This review is spoiler-free.
This was a tough one to watch, I’m not going to lie. I read the book a few years ago in middle school and thought it was amazingly well-written. I loved how utterly raw and emotional it was. The series was the same, and didn’t shy away from anything.
I had very mixed feelings about this series. On the one hand, I loved how it got so realistic for teens and problems and brought much-needed awareness to problems like abuse, rape, and suicide. On the other hand, I found some of Hannah’s reasons a little stretched and she got really annoying sometimes. I should’ve been feeling bad for her, but up until the last couple tapes, she just really got on my nerves.
And before people attack me for saying that the suicidal character is annoying, hear me out. Hannah was super self-involved and over dramatic. A lot of teenagers are, but her traits seemed to be exaggerated. I think that since they make everything 100 times more dramatic on TV, that was definitely a factor in it. I couldn’t relate to her and I didn’t have much sympathy towards her until the later tapes since she would blow things so far out of proportion and acted like she was the only one ever to have some of these problems like backstabbing friends and rumors spread about her.
I felt as though she also didn’t reach out to those close to her and pushed them away instead. Yet, she still expected them to save her. I get that it’s hard for some to talk about their problems and be honest about the root of the problems, especially with parents. I know that she didn’t want to be a burden to her parents, but her parents loved her more than life itself. She seemed close to them before all the shit starting happening to her. They definitely would’ve helped her and set aside their problems because that’s what loved ones do.
But she expected all of these high school students and teachers to read her mind when her parents didn’t have the faintest idea of what was going on? That’s what’s not realistic to me. If it proved anything, it’s that you can only rely on yourself to pick you up by your bootstraps, brush you off, and get yourself together. Sometimes we have to be our own knight in shining armor instead of relying on everyone else in your life. Hannah was really helpless sometimes and that drives me crazy (as you can probably tell). I do understand that some people are just like that and don’t know how to handle things properly.
She obviously didn’t deserve the shit that happened to her and I’m not defending those who did it to her (especially tape 12, they can rot in hell). It’s horrible that she got to that point where she wanted to end her life. I would never know what that feels like, but I know that I would never want to feel that way or wish that anyone felt that way. I’m not saying that I had absolutely no sympathy for her, either. Some of her reasons were really upsetting and disturbing and no one should ever have to go through that.
On another note, the series differed from the book in the way that Clay took his sweet time to listen to the tapes. The whole time I was watching I was like, boy, get your little ass in gear, put on the totally-subtle-Beats-headphones-product-placement, and listen to the damn tapes! Book Clay listened to them all in one night!! Get with the damn program!!!
As far as I can remember (it’s been a while), Hannah’s reasons were like the book, except for the order and small details. I LOVE it when screen adaptations stay as close to the book as possible, but not to the point where it doesn’t translate onto TV. But Clay didn’t act out like he did in the series, but I think it made his character more interesting. He did, however, take it too far which made me uncomfortable and the portrayal kind of cringey. It did get a little draggy, since it seemed Clay only listened to one tape per day (which didn’t even take up the whole episode). I do like that they added background about the other characters which added complexity to the show as a whole.
The acting was AMAZING. All of the actors and actresses should get a pat on the back for taking on these roles and portraying them so well. You could feel their emotions and they had a way of almost bringing you into the scene they were in. I felt like I was witnessing everything first-hand along with Clay and Hannah.
I liked how the story flowed with the flashbacks and present-day. It was very smooth and I’m a huge fan of shows that do that. You can tell easily between the two as well. There was even humor in there, which was nice comic relief from such a heavy subject. Other than the points I brought up earlier, it was well-written and hit the nail on the head with some real types of problems in high school. It was actually kind of scary how well they portrayed the environment and tone of high school.
This show has brought some much needed awareness to teen suicide and I hope we, as a society, can now do more to prevent it from happening. It also shows you that your words and actions can definitely have a lasting effect on people, no matter how big or small your actions may be.
Final Thoughts: Should you watch it?
YES! I recommend it highly. Although Hannah got on my nerves and it was a little drawn out, it wasn’t enough to keep me from finishing it. I’m a sucker for heavy dramas and this one definitely takes the cake in that category. However, I feel as though this isn’t as much as a show for your enjoyment or that you should particularly like, but it’s so good and brings awareness to issues with a lot of negative stigma. The messages are very real, even though some of situations may be slightly questionable. Suicide is no joke, and neither is rape, domestic violence, drug/alcohol abuse, drunk driving, bullying, and assault. They don’t take any of these topics lightly.
However, if any of this topics are triggering to you, you may want to steer clear of it. There are scenes depicting suicide, accidents, and rape that are very graphic, and only some episodes have warnings. Episodes 9 – 13 have these scenes, so please use your best judgement.
If you ever find yourself in the same place as Hannah Baker, talk to someone you love/care about. Suicide is not the answer; it’s a guarantee that the things in your life will never get better. People do care about you and will be heartbroken over your death. You have to be around to finally see that light at the end of the tunnel. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255 where you can call a trained professional to anonymously listen to your thoughts and feelings and provide resources to help you for free, 24/7.
Thanks for reading, I love all of you.