Different from the book – 13 reasons why


*Spoiler alert and trigger warning*

Last weekend I finished watching the latest Netflix sensation, 13 Reasons Why. It’s a show that has been commissioned for a second series, despite the predictable controversy that came with it.

For those yet to watch the show, it’s about a young girl who committed suicide and a set of tapes that she leaves behind. These tapes are essentially a suicide letter but each side is dedicated to a different person who played a part in her story. They are essentially like a chain letter as they have to be passed from person to person. If this is not followed, the tapes will be released.

While I personally haven’t yet made my mind up on the ethics of the show – I do think it glamourized and trivialised suicide and yet it also opened up a conversation about millennial culture – it was definitely a story that intrigued me.

So a few days after finishing the TV show I decided to purchase the book because I wanted to see if the book approached the subject any differently.

I think it did to some extent, but mostly the Netflix show was pretty true to the overall story of the book. Yet obviously the Netflix show was able to add greater depth to the stories and the characters involved and so there some big differences in the details.

The time frame //

The first big difference between the book and the Netflix show is the time frame in which they are set.

In the book, Clay listens to the tapes in one night and forces himself to stay awake in order to do so. While the Netflix show is set over a number of different days and nights.

It would have been highly unrealistic for Netflix to have tried to drag out one night for more than one episode, so this is probably why they changed the time frame.

In the book, the reader follows Clay as he is listening to the tapes. The other teenagers involved are only mentioned on the tapes and are not involved in the books story, aside from Tony. So obviously there is no effort from the other teens to keep Clay silent either.

It also allowed them to create more complex characters with more detail, background stories and intervening incidents. The characters are obviously more thought out in the Netflix show because they play a larger part in the shows story.

So for example, in the book, Tony didn’t see Hannah’s body, Hannah’s parents aren’t suing, Jenny* doesn’t volunteer and Clay didn’t know the boy killed in the accident.

*Jenny’s character name changes between the book and Netflix show, in the show she is Sheri.


Justin Foley //

The first tape is dedicated to Justin Foley, the first guy that Hannah Baker kissed. In the Netflix TV show, Justin takes an up skirt picture of Hannah while they are in the park together. He also exaggerates what happened between them, turning a kiss in to something much more. Yet that’s not what happens in the book. In the book Justin only spreads rumours about what happened between him and Hannah and there is no picture involved.

Similarly, the story of Courtney Crimson and why she is on the tapes, also mutates in this way too. In the book Courtney helps Hannah to catch the boy who has been stalking her and while they are both in Hannah’s room, Courtney pretends to find “suspect” items in Hannah’s draw. In the Netflix TV show, Courtney is gay and a picture is taken of Hannah and Courtney kissing. The is no mention of an image in the book. Courtney later goes on to make Hannah out to be sexually motivated and tells other people about the made up items in her draws.

Interestingly the book was written a fair few years ago, before smart phones became so common. This could explain the need to adopt the story.

The poem //

In the Netflix episode which is dedicated to the poetry incident, Hannah’s poem is completely different to the one used in the book. I actually prefer the one used on the show but it’s an interesting change.

The manner of Hannah’s suicide //

In the book we are told that Hannah died after taking a handful of pills. However in the Netflix series, Hannah dies in a bath tub having cut her wrists.

The ending //

Again the ending of the Netflix show is completely different to the book and I suspect that this was done with the idea that there might be a second series. They would have needed open questions in order for a second series to be fitting.

In the book we do not see Alex shoot himself, nor do we see Tylor with his collection of ammo and guns.

What did you guys think of the book or the Netflix series?

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