Thirteen Reasons Why- Book to TV

A quick look down the titles of our teens’ favourite books shows that many of these popular titles have been translated into film. Perhaps the popularity of the books led to the making of the film or inversely, the popularity of the film led to increased readership of the book. In all likelihood it is probably a bit of both. So while many YA books have been made into films fewer have been made into television series. It was with interest then that I sat down to watch the adaptation of Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why.

In brief Thirteen Reasons Why tells the story of Hannah Baker who commits suicide but leaves a series of cassette tapes detailing the events that led to her suicide. The novel is split into thirteen sections with each section telling the story found on one side of a cassette tape, likewise each episode in the series is one side of a tape. Film adaptations generally struggle to include all the events and nuance contained in a book. Creating a series allowed time for more exposition of secondary characters allowing greater depth. Hannah’s parents are hardly mentioned in the book, here we see their anguish. In the book we are given the actions of the stereotyped bullies, in the series we are given backstory and emotion. The series is beautifully constructed with a haunting soundtrack and seamless transitions between points of view. I would go so far as to say that the series is more complex, more nuanced and better crafted than the book.

The difficulty I have with the series is that it is thirteen hours where we are immersed in this high school world knowing that Hannah commits suicide and nothing is going to change that. It is difficult to spend thirteen hours contemplating futility.




A nose for books

Reading books for pleasure has little appeal for smart phone fixated American teenagers, according to an article published in The New Yorker earlier this year. It’s not just the idea of reading that seems like a chore to millennials, according to David Denby, it’s that paper books have little appeal as objects. He quotes a school student from New Haven saying, ‘books smell like old people’. In contrast to this, a number of participants in the 2016 Australian Teen Reading survey discussed the sensory pleasure of holding a book in their hands and turning the pages. Unlike the New Haven youth who turned their nose up at the printed page, one of our participants said, ‘new books smell nice’. One of the foci of our research on teen reading in the digital era is reading as an embodied experience, so we will be analysing the survey responses over the next few months for insights into how touch, sight, sound and smell shape teenagers’ reading practices.