Today’s Sweet Streams pick is 13 Reasons Why, a new Netflix Original series that everyone has been buzzing about. It’s based on the popular 2007 Young Adult novel by Jay Asher and tackles the difficult and complex issue of teen suicide.
Here’s a sneak peek:
The story follows Clay Jensen, a somewhat awkward but typical teenage boy who receives a set of mysterious cassette tapes and realizes they were recorded by recently deceased classmate Hannah Baker. Hannah took her own life and she wants people to know why — specifically the people who played a role in her fatal decision. Each side of a tape is a story about a specific classmate and a reason why Hannah ended her life. There are — you guessed it — 13 reasons. Clay, who has been crushing on Hannah since she moved to town over a year ago, is desperate to discover what his ‘reason’ is. All he can do is listen …
Fun Fact: The film rights for 13 Reasons Why were initially optioned by Universal Studios in 2011 as a starring film vehicle for Selena Gomez. But by 2015, she had moved beyond teenaged roles and the studio announced that it was being developed as a Netflix series. Gomez stayed with the project as an executive producer because she was passionate about facilitating an important discussion about bullying and teen suicide.
This is by no means a flawless series. Thirteen hour-long episodes is a lot of screen time to squeeze out of a 288 page novel. The plot drags in places and some of the melodrama feels forced. It’s received mostly critical praise, it’s gotten some negative feedback for misrepresenting mental health issues or putting damaging emphasis on ‘blame’ related to suicide.
Still, despite its rough edges, there is something incredibly compelling about 13 Reasons Why. There’s a raw emotional truth at the core of the series that is both painful and cathartic. It captures the spirit of the book, while cracking the world open wider, exploring the back stories and POVs of all of the characters in Hannah’s world. It’s definitely a teen series, but it’s also a universal experience that speaks to people of all ages. From the moment we hear Hannah’s voice on the tapes, we need to pay attention.
13 Reasons Why features a large ensemble cast, but the two leads are newcomer Katherine Langford as Hannah Baker, and Dylan Minette as Clay Jensen. Kate Walsh from Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice also turns in a stellar performance as Hannah’s grieving mother. Brian Yorkey serves as showrunner and the first few episodes were directed by Tom McCarthy, who helmed the 2016 Academy Award winning film Spotlight.
You might like this if You’re a YA junkie, you miss angsty 90s series like Dawson’s Creek and My S0-Called Life, or if you love the mystery elements of series like Riverdale and Pretty Little Liars but wish they were a little more grounded.
Photo Courtesy of Netflix