If you hear a song that makes you cry and you don’t want to cry anymore, you don’t listen to that song anymore…But you can’t get away from yourself. You can’t decide not to see yourself anymore. You can’t decide to turn off the noise in your head. Hannah in Jay Asher’s 2007 book Thirteen Reasons Why, the basis for Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why
Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) appears more confident and insightful than most of her 17-year-old peers at Liberty High so, when she commits suicide, her parents, the faculty and most of the student body appear stunned. She did, however, leave behind a series of ‘old school’ cassette tapes that provide clues to why she ended her life — and who’s to blame.
The 13 reasons, it turns out, are actually attributed to 13 different individuals, all of whom receive pertinent tapes. “The group must listen to all seven cassettes and follow her instructions on where to find clues. If they don’t? Their secrets will be publicly divulged. Just how Hannah will exact this posthumous punishment is part of the mystery.”
Matthew Gilbert, Boston Globe, introduces Hannah’s friend Clay’s key role:
When the show begins, Clay Jensen [Dylan Minnette] has just received the tapes, and we gradually listen to them with him. The tapes also come with a map that takes Clay to some of the locations in Hannah’s chronicle, which includes both the smaller slights directed at her and weightier stories of slut-shaming and assault…
Clay is a sweet, low-key guy who’s shocked to discover that Hannah considered him one of the offenders. They worked together at the local movie theater, and he had a major but unexpressed crush on her — unexpressed, that is, unless you looked hard into his spellbound eyes. That’s one of the mysteries on the show: When will we find out what Clay did or didn’t do?
Leah Greenblatt, ew.com, on the various things that we find out happened to Hannah:
Some betrayals seem relatively small on their own: A nasty note passed, a face-saving rumor spread, a blossoming friendship derailed by a crush. But others are actual criminal offenses: private photos taken without permission, the cover-up of an accidental death, and, in separate episodes, two brutal rapes.
Maureen Ryan, Variety, lists some compelling questions raised—but not answered:
How can adults tell when the secrets teenagers are hiding are devastating or relatively benign? When do a frustrated teenager’s attempts to deploy healthy skepticism and reasonable detachment slide into depression, and how can a family member or friend spot the difference? How can young men and women — including LGBTQ youth — be true to who they are without fearing the most vicious attitudes of their peers and the community at large?
The essential conclusion of reviewer Dan Fienberg, Hollywood Reporter:
As a series, 13 Reasons Why advocates strongly for communication and basic human decency and shows many of the ways friends and loved ones failed Hannah. If it falls short in exploring the role of depression in Hannah’s situation, the accompanying 30-minute ‘Beyond the Reasons’ episode makes up some of that ground. The conversation-advancing special includes necessary outreach information, expert analysis, behind-the-scenes footage and features executive producers Selena Gomez and Mandy Teefey. It’s a valuable capper to a well-acted series that’s difficult to watch, yet always highly watchable.