Trigger warning: This show and therefore this blog touches on suicide and other topics that are sometimes hard to talk or hear about.
I had no idea what this show was about when I started it. It was on Netflix and at some point I had added it to my list, based on whatever description of the plot that they gave.
The summary did not accurately reflect the plot. It turned out that the show was about a high school girls suicide and the 13 reasons she gave for why she made that terrible decision. The show is about many of the things that teens / young adults go through in school and with their friends that traumatize them and lead them to make terrible choices.
The first episode was a bit of a lift to get through because the writing was very teenybopper, and I was also surprised by the subject matter, which was somewhat dark. From watching so many dramas though, I’ve learned to push past to the next episodes if there seems like there’s any hope for a show.
It turns out that was a good decision because I really enjoyed the show despite the depressing overtones.
The main characters the first season are Hannah, who died but narrates her life from before and beyond the grave and Clay her work and schoolmate who is clearly crushing on her. Other characters include a few popular jocks, the friends Hannah first met when she started at her high school, and a bullied yearbook nerd. There are also parents, a mom grappling for answers about her daughters death and others concerned about their own children, as well as the principal and high school counselors.
It didn’t seem to me that people were all that broken up about Hannah’s death until they found out they personally contributed to it. Some started to care a little and some began to mourn for her after that. Maybe this is natural, but it was sad to see. Hannah’s death was a tragedy and the show does a good job of pointing to all the little cuts she got from her peers that eventually became a very big wound, large enough to make her feel like life was not worth living.
Viewers also learn that Hannah would have had more love than she knew if she had lived.
Hannah’s character was interesting to watch, although I did not always agree with her choices, especially the big one. After considering it, I didn’t really love any of the characters. Like people in real life there were glimmers of good in everyone but a lot of self absorption too. Some just had more than others or handled situations with a little more kindness or grace.
Clay, the male lead was very loyal, but he was also on his high horse all of the time. There were stereotypical jocks, too entrenched in sports hero culture, students who were bullied, and others who were in between. Most of them, no matter how popular or unpopular were secretly insecure, some of them facing family problems, issues with their cliques, high school gossip or worries over growing into men.
Most of the time I was riveted by this drama. Sometimes I felt pretty sad or frustrated while I watched. It is especially sad that all the issues this show pointed to are the same ones so many kids have in real life. Some of the characters were struggling to redeem themselves after making really bad choices and the show gives viewers the space to grapple with their humanity and what types of consequences they deserve.
I don’t know if the acting was good. I think it was a mixed bag, but the show was intense and interesting enough that it didn’t really matter.
The show has a lot of trigger warnings and disclaimers before the episodes started, which makes sense. Most had the actors speaking in them, including the girl who played Hannah. She is apparently British, which is weird since the show is meant to be at a high school in California and she is meant to be all American. Could the casting director not find one actual American girl for this part?
Because I’m me I managed to watch a show filled with traumatic themes and still spend a good portion of it wondering which people I considered the most attractive lol. The guy who plays Clay is very much my type looks wise. Blue eyes and dark hair are my kryptonite, along with dimples and razor sharp cheekbones. His character was not my type, it was too judgey and too broody for my taste. Many of the guys and girls on the show are pretty people, although everyone is distinct and thankfully there is diversity among characters.
Watch this show, if you haven’t already and you can handle themes of teen suicide, sexual abuse, guns and drugs, to name a few. If any of these are too upsetting to you, then I recommend giving it a pass.