’13 Reasons Why’ portrays the teenage experience

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To truly capture the high school experience in any form of media is no small feat. Some shows try, but instead turn into something corny and disingenuous. This is not the case with “13 Reasons Why,” the new Netflix original series based off of the novel of the same name by Jay Asher.

Hannah Baker is dead. That may sound like a spoiler to you, but that is one piece of knowledge that the audience gets in the opening scene of the first episode. It is clear that Hannah’s suicide is affecting Clay Jensen, one of her co-workers and classmates, in a major way—that feeling only intensifies as the show goes on.

After returning from school Clay finds a box of tapes on his front porch, and upon listening to the first tape he learns the following: Hannah deliberately left seven tapes, with 13 sides filled, in order to lay bare what led her to commit suicide, and since he is in possession of the tapes, Clay is one of the reasons why.

“13 Reasons Why” is one of the most powerful portrayals of the teenage experience in recent memory. The show does not shy away from difficult topics such as bullying, slut-shaming, rape and suicide. It instead covers these with a rawness and honesty that are just as captivating as they are heartbreaking. Trigger warnings are played before episodes with troubling content, as the depictions in the show are difficult to watch.

The power of this show comes from the two lead actors: Katherine Langford, who plays Hannah, and Dylan Minnette as Clay bring the story to life with grace and understanding. Another actress who did an amazing job in the show is Kate Walsh, who played Hannah’s mother. In the novel, Hannah’s parents were not mentioned much but in the show they play a much bigger role, bringing a whole other facet to the story.

Though there was only one novel, the final episode of the show leaves room for a second season. On the same day that the show was released, a short documentary called “13 Reasons Why: Beyond the Reasons” came out. The documentary featured Selena Gomez, the executive producer of the show, Asher and some of the cast of the show. “Beyond the Reasons” gives a new perspective on some of the decisions that were made in making the series. Though the show is hard to watch at times, it tells an honest story of the struggles that high schoolers dealing with bullying and depression go through.

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Kathryn Bloch is a Contributing Writer for the Chronicle/NCClinked.

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