Ten years after Jay Asher's 13 Reasons Why first hit YA bookstands worldwide, the story of Hannah Baker's last days has deservedly found a new audience on Netflix — but which version is best?
Books of this nature are usually held sacred by their fans, so any changes made in subsequent adaptations can be met with derision and an understandable amount of teen angst. However, #Netflix has somehow achieved the impossible and arguably bettered the source material in their TV adaptation, making a number of necessary changes without losing what made the story so special in the first place.
From the way in which Hannah killed herself to the way her parents are given a more prominent role, Netflix made a surprising number of alterations to the book in their adaptation. That being said, the effectiveness of these changes is rather subjective, depending on your own experiences and which version you encountered first.
At the end of the day though, the show possesses something uniquely different that the novel just can't match up to. We don't need 13 reasons to tell you why the show is better than the source material. We only need one.
Why The '13 Reasons Why' Show Is Better Than The Book
Simultaneously telling a story that plays out in two parallel time lines is never easy, particularly when they both inform each other as directly as they do in 13 Reasons Why. Jay Asher's original book is a commendable example of how to do this right, hooking readers with a gradual reveal that ties the story of each tape with how their subjects cope with the aftermath in the present day.
However, the Netflix adaptation of 13 Reasons Why has the advantage here, switching out line breaks and chapter divisions for far more subtle indicators that help the viewer move seamlessly between different time periods on an almost unconscious level.
From the change in lighting to the visible injury on Clay's face, we're never left in any doubt whether the action unfolding in front of us takes place in the present or the past. While shows such as Arrow often telegraph these transitions with specific sound effects and match cuts connected through similar looking objects, 13 Reasons Why effortlessly keeps us in the loop using these underlying cues.
What's most impressive about this approach though is how it could have so easily gone wrong. After all, the idea of Clay "seeing" Hannah in the present day and interacting with the ghosts of her memories is a difficult sell, but the show's exceptional editing embraces the idea wholeheartedly, naturally integrating this potentially disastrous approach in an effortlessly natural way.
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At the end of the day, these comparisons aren't intended to be an indictment of Jay Asher's original novel. After all, there wouldn't even be a 13 Reasons Why show without the phenomenal book, but different formats lend themselves to particular stories in different ways. In the case of #13ReasonsWhy, the way in which the show blended the past and the present provided a fascinating insight into Clay's mental state, adding new dimensions to the already impressive tale contained in Asher's pages.
Unfortunately, Asher never wrote a sequel to his breakout hit — but if that dark cliffhanger in the season finale means what we think it means, then there's a strong chance that both the past and the future of these beloved characters may continue on our #TV screens.
Which version of '13 Reasons Why' do you prefer?
(Poll Image Credit: Netflix)