13 Reasons Why

Have you read 13 Reasons Why?  No?  Okay... Have you seen 13 Reasons Why?  Let me elaborate.

13 Reasons Why is the story of Hannah Baker, a seventeen year old high school junior whose seemingly abrupt suicide sends shockwaves through her small town.  The news of Hannah's suicide is compounded when weeks later, a mysterious unmarked box is dropped on the porch of Clay Jenson, Hannah's former classmate, co-worker, and onetime crush.  Curious, Clay opens it to discover seven cassette tapes, unmarked other than the numbers 1 through 13, painted on in blue nail polish.  After struggling to find a device that can actually play tapes, Clay's blood runs cold as he plays tape #1 only to hear the familiar voice of Hannah Baker, detailing the circumstances that led her to take her own life.  She goes on to explain the chain of events that contributed to her ultimate decision, and if you're hearing these tapes, that you were in fact one of the thirteen reasons why.

This month, 13 Reasons Why the series debuted on Netflix.  Both the book, by Jay Asher, and show are haunting, intense, and thought provoking.  There are distinct plot difference, though the underlying current and tone is the same.  I did appreciate the character development the show portrayed that was not always apparent in the book; the depths of physical anguish and sadness carried by Hannah's grieving parents, the quiet ache felt by those who used to consider Hannah a friend.  The throbbing pain of her absence in everything at school; her abandoned locker, the perpetually empty seat in her classes, the shrine of flowers and pictures in the front hall.

What 13 Reasons Why highlights is that sometimes something that seems so insignificant to one person might consume another. An empty rumor that spiraled out of control, being branded a slut when there's no validity to the claim, the out-of-context photo that went viral, and the vague plea for help that went ignored.  When these incidents are stacked one atop the other, it can feel overwhelming.  Which is why it is imperative to reach out, know the signs, ask and offer help.  Every gesture counts.

My only experience with suicide comes from high school.  My sophomore year, one of my closest friends attempted suicide.  She had a huge fight with her mom before school, and downed a bottle of her brother's heart medication and then came to school as usual.  We had first period together.  We used to share clothes and that morning I was wearing her sweater.  When I motioned to it as I walked past her assigned seat up the aisle to my own, I remember her blank eyes, staring straight ahead.  About five minutes into class, the guidance counselor rushed in, exchanged hushed whispers with the teacher, and ushered my friend out of the room.  I didn't see her the rest of the day. She didn't come back to school that entire week.

This was before everyone had cell phones, so we couldn't call or text from school to check in, and our calls to her home phone went unanswered.  Later, a rumor circulated that an ambulance had been at school that same day.  I never even thought to connect the two occurrences.  I was one of her closest friends, and I had no idea anything was amiss.  In hindsight, I realize that there were red flags, behaviors that could be characterized as a cry for help.  But then, in my high school bubble; to me she was popular.  She was adored.  She was happy.  Until I knew the truth, I had no idea.

So there, these are my reasons why 13 Reasons Why is worth a watch.  The show is visceral.  It is heartbreaking to watch at times.  It is quite difficult to watch at times.  However, I think it also has the potential to open up a dialogue about a challenging subject between parents and their teens.

This post is part of my partnership with Netflix where I share what my family and I are watching each month on our favorite streaming platform. All thoughts and opinions are my own.  #StreamTeam

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