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May 15, 2017

The Teenreads Teen Board Reflects on Netflix's ’’13 Reasons Why’’

Posted by Rebecca M
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The YA community has been buzzing about “13 Reasons Why,” the Netflix show based on the YA book of the same name by Jay Asher. Since the show's release, it has been given a trigger warning and was recently renewed for a second season (you can see some spoilers here). Because the show touches upon so many difficult topics, including suicide, sexual assault and self-injury, some parents and teachers feel that it is not safe for teens to watch alone, especially if they have a history of depression.

While reading about the controversies, I stumbled upon this article where teens shared their views on the show and what they wished adults would learn from it. With their responses in mind, I asked our Teen Board members how they felt. You can read their thoughts below.


"It took me one hour to finish reading THIRTEEN REASONS WHY, and it took me three days to finish watching the Netflix rendition of Jay Asher's novel. At first, I really enjoyed the show but after thinking about it and processing it my opinion has changed dramatically.

Talking about mental health issues is extremely important to me. After almost four years of struggling I have recently opened up about my own fight with depression and anxiety in an effort to reduce stigma and start conversation in my community. I was initially excited that “13 Reasons Why” would be another way to talk about mental health issues but I think it has many major flaws.

For those watching who actually struggle with their mental health, 13RW offers suicide as a solution. Suicide should never be the final answer. Regardless of how many reasons you may have (thirteen or more...), there is always another option. Additionally, the graphic portrayal of Hannah's death was completely unnecessary and provides visualization for those with suicidal ideation.

I have a lot of negative feelings about 13RW but I also think there is a lot to praise.

These are all big issues but, in my opinion, the bigger issue is the things that those without mental illness will learn from the show. 13RW leaves out any mental health diagnosis. It makes everyone other than Hannah a villain. It seems to prove that no one can help a friend who is struggling.

I have a lot of negative feelings about 13RW but I also think there is a lot to praise.

The portrayal of the issue of rape culture is very well done. Rape culture in high school NEEDS to be talked about and 13RW starts that conversation.

Additionally, 13RW forces us to stop and recognize that everything we do has an effect on the people around us.

I would add that I felt a lot more comfortable with Asher's novel than I did with the show. The novel leaves out the suicide scene and leaves much more open to interpretation.

So, to conclude: Would I recommend 13RW to my friends and finally? Absolutely not. Do I want to continue the conversations about suicide and mental health? Absolutely." --- Teen Board member Aliza M.


If you watch or read it, please do so with an adult and know that there are many triggering scenes.

'13 Reasons Why,’ for me, was horrible. It tries and fails to have a needed conversation about suicide. I do not think that the TV show --- or the book --- accurately describes teenage life. Sure, it does cover some aspects about teenage life accurately but not enough. Also, not only is it a bad TV show, it is also a dangerous TV show. ‘13 Reasons Why’ glorifies suicide. The TV show almost makes suicide seem like an option, which it shouldn't be. Also, it doesn't even mention the mental health factors that go into committing suicide. And it blames others for suicide. Yes, some of the people on the tapes like Bryce are horrible people who deserve to go to jail. But saying that people caused the suicide is extremely dangerous. If someone was watching it and had a friend who had killed himself or herself, imagine how he or she would feel after watching the show, after watching someone say that he killed Hannah by not ‘loving her enough.’ That would suck. There are many more reasons why I hate this show, but I'll stop here. This show is horrible. If you watch or read it, please do so with an adult and know that there are many triggering scenes.” --- Teen Board Member Rebecca D.


"13 Reasons Why" could help adults see what really goes through students' heads and let them realize that high school isn't the same for everybody.

I watched the show and I plan to read the book soon. I think even though some of it may seem exaggerated to some students, it is a reality in some high schools. Suicide happens frequently, and there are only about 15 characters in this show; that shows that these kinds of events may happen anywhere in your school without you noticing. I notice stuff like this going around at school sometimes: people talk about others behind their backs, rejections happen and people take it very personally. It hurts them, and that is very apparent in the TV show. Drug use and rape is also portrayed in the show, and I think it doesn't stray far from the truth. Drugs aren't uncommon to find at school and rape could be happening beneath our very noses. ‘13 Reasons Why’ manages to change the stereotypical high school experience into something more realistic. It shows the dark side of things. It could help adults see what really goes through students' heads and let them realize that high school isn't the same for everybody. Everybody should watch what they say to people because, after watching the show, the fact that harsh words, even meant as a joke, can strike deep inside. Small actions can cause a difference in a person's thinking, either in a beneficial or harmful way. I would recommend the show, although it may be triggering for those with suicidal issues, depression, or anxiety.” --- Teen Board Member Jeremy H.


[I]t could help to create more conversation about mental health, and I'm glad that the series has helped to that effect.

