By Kiera Doran and Yamha Sami | Staff Writers
Photo by Yamha Sami
Edited by Riley Johansen
Eighth graders Nick Anderson and Ayesha Chaudhry recreate the cover picture for Netflix Original 13 Reasons Why
Thirteen tapes. A map. And the whole student body wondering, what happened to Hannah Baker?
The tragic consequences of hurtful words is the theme of 13 Reasons Why, a novel written by Jay Asher. This book, released in 2007, recently turned into a Netflix original show, and has rapidly become one of the most watched shows by teenagers. It’s about high school student Hannah Baker who commits suicide, and leaves behind nothing but a map and 13 tapes. In each of the tapes, she talks about one reason why she took her life. The tapes are sent to the 13 people that played a part in her rationale behind committing suicide, and gave main character Clay Jensen a new perspective on life.
The show, rated TV-MA for adult material such as crude language, graphic violence, and sexual content, has caused controversy over its handling of sensitive topics such as suicide and teenage rape. As a result, Public Information Officer Tracey Carson sent an email to all the parents in the district about it. The email contained a warning about the intensity of the show, how it can affect kids, and resources about suicide prevention. Despite the show’s intended adult audiences, it has quickly become popular with teens.
Eighth grader Ayesha Chaudhry said the positive messages are definitely worth giving the show a try.
“A positive message the show gives is it really enables people to think twice about actions they implement in school and other places with their friends,” said Chaudhry. “Because people in middle school, especially adolescents, tend not to think about what they’re saying to other people before they say it. It’s a very pre-school fundamental; if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say it all.”
Eighth grader Nick Anderson said the show is realistic and explains how it relates to teen life today.
“I liked the show because of how realistic it is and how many plot twists there are,” Anderson said. “How it captured what teen life is really like, and it’s not like a sitcom, [in sitcoms] it’s just the stereotypes, [in 13 Reasons Why, the show is] more detailed, it’s more true to teenager’s lives.”
Eighth grade language arts teacher Roni Carpenter has mixed feelings about the book. While she understood the positive outreach it gave to kids, one thing that got to her was how unrealistic the suicide was presented.
“I read it right after it came out and I thought it was very innovative at the time,” Carpenter said. “But it also bothered me to see suicide as some kind of revenge [and it] doesn’t seem realistic to me.”
Carpenter would know herself, as she has experienced a suicide in her family.
“Someone in my immediate family committed suicide a number of years ago,” Carpenter said. “It was nothing like what is depicted in the book. It would have taken Hannah from the book lots of time to compile the tapes she sends out, as well as an ‘I’ll show them’ attitude, wanting the 13 individuals to suffer for the harm they had done her. In my experience, the person who killed himself in my family did not want those of us left behind to feel bad in any way for his decision.”
She said that her step-father felt the same pain Hannah was going through in the novel and show.
“He felt — irrationally — that the pain he was experiencing would never go away and that those of us who cared for him would be better off without him,” Carpenter said. “His death was much more impulsive than the planning over time that was in the book… I don’t think suicide is used as revenge in real life.”
Eighth grade Rahaf Abdelaziez says that attaching a sensitive topic like suicide to a TV show, where many people would see it, was a good idea.
“These topics need to be talked about, suicide is a topic people don’t like to touch on, but it is important,” Abdelaziez said. “I think putting it through a TV show series was a pretty good idea.”
A common mistake, Chaudhry said, is confusing suicide as something you do and can be cured – it’s not that simple.
“Suicide isn’t a thing, it’s a mentality, if you’re suicidal, you live your life according to the idea that, everything would be better if I wasn’t here,” Chaudhry said. “It’s something that takes over everything in your life, and it isn’t something that comes and goes, it’s something that’s always on the back of your head.”
Carpenter said that she saw the positive intent in the story’s publication.
“I guess the point of the book was to show kids how much of an impact they have on everyone else,” said Carpenter. “Through their actions and words, and that would be a positive thing.”
Abdelaziez agrees and said how impactful the positive messages really are.
“Many individuals could be really hurting someone and damaging their self-esteem and confidence without even being aware of it, so you should really be careful when treating or talking to others in certain ways, be mindful,” Abdelaziez said. “No one deserves to take their own life, no matter how bad things seem, people still need you.”