13 Diffences: A Comparison of the 13 Reasons Why TV Series and Novel

I finished watching 13 Reasons Why today, and I can’t believe how good it was.  I spent the last 3 episodes sobbing my heart out, seeing how it was going to end. I had read the book last year, so I knew it was going to be an emotional roller coaster, but this being a series based on the book, I didn’t know how faithfully it would stick to the original material. 

Overall, I think the series was very close to the book in essence, although there were some changes. I’ve listed below the 13 differences I noticed when watching the series.  There were other differences, but these were the ones that struck me.

1. The Parents: The first difference that struck me was the screen time for the kids’ parents. There were appearances from the parents of all the students implicated in Hannah’s death. There was also a whole subplot about Hannah’s parents suing the school for not protecting their daughter.

2. Tony: Tony is a completely different character in the series – and I absolutely love him! – his relationship with Clay seems quite fraught at first, Clay really doesn’t trust him and Tony following him around town appears to be quite sinister and threatening. Tony in the series is a lot more three-dimensional, as well as being the guardian of secrets, he has problems of his own to deal with. 

3. Clay’s Popularity: Clay in the series is more of a misfit and loner than he is in the book. In the book Clay isn’t part of the popular clique, but is welcome to hang with them. Clay takes his studies quite seriously, so he tends to miss most of the school parties.

4. Listening Time: In the book Clay listens to all of the tapes in one night. In the series it seems to take him about a week. This is probably to allow the book to be transferred into a TV narrative in a more natural way. It would be a bit odd if the 13 episodes were filmed entirely at night. 

5. Jessica and Justin: I can’t remember them being a thing. This was another big subplot in the series, and I honestly don’t recall being given any detail about what was going on with them. I could be wrong, but in the book the narrative is from Clay and Hannah’s perspective, so there is very little interaction from the other characters.

6. The Conspirators: The people named on the tapes have created some sort of gang. They meet at Monet’s to talk about what a lying cow Hannah was, and how they need to stop Clay from saying anything or passing the tapes on. This was not in the book. The only threat hanging over Clay was that he had to listen and pass the tapes on, or they would be released to the public by someone Hannah had trusted. I understand that it was to add some urgency and threat to Clays journey, but it made the kids seem even bigger arses than they already were.

7. Bryce Walker: I really don’t remember Bryce being in the book that much. I remember Hannah being assaulted, but I forgot that was Bryce. In the book Justin has 2 tapes, as Hannah thinks he is responsible for what happened to Jessica, so technically there are only 12 people who lead to Hannah’s death. Also, he never admits to the assault, and Clay never records side 14.

8. The Winter Formal: In the book all the social interactions take place at house parties or Monet’s, the dance didn’t happen. I liked it though, it was sweet that Clay & Hannah got a cute romcom moment before it all went horribly wrong.

9. Mental Illness: It is heavily implied that Clay has suffered from mental health problems in the past – his Mum refills his medication and his Dad asks if he needs to talk to a therapist again. Clay exhibits all the symptoms of depression – low mood, insomnia, and he stops showering because it seems like a lot of trouble. I find this to be a really interesting change, and think it adds something that was missing from the book.

10Lainie Jensen: Clay’s mum is a litigator, who has been hired by the school in the pending case initiated by the Bakers. I’ve already mentioned that the parents were quite absent in the book, but this really brings Clay’s mum into the story.

11. Rebellious Clay: In the book everything happens in one night, so you don’t really get to see how it slowly takes its toll on Clay. Also, because we’re in his head we can hear how he’s feeling, so it’s not really necessary. There is a clear and dramatic change in Clays appearance between episode 1 and episode 13. In the book, Clay listens and then passes the tapes to the next person. In the series Clay makes noise. He shouts at students in the hall, he keys a car, he punches a jock and gets into a fight. He even gets suspended.

12. Hannah’s Poem: In the book, the thing that the teacher reads out in class is a completely different poem. 

13Hannah’s Suicide: In the book you never find out exactly how Hannah died. There is a lot of speculation about the method she used to kill herself, but nothing is confirmed. In one episode Clay hears his parents talking about how Hannah slashed her wrists and bled out. In a later episode Clay has a hallucination where Hannah appears in a pool of blood and water, in the middle of the Basketball court. In episode 13 we actually see Hannah kill herself. The scene is graphic, you can clearly see Hannah’s pain – both physical and emotional- as she ends her life. I found it extremely difficult to watch. I’m sure a lot of complaints were made, but I think it needed to be done that way. It was horrible. 

What did you think? I thought the series was well acted, beautifully produced and the soundtrack was amazing. I hope it’s released on blu ray. 

There is a 10th anniversary edition of the book out now, that includes the original ending where Hannah survived. I’m tempted to buy it, just so that I can imagine a world where Clay and Hannah got there happy ending.  
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.


Stephani Xxx


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