Netflix’s new series “13 Reasons Why” certainly has everyone in a tizzy. The series, based on the young adult novel by Jay Asher, deals with suicide, bullying, and sexual assault, and parents were left flatfooted as the show became wildly popular with teens. School systems, including mine, sent home letters to parents warning them about the explicit content of the show, particularly regarding suicide.
Many parents, whose children had read the popular book in middle school, didn’t think twice about their teen watching the show until the media buzz started. “13 Reasons Why” is a timely reminder that film adaptations of young adult books often have more mature content than their book counterparts, and parents need to be aware of the differences.
While the Netflix series has been controversial, the book “13 Reasons Why” got rave reviews when it was published in 2007. The book was mildly controversial—the American Library Association lists it as one of the Top 10 Challenged Books for 2012—but it also spent time on the New York Times children’s chapter book bestseller list. Author Jay Asher noted in the book’s Q and A section that parents and teachers have told him they use the book as a tool to talk about bullying and suicide. He also mentioned young people who reached out for help after seeing themselves in Hannah Baker, the book’s protagonist, who commits suicide and leaves behind a series of cassette tapes detailing why.
Netflix’s ’13 Reasons’ Diverges From The Book
In contrast, the Netflix series has provoked a strong reaction from suicide prevention experts. They are concerned that it glorifies suicide and will inspire teens dealing with depression to take their own lives.
These concerns are understandable. The series takes a raw look at high school bullying, and suicide is a central element of the story. Two episodes have graphic rape scenes, and the series depicts Hannah’s suicide in full horrific detail. Common Sense…