I never read THIRTEEN REASONS WHY, and have not seen the series because I read many of the Goodreads reviews and saw that people seemed to feel that the book didn't address suicide and the causes of suicide in the most realistic way, but it’s been a topic in my school district recently. We have had a few suicides in our school district in the past two years, so mental health has come to the forefront in our district, and the board of education and the administrators, as well as many parents, have been debating what the school should try to do to help prevent future suicides and self-harm. A few weeks ago they actually sent out an email about the series. Although they warned parents about the controversial way the series portrays suicide, they did acknowledge that it could help to create more conversation about mental health, and I'm glad that the series has helped to that effect.” --- Teen Board Member Rachel R.


The show did a terrific job of keeping me hooked, but it didn't really accurately depict the high school experience.

"I also watched the show in one weekend, which is something I wouldn't admit to just anyone considering it consisted of 13 episodes, each an hour long. Clearly, I lack a social life! I thought the show was thrilling and addicting, and I personally can't wait to watch season two. However, it wasn't addicting in the way some other shows are. I wanted to find out what happened next, but the plot wasn't exactly accurate. First of all, the fact that the guidance counselor, who in my opinion was the most at fault, spoke directly to Hannah and didn't raise a red flag is (hopefully) unrealistic. I'd think that someone working in administration would have spoken to her parents, considering she made comments about not "caring" just hours before her death. I also found the show to be quite graphic --- the suicide scene was a little much even for me, and I'm probably in the group of older viewers. The show did a terrific job of keeping me hooked, but it didn't really accurately depict the high school experience. It tried too hard to break teenage stereotypes. It was also hard to feel sympathy for the main character, which is devastating, considering she ended her life." --- Teen Board Member Juliette G.


I respect the show's candid and truthful portrayal about suicide, but my sensitivity and fear of blood on a television screen is too much to bear.

"I read THIRTEEN REASONS WHY years ago in seventh grade, and re-read it multiple times ever since. In fact, I loved the book so much, that I wrote a paper about it in my middle school years. I love the way it handled the sensitive subjects --- how every action could be magnified in a teenager's experience. However, after Netflix released the show, I have not watched it, nor have the plans to watch it. Those who have told me about the show have revealed to me its graphic violence. I respect the show's candid and truthful portrayal about suicide, but my sensitivity and fear of blood on a television screen is too much to bear. The book, in my memory, has never shown such explicit graphic descriptions. For that, the book will be the only iteration of the story I will ever witness --- though others are welcome to watch the show." --- Teen Board Member Hannah C.


I think grown-ups should try to remember how they felt in high school...there is something to be gleaned from this show for everyone, regardless of age: your words hurt.

"I have watched '13 Reasons Why,' and I really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, I think it does accurately represent the teenage experience. Too often the so-called "best years of our life" are riddled with insecurities and sometimes depression. I have not experienced the extent of what Hannah Baker went through, fortunately, but I know people who have. 

I think grown-ups should try to remember how they felt in high school. Maybe they never experienced what Hannah Baker did, but there is something to be gleaned from this show for everyone, regardless of age: your words hurt. You may not think they do, but when you put someone down, they will never forget. In high school, no one will remember what you wore or what you did or what you didn't do. They will remember how you made them feel. 

I know some people see this show as triggering, but I did not. I saw it as a reminder to be kind to everyone because you have no idea what is going on in another person's life. This show is very important to me and to society. I hope it teaches everyone that watches it to be kinder." --- Teen Board Member Bryn D.


It really touches on the fact that people can be mean, without even realizing it, and shows how much you affect others and others affect you. Still, it doesn't ever really touch on the good side of high school.

I think ’13 Reasons Why’ partially shows the teenage experience. The things that happened in the show are things I completely believe could happen in real life. Also, it shows how parents never really know what's going on, even if they believe to be well informed. It really touches on the fact that people can be mean, without even realizing it, and shows how much you affect others and others affect you. Still, it doesn't ever really touch on the good side of high school. There are good people out there, and some teachers are great, some classes are enjoyable, and you can make genuine good friends. It never really focuses on that, which is understandable as the main character never received that kind treatment. Still, it's an important aspect of high school that is never mentioned. Also, they have seemingly hour-long passing periods and time before school, which is definitely not realistic, trust me.” --- Teen Board Member Jessica K.


SPOILER ALERT:

I can't wait for the second season of “13 Reasons Why” on Netflix --- I have conflicting feelings about it, however, because although I am extremely curious to find out what happens to some of the characters, I worry that the second season will not do justice to the premise of the show. I actually liked the show even more than the book (which I read in seventh grade), because I felt as though the small changes the show made from the book made the message behind the story even more meaningful. Overall, I was completely blown away by the show, and the fact that I did not see Alex's attempted suicide coming really impacted me. --- Niraja S.