'13 Reasons Why' Review: Netflix Adaptation of YA Novel Expertly Showcases Dark, Tragic Themes

By Jee Ann Guibone | Apr 03, 2017 11:40 AM EDT
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Selena Gomez's project "13 Reasons Why" was released on Netflix last March 31. The 13-episode show (plus a special episode) garnered a lot of positive feedback for its haunting storytelling techniques and adaptation of the young adult novel of the same title by Jay Asher.

The story of "13 Reasons Why" revolves around Hannah Baker's (Katherine Langford) suicide. Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette) becomes the narrator after he receives a package containing 13 tapes Hannah made to explain the reasons for her suicide. She wrote that Clay is one of the 13 reasons, so he must listen to the tapes to find out how he fits in the narrative.

The show presents a lot of heavy issues like drug use, sexual assault, revenge porn, and suicide. Underlying those issues is the mystery of Hannah's life and what drove her to commit suicide. According to Vox, while the 2007 novel was good, Netflix's adaptation "13 Reasons Why" is much better. Produced by music icon Selena Gomez, the drama series managed to expand the backstories of its characters and their crimes against Hannah.

The "13 Reasons Why" series might feel like its dragging its heels, but its slowness is vital since it makes the other characters more three-dimensional. Instead of just seeing how they drove Hannah to suicide, viewers are treated to these characters' lives, insecurities, and anxieties. It becomes much harder to judge them on just one thing.

At the same time, it adds a more meaningful viewing when audiences finally learn how their actions resulted in a person's death. It could feel bloated, according to Vanity Fair and "13 Reasons Why" isn't as urgent as other mystery series about dead teenage girls like "Veronica Mars" or "Twin Peaks".

Selena Gomez was supposed to star in the show, but she opted later on for a new, young "13 Reasons Why" cast to keep it more authentic. She wanted to retain the book's raw themes of tragedy and depression. Langford herself reminded the viewers, "Being depressed is not a beautiful tragedy. It's hell, and it's agony."

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