Netflix's 13 Reasons Why is a new series with literary inspiration. Adapted from Jay Asher's book of the same title, it will tell the story of a boy named Clay Jensen who returned home one day to find a mysterious package on his doorstep. Inside the package were 13 cassette tapes that detailed the reasons why Hannah Baker, who recorded them, took her own life. It was a book that resonated with many teenagers over the years and was close to the hearts of its readers, so fans may be wondering how similar the book and show will be. Comparing Netflix's 13 Reasons Why vs. the book shows that the people behind the scenes were trying to be faithful to the book.
It seems like the series, which premieres March 31, will be staying fairly close to the novel. The 13-episode season mirrors the 13-tape format of the novel and the official synopsis sounds just like the book. According to executive producer Selena Gomez, who was integral in getting the book adapted, doing it right was important to her. In the caption of an Instagram post, she wrote, "My mom found this book in 2009 and worked her ass off to make it with me, guide me and tell this story authentically." So it doesn't seem like fans will have to worry, though there have been some changes in the adaptation.
The biggest changes weren't to the plot of 13 Reasons Why, but to the way the story was told. In the novel, Clay listens to the tapes all in one night and much of the story is in the past, told through Hannah's flashbacks. However, on the show he goes through the tapes over the course of a few weeks. That may end up subtracting some of the urgency from the unfolding tale (the book has been described as surprisingly easy to binge-read, with Asher saying in an Entertainment Weekly interview that many fans are compelled to read it in a single night just like Clay), but it also allows for the story to open up in new ways.
While the novel is limited to Hannah's point of view and Clay's reactions, the show takes the time to explore multiple points of view. It delves more deeply into the present day storyline than the book did, and also gives more depth and background to all of the people Hannah cited as responsible for her decision to commit suicide. That allows the audience to understand them better and even be sympathetic to them, though their actions are still often condemnable.
Aside from that, it seems as though 13 Reasons Why is very true to the novel it was based on. Both are messy, emotional, and honest, taking an unflinching look at difficult subjects and treating their teen protagonists with care. There may be some changes in how the story is told, but at the end of the day it's the same story.