Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher (Book vs TV Show)

Annike: Hey guys! So a couple months ago I decided that I really wanted to watch the 13 Reasons Why TV show that was on Netflix because I had read the book a few years ago and thought it would be really provoking. I watched like 3 episodes before school started heating up and was only able to finish it last week during the holidays. While I was on like the 10th episode I also decided to read the book again because the TV show was so heartbreaking but something I really loved and I figured since both the TV show and book are fresh in my mind, I may as well let you guys know what I thought and tell you a little about them! As a warning, there may be spoilers at some points (but not major ones) so read at your own risk if you still want to read or watch Thirteen Reasons Why in the future!

The Book:

33950893.jpgClay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker–his classmate and crush–who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah’s voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why.

Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah’s pain, and as he follows Hannah’s recorded words throughout his town, what he discovers changes his life forever.

This book focuses on a young girl called Hannah Baker who before the book starts, commits suicide after a number of traumatic events in her life, snowballed out of control. The book revolves around a boy who knew Hannah from school, called Clay. Clay receives a box of tapes and upon listening to them he realizes that they are a bunch of audiotapes spoken by Hannah that speaks of the reasons she killed herself. Through the tapes, Clay is able to learn of the events in Hannah’s life that drove her to depression and the reason that Clay has the tapes is because they are being passed from kid to kid featured on them. This ultimately means that Clay himself is on the tapes and the book follows his journey of listening to them and coming to terms with the reason he is featured.

In the book, I really liked the character of Clay. He seemed like a really genuine kid who was struggling to listen to the tapes of the girl he had a crush on for such a long time. It was really sad to read about Clay but I feel like the book doesn’t do the greatest job of highlighting the pure devastation of the situation like the TV show does and everything seems a little less dramatic. Because the book majorly focuses on the voice of Hannah through the tapes, Clay doesn’t have to say or think much which leaves us with limited information about him and the life he is living.

All the same, the book has a really original and unique plot that while is inexplicably sad, it is a topic that I think should be talked about and is written about really beautifully by Jay Asher.


The TV Show:


I think that personally; the TV show does a much better job of highlighting the devastating effects that suicide can have on not only the person who is doing the deed but mostly the people around them who are suffering in the aftermath. The TV show not only focuses on Clay but also gives us a look into the lives of the people on the tapes and is able to portray the events Hannah talks about in the tapes rather than just through a voice.

The TV show is separated into 13 different episodes that each focus on one tape and the person that is being talked about. This means that there is an episode for each tape that uses both Hannah’s voice, Clay listening to the tape, a scene set in the past as well as numerous scenes set in the present that highlight the way people are dealing with the aftermath and bring in new issues in the lives of these people.

I know that there has been a lot of controversy around this TV show in glorifying suicide and the graphic scenes portrayed. I do have to agree. In a lot of ways, the show advertises suicide as something that can be done to punish others, teach a lesson or simply hurt people. It puts Hannah in a position of power rather than telling viewers that suicide shouldn’t even be the last choice. Suicide is absolutely devastating and really shouldn’t even be an option, however I understand that for some people, depression and horrific events is areality and exists in the world. I get where people are coming from when they complain about the glorification of suicide, but I also think that we need to understand the importance of this show in many ways too and how it can highlight the way that these people are not alone, the devastating aftermath and even sparks up conversations on such a tabooed topic.


Book and TV show differences

  • One of the main differences between the book and the TV show is the way that in the TV show the audience is introduced to the characters rather than just hearing of them through the book. The TV show is very effective in developing the charactersin the past and the present which helps establish the feeling we get towards them while in the book it is more of a name and tell which can give a brief emotion but less so.
  • Another difference between the two is through the way that the book is set over the course of a single night which means Clay listens to all the tapes and that is that, he mails them off the next morning. This is hugely altered in the TV show as Clay takes a very long time listening to the tapes. Long enough in fact that we get to see the characters who have already heard the tapes plot things against him, a law suit begins and much more of a drawn-out climax. I really liked how this was done in the TV show because it meant that we could see more of the present experience and get to know the people a lot more. It also brought a lot of focus onto Clay’s tape and when he came into the story.
  • Relating to the point above, Clay actually comes into the tapes at a different time in the book and the TV show. In the book Clay is #9 and the other events at Jessica’s party comes next. However, in the TV show, Clay is #11 which was more drawn out and I think it helped make it a bit more suspenseful.
  • I think that the TV show had much more focus on Hannah’s parents, Clay’s parents and more detail on pretty much everyone’s experience in the aftermath of Hannah’s death. Usually, a book is much more detailed than a movie because you can fit so much more in, however since this was a TV show, there was so much more detail to fit in and to me this made it more enticing.
  • Lastly, I think it is important to note the different relationships between Hannah and Clay in the book and TV show. In the book, Clay seems much more distanced from Hannah as he only seems to have known her from afar. We get the idea that Clay had a crush on Hannah and they kissed briefly at a party but apart from that, when Hannah tells Clay to leave her alone, there is no more contact and it seems as if the two were never really very close in the first place. In the TV show however, Hannah and Clay are much more friendly. They converse in the hallways at school together, work in close quarters and have much more friendly banter and discussion. I can see that the producers of theTV show would have done this to highlight the importance of Hannah for Clay and bring Hannah to life more and I actually really liked this portrayal because the emotions from Clay after Hannah’s death seemed more raw and real.


Anyways guys, that is all from me. I hope that comparison kind of thing was a bit insightful and if you haven’t read the book or watched the TV show of Thirteen Reasons Why I would definitely recommend it. However, keep in mind all of the warnings that have been around about the show and its influences because I think they are really important opinions that need to be considered seriously. If any of you have read the book or watched the TV show let me know what you thought of it!

~ A



  1. The article was really insightful! And I really loved the TV show. The best one I’ve ever watched. I don’t know why I like it that much… but I’m really crazy for it. Awaiting for the next season!


  2. I was just thinking about this the other day! I was comparing the tv show and the book to see which one I enjoyed the most. I honestly really enjoyed the tv show better than I liked the book. I still love the book, but the Tv show was able to place more emotions and give the characters more depth than the book. However, I do think that the TV show is trying to get more views which leads to the overdramatized events that happened in the tv show that did not happen in the book. For instance, the actual death of Hannah. But all in all, I enjoyed both the show and the book!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So glad to hear this! I totally agree with you there, like in the book we didn’t learn anything about the characters so the TV show was super good to learn about them! But yeah you bring up a really good point too, the ending of the TV show was a little unnecessary in my opinion cause it was so graphic but I feel like the show producers needed some kind of finality and climax that lead to that. Of course the book was very different in that way too.
      ~ A

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I totally agree with everything you said… I haven’t read the book but I’ve seen the TV show … I felt it bought a 3rd dimension to the novel (especially after reading the differences) great post! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I definitely do think that in the TV show there was better character development simply because we got to see them in the present while the book only really talked about all the characters. It almost felt like totally new people because you didn’t know much about them before except what bad deeds they did!

      Liked by 1 person

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