13 Reasons Why: Book vs Show

WARNING: This post contains spoilers for both the book and the TV show. If you are worried about something being ruined for you, proceed with caution.

As I mentioned in last week’s post, I will be diving into the world of Netflix’s newest show, 13 Reasons Why. What most people don’t realize is that the show is actually based on a 2007 novel written by Jay Asher.

Now, you will need to have read or watched to know exactly what I’m talking about which may make this post useless for some, but this is information I wanted out there before I continued writing about the show.

As I have been compiling my research and figuring out how to go about presenting it, I realized that it’s important to understand some of the differences between the show and the book. Like any adaptation, what’s on the page can’t always translate to the screen and in the case of turning a stand-alone novel into a series, a lot needs to change.

Take a look at Orange is the New Black, for example. The show is wildly different from the book simply because it needed to create something from nothing in order to last as long as it has.

Netflix is in the business of creating entertainment and 13 Reasons Why is no different, the show worked hard to leave loose ends to set up future seasons of the show. Personally, I feel this should be left as a mini-series but I’m not in charge and Netflix has a business to run. The show has proven wildly popular and they have left room for continuation.

I feel this is a mistake because it will ultimately detract from what producers claimed to have been hoping to accomplish with the series, which was to create a narrative for bullying and suicide awareness.

Whether that is accomplished is another post for another day.

For now, I want to dive in to some differences in Book vs Show.

The Timeline

For the sake of creating a compelling drama, the show takes place over a period of days, possibly weeks and with that, Clay’s consumption of the tapes takes just as long. Tony even comments that Clay is the slowest listener so far. In the book, Clay binge-listens to the tapes in one, caffeine-fueled evening.

Tony

Within the world of the Netflix show, Tony is revealed to be watching Clay far sooner than in the book. Clay realizes that Tony is watching him almost right away after he receives the tapes. In the book, it is not until Clay has reached tape four that he realizes that Tony is Hannah’s secret keeper. This is also when Tony confronts him about stealing the walkman.

Social Media’s Influence

It’s hard to imagine there was a time before most social media but there was. While Facebook and Twitter were around in 2007, they weren’t as big in the high school crowd as they are today. Instagram was still three years away from making its debut. As a result, the role of social media within the world of the book is almost non-existent. In the book, gossip and rumors find their way around through old-fashioned word of mouth. The show brings the story to the present-day and adds technology into the mix. It’s also worth noting that the story is actually taking place ahead of our current time. In the last episode when the depositions are taking place, note the timestamp says November 2017.

The Bakers and the Lawsuit

Hannah’s parents hardly exist in the world of the book but within the show they play a large role in both past and present. Again, for the sake of creating compelling entertainment, the Baker’s receive a full story-arc. This includes changing their profession from shoe store owners to struggling pharmacy owners competing against a corporate giant. They are also going after the school in a lawsuit claiming that more should have been done to protect their daughter from bullying. Mrs. Baker, in particular, plays a large role as she conducts her own investigation, finding the hurtful graffiti in the in the bathrooms along with Alex’s “Hot or Not” list.

Parents In General

Clay’s parents, as well as everyone else’s, play little to no role within the book as the setting is limited to flashbacks and Clay in the coffee shop. Within the world of the show, more side-stories are created in an effort to flesh out the world surrounding Clay. His mom, for example, ends up being the lawyer representing the school in the Baker’s lawsuit.

Clay and Hannah’s Relationship

The book presents Clay and Hannah’s relationship as being very one-sided with him pining for her but being too afraid to act on his feelings. They are friendly but don’t talk too much outside of their work relationship at the movie theatre. In the show, the two are far closer which sets up more missed opportunities on Clay’s part to realize there is something going on with his friend.

Courtney and Hannah

Within the world of the book, character’s race and sexuality don’t come into play at all so the storyline between Coutney and Hannah is very different. The trap they set for Tyler in the book simply involves innocent gossip and a staged, slightly risqué, encounter which was very innocent. In the show, the two girls break into Hannah’s parent’s liquor cabinet and get drunk. They two begin to kiss and this moment is captured on film and ultimately shared by Tyler. Courtney worries about the photo getting out as no one knows she is gay.

The Order of the Tapes and their Fate

The tapes play out differently in the book which shows ones of the biggest changes for the sake of the show. In the book, Clay is reason number 9 rather than 11. In the show he moves to confront Bryce, number 12, rather than passing on the tapes out of fear they would be destroyed. He then passed them off to number 13, Mr. Porter, leaving it to him to determine their fate. In the book Clay finishes the tapes and passes them on per Hannah’s orders and what happens from there is unknown. In the show Tony creates digital copies of the tapes and passes them on to Hannah’s parents in the finale. The tapes are also mentioned in the student’s depositions despite spending the entire series working to suppress them.

Hannah’s Suicide

In the book Hannah’s suicide was by an overdose on unspecified pills. Clay mentions this towards the beginning as “took a bunch of pills.” In the show, Hannah commits suicide by cutting her wrists in the bathroom. A scene which I am still bothered by days later. More on that to come.

Alex and Tyler

In the final episode we learn that Alex is in critical condition after a suicide attempt. It would seem that producers may use this, along with the Baker’s lawsuit, as fodder for a potential second season. Another loose end not found in the book is Tylers stash of guns. We see him purchase a gun during one episode and then learn that he has a cache of weapons stored in his room. It would seem he is planning revenge against his own bullies as a result of Hannah’s tapes and Clay’s actions against him in the show. None of this is found in the book.

After writing this all out, I realize that it may come across as incredibly vague if you haven’t digested either form of 13 Reasons Why and for that I apologize. I orignianlly intended for only one post about the show but, as I mentioned, so much more needed to be said and rather than one giant post, I wanted to break things up.

I promise this information will come in handy as I continue on.

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

If you or someone you know needs help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or visit their website.

One thought on “13 Reasons Why: Book vs Show

  1. Pingback: What Parents Should Know About “13 Reasons Why” | Breaking Down Digital Walls

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