13 reasons why.
'13 Reasons Why'
There has been much discussion over how responsible Netflix has been in funding, promoting and screening a story, aimed at teenagers, which deals so graphically and gratuitously with a teenage suicide. Yes they've now put an '18' guidance on it, and yes they've added references to the Samaritans and other organisations at the start of each episode - but it's just not enough.
Of course we need to talk more about mental health, especially in a country with an NHS and education system in crisis from an incompetent government who do not prioritise the mental health of teenagers and young people. But this is not the way to do it.
I recently finished the novel on which the series is based, written by Jay Asher. I absolutely did not enjoy the process whatsoever. And not just because of the aforementioned poorly dealt with death.
The intrigue and mystery of the tapes featured in the novel is an interesting conceit, and the narrative unfolding around the contents of these tapes is a relatively novel one. There is a sense of 'found footage' about some of the novel which is interesting and refreshing.
However, it is very poorly executed. The narrator and the taped, dead girl Hannah take it in turns to speak: he comments on the tapes; she speaks to the listener of the tapes. The changes, though, are rapid and feel clunky, and it is difficult to track the opposing thoughts and emotions of the two characters with any sort of ease.
Similarly, whilst the voice of the narrator himself is relatively realistic and compelling, the voice of Hannah is not: for a character who is supposedly just speaking her mind into a tape recorder, her words are stilted and often out of step with the average vocabulary and syntax of an average American teenager (a fate which also befell Hazel Grace and Augustus in John Green's 'The Fault in Our Stars'). She is not a believably written character.
The supporting cast is vast and barely explored, too, with one or two notable exceptions. By the time you find enough out about any of them, their key function and feature on the tapes is long since passed. They are not compelling, multi-faceted characters but instead seem very two-dimensional. They are there for a moment, they might act as a catalyst for a plot point or two, but then they are gone. Instantly forgettable.
I believe that teenagers should be as free as anyone else to explore challenging and provocative subjects in the literature they choose. However, I think this book may just be the exception to my rule: it's gratuitous and glamorised story of teenage suicide is one I can not possibly recommend.