compare and contrast

All the Ways Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why Is Different From the Book

It’s been a decade since Jay Asher released Th1rteen R3asons Why, a young-adult novel that sparked conversations about suicide and bullying nationwide. (Quick recap: High schooler Hannah Baker kills herself, leaving behind tapes to tell 13 people, a.k.a. “reasons,” the role they played in her suicide.) After years of rumors about movie deals, Selena Gomez produced a Netflix series based on the best seller. The 13 hour-long episodes clock in at twice the length of the audiobook, and about 25 times as long as the audio of Hannah’s tapes (which you can listen to here). With all that screen time, as Gomez and Asher have explained, they’ve added loads of backstory (some important, some not), and plenty of new, dramatic plots that fans of the book will either love or hate.

Whether the novel is a hazy memory from high school or one of your all-time favorites, here’s your guide to some of the story’s key details and how they’ve changed.

Spoilers ahead for the book and the series.

The point of view.
Book: The story is told in first person, making it feel like you’ve been let in on an intimate conversation between Hannah and Clay (which is occasionally interrupted by the outside world).

Show: The focus is still on Clay, and the events are still catalyzed by Hannah, but you are observing a web of people and events much bigger than either of them. Throughout, there are scenes and plotlines that completely exclude Clay, developing other characters and relationships independently.

The timeline.
Book: Clay binge-listens to the tapes, finishing them all in one night.

Show: Clay takes his sweet time listening to the tapes over the course of more than a week. This leaves him plenty of time to dramatically confront the people on the tapes about what they did (nope, that didn’t happen in the book either).

The technology.
Book: Outside the cassette tapes (which were already antiques by that point) and Clay’s cell phone, technology didn’t factor prominently in the 2007 book.

Show: Welcome to 2017 — group texts and selfies galore. (Props to the show for keeping the cassettes.) Instead of pure gossip, actual photos of Hannah get passed around the school via cell phone, which adds a more tangible, painful element to the bullying.

Drugs, cursing, and other “bad” teen behavior.
Book: There’s plenty of underage drinking with a few sex scenes, which are unfortunately also rape scenes.

Show: The show doesn’t shy away from anything, possibly providing us with one of TV’s most accurate portrayals of teen life by including lots of pot, sex scenes (some of which are also rape scenes), booze, and dozens of F-bombs per episode.

Clay accidentally hurts himself.
Book: Clay gets upset listening to a tape and slices his hand on a fence.

Show: Clay, apparently incurably clumsy, crashes his bike not once, but twice. (Yet things go fine when he rides it drunk.)

Clay’s visions.
Book: What visions?

Show: Clay has crazy hallucinations throughout the series. Most notably, he runs onto the court during a school basketball game because he sees Hannah lying dead in the middle of the gym floor.

Book: The characters’ race and sexual orientation aren’t specified.

Show: While the leads are both straight and white, there are a number of actors of color in prominent roles, including Courtney Crimson (Michele Selene Ang), Jessica (Alisha Boe), Marcus (Steven Silver), and Tony (Christian Navarro). There are also multiple LGBTQ characters, including Tony, Courtney, and Ryan (Tommy Dorfman).

The lawsuit.
Book: Lawsuit? What lawsuit?

Show: Hannah’s parents file a lawsuit against the school, which starts all sorts of drama.

Book: We meet Clay’s mom, who pops up throughout the night to show mild concern over her son’s behavior and offer solid advice on his milkshake order.

Show: Parents are everywhere. We meet Clay’s very concerned mother and more easygoing father, Hannah’s devastated parents, Courtney Crimson’s gay dads, among others.

The suicide.
Book: Clay mentions that Hannah swallowed some pills.

Show: Hannah slits her wrists and bleeds out in the bathtub. Not only do they talk about it, but you see it in detail. Be warned — avert your eyes if you’re even mildly squeamish.

The fate of the tapes.
Book: Clay mails the tapes off to reason No. 10, and you never hear what happens next.

Show: Clay, changed to reason No. 11 in this version, passes the tapes to No. 13, the school counselor. (No. 12 is a rapist, so it’s doubtful he’d pass them on.) But while the first ten “reasons” spend 12 episodes conspiring to keep the tapes under wraps, they start mentioning the tapes in their trial depositions. Then Tony gives a copy of the tapes to Hannah’s parents — so, no more secrets.

Courtney Crimson.
Book: Courtney Crimson is the “nice girl,” and she spends the night at Hannah’s to help her catch a Peeping Tom. They give each other back massages to get the Peeping Tom excited, then drama ensues at a party when Courtney spreads rumors about Hannah for no good reason.

Show: Courtney’s still the nice girl. But when she spends the night at Hannah’s to help catch a “stalker,” the girls get wasted and play a steamy game of Truth or Dare that ends with Courtney daring Hannah to kiss her. (Spoiler alert: Courtney’s gay.) Tyler, the stalker, takes pictures of them kissing that get sent around the school. Then Courtney spreads rumors at a dance that Hannah’s a lesbian to cover up her own sexual orientation.

“Olly olly oxen free.”
Book: Hannah, Alex, and Jessica, the three new kids at school, put their hands in the center of a table and say this when they need to talk. It’s a little weird, but endearing.

Show: The 2017 versions of Hannah, Alex, and Jessica have upgraded their saying to “FML.”

Clay’s reputation.
Book: A normal guy who everybody likes.

Show: A nerdy kid who doesn’t really fit in.

Possibly the biggest change of all: Clay and Hannah.
Book: Clay had always pined after Hannah, but never acted on it. She’d always wanted to get to know him, but doesn’t admit that until the tapes. They’d work at a movie theater together for one summer, but they don’t have a real conversation until “the party.” (If you need a refresher: They finally talk at a party and make out, but Hannah stops him because she doesn’t think she deserves him.)

Show: Clay pines after Hannah, but — despite what they may say — the two are definitely friends. They work together year-round at the movie theater and talk all the time. They even have nicknames for each other, share a slow dance, and watch an eclipse together on a roof before making out at the party.

Hannah and Clay after the party.
Book: After Hannah tells Clay to leave her at the party, he tries talking to her, but she won’t meet his eye. They literally run into each other in the hall right before she dies, but that is their final interaction.

Show: Hannah reaches out to Clay after the party, but he is pretty cold. Why, Clay?

The ending.
Book: Clay reaches out to Skye, a childhood friend he’d lost touch with, who is now showing some signs of being suicidal.

Show: After hours full of drama, it’s a pleasant surprise to see this understated scene included in the final episode. But it’s not technically the end. The last shot is similarly calm — Tony, Clay, and Skye on a drive through beautiful scenery with the top down. But these milder scenes bookend an intense 12 minutes that show Justin confronting his best friend, Bryce (the rapist); Jessica admitting she’d also been raped; and a sudden second character’s suicide attempt, which actually never gets resolved. Maybe leaving the door open for a second season?

13 Reasons Why: How the Netflix Show Compares to the Book