13 Reasons Why book & show comparison

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.

Have you read the book and seen the show? Which did you prefer? Let’s chat! But please, be nice and respect other’s opinions.

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30 thoughts on “13 Reasons Why book & show comparison

  1. Loved the show! It was so interesting and everybody was talking about it and the important mental health topics related to it, which I thought was really healthy. Have yet to read the book, but would be interesting to read it and experience it the same way you have.

    • Yes I would like to see what you think of the book; I personally can’t get my head around how anyone would say the book is better I just found it lacked SO much. But… again, it would have been about 16 thousands pages long had it included everything that was in the show. It’s difficult!

      • It’s the balance between the detail in the film and what could actually be written into the book, I suppose 🙂 I’ll try and get round to reading the book soon and when I do I will get back to you!

  2. Great post. Thank you. I watched the show with my daughter. We had a marathon session and watched it all in three day. I loved it and have been considering getting the book. You have helped me decide to get an eBook before paying out for paper.

    • Yes good idea, I bought the paperback because I just prefer paperbacks but I bought it “used” on Amazon so it was dead cheap. I wouldn’t have paid out for a brand new copy and I especially wouldn’t now, after having read it and knowing that I didn’t like it THAT much. Glad you and your daughter both enjoyed the show so much!

  3. I’ve heard both good and bad things about this show, I haven’t watched it yet (nor read the book) If i’m honest I doubt I’ll actually watch it I feel like I’ve read too many bad opinions to give it a fair chance. great post though, shows and books like this should be out there for all to see.

    • Ah you should forget about what everyone else has said and if you want to watch it, watch it. As it tackles so many difficult topics, people are going to have very different opinions of it depending on their own personal experiences. It’s such an important show though so I’d say if you can and feel like you won’t be mentally affected by it then definitely give it a watch. Although I wouldn’t necessarily recommend reading the book before – or after for that matter. As I said in my review, I don’t think the book was anywhere near as good!

    • It does pick up MASSIVELY throughout the series; I was a bit “hmmm” after the first episode the first time as well but just because it’s so different but I’m glad I kept on. But the latter episodes are really difficult to watch.

  4. I love the show, but I haven’t read that book so it’s really nice to know how the book compares to the adaptation and vice versa. I’m glad that the series did the book justice. I love the show and I appreciate the fact that it’s sending a very important message and reaching out to a lot of people going through the same tough things. I look forward to reading the book soon.

    • I hope you enjoy the book more than I did. I “enjoyed” it because I loved the story anyway (from the show) but honestly, if I had read the book in 2007 when it came out, I don’t think I would have liked it at all!

  5. I’ve seen the show but not read the book, I’d like to read it as I wasn’t a huge fan of the show so I’d be intrigued about the book. I think the show was very important and I think that it got its message across well, I’m glad the show obviously did the book justice – and more!
    Hels x
    http://thehelsproject.com/

      • I definitely think it was worth watching, I think it came across as though there was almost equal weighting on the reasons, Sherri’s episode for example, while really upsetting, didn’t sit really with the others of things that had been done – I appreciate it would have been deeply upsetting but surely much more so for Sherri, and while the whole thing was obviously Hannah’s reasons, there was minimal mention of things like Alex at the end, aside from a brief line – almost by holding people accountable, she had made the whole thing go full circle for some of the characters. And on just a personal level I didn’t warm to Hannah as a character at all. As I said though, I think it was a huge, huge thing to do on Netflix and so important to show!

  6. I read the book at the start of the year because I knew the series was coming out and I did not enjoy it at all and thought then it would work better as a TV series. I was right and totally agree with you the series was so much better. At times reading the book I lost who Hannah was talking about sometimes and felt nothing for Clay or anyone else. The series had me in tears and I still can’t stop thinking about the series and it’s characters. I reread the book after the series and it did help but still didn’t love it. 13 reasons why is the best thing I have seen on Netflix!

  7. I haven’t read the book but now that I’ve watched the show I can’t, I have discovered this through many attempts and lots of DNF’ing. I found the show addictive but I don’t think I can say that I love it because I just felt so overwhelmingly sad after each episode. I’m glad it’s got people talking though, let’s just hope it carries forward 🙂

    p.s I’m not sure how I feel about a season two, too high a chance of them messing it up

    • I honestly wouldn’t recommend the book so I wouldn’t bother if I was you to be honest! I think that was the idea, to make you sad and made you feel as closely to how Hannah felt. I am so excited for season 2. But I think in order to enjoy it, people need to start looking at it as a separate entity from the book. Obviously the book ends when Hannah dies – nothing happens after that so season 2 is just completely made up. If people keep referring to or thinking about the fact the “book finished” then they’re not going to enjoy it. I for one can’t wait. We have so many unanswered questions and I think as long as everything gets answered, it’ll be great. They need to continue with Jessica’s story because her’s is just as important as Hannah’s but the difference is that Jessica is still alive and having to deal with what she went through which is what loads of people in real life have to do too.

  8. Oooo this is so interesting! I’m still really wanting to read the book but you’re right, it is so crazy when the original book actually falls short of the film/TV show. I loved the show, definitely thought some things could be improved upon but people feel that with every show! Great review and thank you so much for taking the time to go in to so much detail about the differences and similarities! xxx

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