Review: Netflix's "13 Reasons Why"

Katherine Langford in Netflix's new original series, "13 Reasons Why", an adaptation of the 2007 book of the same name by Jay Asher (screenshot/Netflix)

Katherine Langford in Netflix's new original series, "13 Reasons Why", an adaptation of the 2007 book of the same name by Jay Asher (screenshot/Netflix)

On March 31, Netflix released a new original series, “13 Reasons Why,” an adaptation of the 2007 book of the same name by Jay Asher. The series produced by Selena Gomez stars Dylan Minnette, Katherine Langford, Kate Walsh and Miles Heizer. Geared towards young adult audiences, the show tells the story of Hannah Baker’s (Langford) life and ultimate suicide. Baker creates a series of cassette tapes detailing the 13 traumatic events that led to her death, including bullying, rejection and love or friendship lost. These tapes get circulated around to the people that they are about in succession.

The show, while somewhat drawn out, repetitive and predictable still remains rather addictive, as audiences sit on the edge of their seats waiting for Clay Jensen (Minnette) to finally listen to the tape that explains the role he played in Baker’s suicide. The show is a mix of Jensen’s present, as he copes with the death of the girl he loved from afar and listens to these tapes and the past, as he relives Baker’s last months of life with her as she retells her story. Baker’s narration seems a bit cliché but adds to the emotion of the story and allows viewers to empathize. Jensen does take an impossibly long time to listen to what were probably only a few hours of recordings. We are led to believe the other twelve people related to Baker’s death already heard them in order for them to have reached Jensen. Since it’s still only a few days after her death, Clay Jensen seems to be taking an unusual amount of time to complete the process. One of the other students who were a “reason” is seen asking Clay what’s taking him so long, to which Jensen responds it’s too difficult to listen to her voice. The timeline can get confusing at times, as Baker’s stories about individual people tend to overlap. Fans of the book were surprised the series was stretched out to such a long season.

For a relatively unknown cast, the actors and actresses of the series certainly deliver. The air of mystery and drama conveyed is very reminiscent to many current Freeform shows, such as Pretty Little Liars. Kate Walsh portrays a convincing heartbroken mother, trying to make sense of her daughter’s suicide through a lawsuit against the school. Tony is a voice of reason and insight, occasionally showing up to make generalized statements about how we treat others. Jensen’s role in the show becomes a bit detective-like. He confronts the other people mentioned in the tapes, despite everyone else’s willingness to keep them quiet. Audiences get the sense that he’s trying to fix Baker’s reputation around the school and avenge her death, in a way, after some feelings of guilt. A New York Time’s review says “it literalizes the idea that teenage life is a mystery, one that adults can’t hope to solve.”

Selena Gomez definitely nailed the book-to-show interpretation and her work as producer won’t go unnoticed. This was a big step in her transition from teen star to an adult in the industry.

One of the best parts of this show is the amazing soundtrack, featuring indie artists like Lord Huron, Japanese House and Vance Joy as well as some pop covers and older hits. However, the writing seems a bit forced, trying to throw in pop culture references and slang terms to keep things relevant. Hannah Baker’s personality as a carefree, intriguing new girl seems a bit forced, which was perhaps the point. Her nickname for Clay, “Helmet,” gets tiresome and her wit is dry. Even most of the characters interactions, like watching the eclipse and daily hot chocolates at a local café, seem unrealistic and idealized. I also could have done with a bit more humor to break up the somber tone. Not unnoticed were the parallels between the students’ lessons in communications class and what was actually happening in Hannah’s life. Despite all this, the show remains an incredibly poignant commentary on bullying, suicide, abuse and the difficulties surrounding today’s teens and a must watch on Netflix.


Julia Mancini is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at Julia.mancini@uconn.edu.