13 Reasons Why - "here be dragons!"
In a break with tradition, this is not a spoiler-free review. To be fair, the ending of this series (well most of it anyway) is given away on the first few minutes.
With that cleared up, let's press on. 13 Reasons Why is a new thirteen-part series on Netflix. The series follows teenager Clay Jensen, in his quest to uncover the story behind his classmate and crush, Hannah, and her decision to end her life.
Like all Netflix tv series, we start to watch a couple of episodes and get drawn in to watch more. Netflix are masters of creating tv series that invite binge-viewing. As old sea-faring maps warned "Here be Dragons" and so 13 Reasons Why is not for the faint-hearted. the latter half of the series has intense violence, graphic rape scenes and in the final episode an explicit scene of suicide.
So, warnings given, let's talk about the series. It's based on the best-selling books by Jay Asher, follows teenager Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette) as he returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers a group of cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) -his classmate and crush-who tragically died by suicide two weeks earlier. On tape, Hannah unfolds an emotional audio diary, detailing the thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Through Hannah and Clay's dual narratives, 13 Reasons Why weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect viewers.
I've not read the books however they are classified as teen literature. This Netflix adaption is not for teens. As an adult who has lived a lot and experienced fifty-plus years of what life can throw at you, this series will be difficult for lots of people to handle. For teenagers it paints painful moments on the screen.
The official blurb for the series talks about the character Hannah committing suicide. Indeed, the characters use this phrase quite a lot in the series. I'd like to point out that suicide is no longer a crime. It can not be committed. It is a personal peev that both journalists and screen writers keep using the phrase. It is sloppy writing.
So, having said all that, is the series any good? Yes it is.
The cast, most of whom are relatively unknown, are simply marvellous. This ensemble features some fantastic talent and I have no doubt there are future Oscar winners among them.
While the topics are not for viewing by teenagers, they are worth discussing with teenagers. The bullying, particularly on social media, is relentless and unforgiving. The challenges facing teenagers today are truly scary and this series gives a list of topics and ways to start the conversation.