If you saw my post last month on Why ’13 Reasons Why’ is f***cking important and you should go and watch it now you may have guessed that I really f**ing liked that show, thought it was hella important and felt the need to write an entire blog post about it. I had heard of the book, in fact I had it on my to-read list on Goodreads for a good few years. I thought to concept sounded unique and intriguing but I just never got around to getting myself a copy. When three’s so many good books out, it’s easy for others to get overlooked and pushed to the back of your priorities.
So upon watching the show, I was aware that it was a book but the book itself I didn’t really know an awful lot about. However, I had heard from numerous sources that the show was better. Which is quite a statement. When is the film / TV version of a book ever better than the original? You don’t get that a lot. But with those comments in my head, I still wanted to give the book a go and see how it measured into a series I had watched, twice by then which was now firmly in my mental “favourite seasons ever” folder.
I wanted to do a normal book review but I honestly don’t think that would have been possible, with how much I love the show and with how widely known and loved the show has become. So… I’ve read the book, I’ve seen the show so let’s do a comparison. What did they get right? What did they get wrong? Did they do the book justice? Or did they even make it better? Were all these people right in saying the show was better than the book? Here’s my humble opinion…
Yes. They were right. They were 100% right. I don’t often say that because like I said, the original is always better but in this instance, I’m not afraid to say that for me, personally, the book fell short. Had it done it the other way around and read the book first before watching the show, would I have had a different opinion? Maybe. But honestly, I don’t think so. I think I would have come out with the same conclusion, whichever way I decided to approach this story.
There were two main elements that stuck out for me, which the show and the book seemed to approach quite differently. I mean, it had a lot of subtle differences throughout which is fine and completely normal when translating a book into a visual thing. For example, Sheri was called Jenny in the book, Jeff was never named he was just a kid from their high-school and the tapes were in a slightly different order in some parts. Clay was number 9 in the book instead of number 11. If you’ve seen the show, you’ll know why they swapped him to umber 11, so he was before the person he needed to be. But other than that, the small differences don’t make a whole lot of difference, whichever way you have them.
My first big thing was Clay. In the book, Clay felt so two-dimensional. He was almost a “non-character”. He had no depth, no personality, no nothing. He was just our vessel in order to get to Hannah’s tapes. If anything, I felt like he was unnecessary. Like, Hannah could have just told us. But of course in the show, Clay is real. He’s relatable and kind and someone we can empathise with. He has a life, feelings and problems of his own that we so closely follow. There is literally none of that in the book. All he does for the entirety of the story is walk around to Hannah’s “stars” on her map and listen.
The next big thing was Hannah’s problems. I loved Hannah’s narration in the book; having watched the show I had that clear voice of hers in my head for the entirety of the book. She was enticing and great to “listen to”. But I felt that her problems were almost… made smaller. Some of it was very vague and having not watched the show, I probably wouldn’t have 100% known what was going on in that moment. There was no outer reaction from any other characters throughout the whole book, other than what Hannah tells you. So you don’t really see the full effect of the rumours, the lies and what happens to her. But like I said, her narration is enticing and she does bring up some very important points like when she says about not having the right to touch anyone without their permission.
Overall, the show amplifies the book tenfold. The characters were brighter, more real, more relatable. They had personalities and we get to see the characters behind Hannah’s stories. None of them had any present part in the book other than in the “flashbacks” of what Hannah was telling you. I understand though that that having been done, the book would either not be what it is or be about 16,000 pages long. I think in terms of a book and show comparison, they did the book justice. They captured what it was about, the messages behind it and they turned it from a pumpkin to a golden carriage.
As an interesting, eye-opening and insightful Young Adult novel, I think the book does just that. It will get Young Adults interested and talking and it’s a new idea, a unique storyline and one that will get you thinking. But the show gets into the nitty gritty and the disturbing, damaging and dangerous side of suicide, rape, rumours, bullying and everything else that’s involved. One of my favourite elements of the show upon now having read the book, is Jeff’s storyline and how a completely innocent person can get caught up in such tragedy. I would still encourage everyone to watch the show, if you can. Be careful and if you’ve got mental heath issues, consider what the show involves before you watch it and pay attention to the warnings throughout.
I could continue for pages and pages about this but now having done both, the show has created a phenomenal and important piece of television from an ‘okay’ book that scratches the surface of a that’s involved.