was out, she began to spend all of her time trying to make up for the wrong that she had done and sadly, that void will probably never be filled. Mistakes in life are inevitable, we all make them. They aren’t always as serious as taking someones life, but no matter the mistake – if you don’t come clean, the guilt will eat away at you until you drive yourself mad. Lesson learned.
- Hannah. This is hard for me because I have dealt with bullying, sexual harassment, being told what you want to hear just to get something from you, suicidal thoughts, etc. I have also lost someone fairly close to me through suicide. Hannah struggled with so much but I don’t feel like she reached out, like so many of us don’t reach out. She blamed so many people for all of the things had happened to her but never really took charge of her life and stood up for herself. I know that isn’t easy, I know that not everyone can do it, but I know that there are many people that would have listened and helped her in any way they could. She sadly failed to see that.
The lesson in this is to always be kind. Always lend a shoulder or an ear. Always treat others as you want to be treated. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. You never know how negatively your words can affect another persons life. Teach your children the same thing. Stop the bullying. Don’t raise bullies. If your child is a bully, don’t be in denial – address it. If you think someone is struggling, ask. If you think someone needs help, give it to them.
Mrs. Baker, Hannahs mom, spoke the truest words of the entire series in the last episode.
“No matter how many reasons why, there are more reasons why not.”
If you are thinking about harming yourself or attempting suicide, tell someone who can help right away. Call the toll-free, 24-gour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 to be connected to a trained counselor at a suicide crisis center nearest you.
Suicide is never the answer.