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13 Reasons Why

(Netflix)

 

Clay Jensen anonymously receives a box of cassette tapes. On them, he discovers the voice of his classmate and friend, Hannah Baker, explaining what drove her to commit suicide.

 

Starring: Dylan Minnette, Katherine Langford, Christian Navarro

Genre: Drama, Mystery

Series Summary: High school junior Hannah Baker leaves behind a series of tapes to 13 classmates explaining how they played a role in her decision to commit suicide.

Show Title: Tape 1, Side A

 

Viewer Appeal: Mature teens

 

The summer before my junior year in high school, I read the book that this series is based off in one sitting. It hit me hard and I was a different person by the time I closed the book. The story had the power to change the way I interacted with my classmates, friends and family forever. Needless to say,  I was excited when I heard the book was becoming a Netflix original series.

 

It can be very challenging to turn such a well written, powerful book into a well written, powerful show, but Netflix did a flawless job. It’s real, it’s raw, and despite what most adults want to believe, it’s a very accurate depiction of high school. I’m not going to lie: it’s intense and it’s dark, but that’s where this series’ beauty comes from.

 

Adapted from the book published in 2007, 13 Reasons Why is a mix between the aftermath of Hannah Baker’s suicide and flashbacks to the intricate web of events that lead to her kill herself. Hannah leaves behind 7 cassette tapes with 13 stories that involve specific students who played a role in her death. These stories range from high school sex rumors to broken friendships to rape and a preventable car accident.

 

This series is important. In the past year of leading a high school youth group, there have been five suicides in my students’ schools. On top of that, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention estimates that for every one suicide there are 25 attempts. This is something we need to start talking about with teens and 13 Reasons Why is a perfect launching point. Although it is rated for mature teens, the language and heavy content is one of the most real depictions of high school life. These are the things our students are experiencing every day, and these are the things we need to talk about.

 

My only concern with this series is that, like any story revolving around suicide, it might romanticize the idea of killing yourself. It’s a catch 22: a story that opens the floor to discuss suicide could also be a catalyst for copycat attempts.

 

Parents: There’s some heavy stuff in 13 Reasons Why. There’s suicide, rape, abuse, and heavy language. Nevertheless, I recommend letting your high schoolers watch this series. It can be hard to start a discussion with your student on suicide without their walls going up. Netflix has provided a way to open up the conversation.

 

Let's Talk About It

Use these questions to spark discussion among family members who are interested in this TV show:

 

• What do think this show got right about high school? Is there anything that you think isn’t accurate about high school experience?

• What’s the hardest thing about school? How do you get through it?

• What are you going to remember most about from watching this series?  

 

--LV

 

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