13 Reasons Why Made Some Major Changes From The Book

Breaking down the biggest changes from page to screen

Whether you've read the beloved book or have seen the new Netflix show, 13 Reasons Why is an emotionally draining experience. Jay Asher's unflinching best seller begins when a shoebox full of cassette tapes — recorded by high-school student Hannah Baker before she took her own life — shows up on 17-year-old Clay Jensen's doorstep. Each tape is dedicated to a person she believes shares a portion of the blame for her death, including Clay himself.

The Netflix drama, produced by Selena Gomez, expands on Clay and Hannah's intimate, one-night journey and those of others. Characters who were only mentioned in the book get their own backstories in the show, and harrowing events implied on the page are shown in explicit detail. Over the course of 13 episodes, 13 Reasons Why packs a powerful punch. So let's take a closer look at how some of the major plot points in 13 Reasons Why have changed from page to screen.

[Spoilers beyond this point.]

  • The timeline

    One of the most significant differences here is the length of time Clay spends with the tapes. Asher's book takes place over the course of a single night, as Clay wanders around town listening to the tapes. Hannah narrates past events, and Clay just listens without an outside perspective. But the show takes place over several weeks as Clay struggles with the emotional magnitude of Hannah's confessions. Clay becomes a much more active participant, hellbent on getting justice for Hannah — but he also has a tendency to go too far.

  • The point of view

    The book is told in first person (through Clay's perspective) and reads like a private discussion between Hannah and Clay. We never get a sense of how the other kids at school, especially the ones on the tapes, are dealing with Hannah's suicide. The show changes that. It presents an intimate look into Jessica's downward spiral, Justin's violent home life, and Alex's own mental instability. There's also an entire story line devoted to Hannah's parents as they fight to hold the school accountable for her death and struggle to move on in the wake of their own grief. But most importantly, it shows us that Hannah's version of an event is just that: her version. As they say, there are two sides to every story.

  • The court case

    Depending on how you feel about legal dramas, you will either love or hate this show-specific plot line. In the aftermath of Hannah's suicide, her parents sue the school for failing to prevent it. The mounting court case drags on in Episode 13, as students give unflinching accounts of the rampant bullying and harassment that goes on in school.

    This essentially becomes Mrs. Baker's personal crusade, which makes things even more awkward for Clay, since his mother is the school's defense attorney. If you've read the book, you know that Tape 13 is the most critical indictment against the administration, suggesting that counselor Mr. Porter had an opportunity to save Hannah's life when she came to him to tell him she was contemplating suicide — and he essentially told her that she'd get over it. While viewers never get the payoff of seeing the school held accountable, Hannah's parents do end up with the tapes — something that never happens in the book — so it's safe to say the Bakers will get their justice for Hannah.

  • Clay Jensen

    In the book, Clay is an average, well-liked dude. However, the show delivers a slightly more socially awkward version of Clay. Everyone still likes him, and he's one of the smartest kids in school, but he doesn't quite fit in. It's his status as an outsider and his pop culture witticisms that make him so relatable to Hannah. The show's version of Clay has also been plagued by nightmares in the past that are never fully explained. (Social anxiety, maybe?) Not to mention, he routinely has visions of Hannah throughout the series.

    It's important to note that in the book, Hannah tells Clay (in Tape 9) that he's blameless, and that she's including him on her list only because she wants him to know what happened to her. But in the show, Clay (Tape 11) feels the weight of his own misdeeds, innocent as they might have been.

  • Hannah, Jessica, and Alex’s friendship

    As the three new kids at school, Hannah, Jessica, and Alex became fast friends, and in the novel, whenever one of them needed to talk, they'd put their hands in the center of a table and say, “Olly olly oxen free.” On the show, the threesome would typically meet up at the local coffee shop, Monet's, where Hannah and Jessica would order hot chocolate and Alex would work his way through the fancy coffee menu. The hand gesture is the same, but the words are different. Now they say, “FML,” which seems a tad more appropriate for 2017.

  • Technology

    In the book, Hannah earns a reputation as a slut after her crush, Justin, tells his friends that they did more than just kiss. (Camera phones weren't as much of a thing in 2007.) On the show, Justin takes a photo up Hannah's dress while they're making out on a playground. He then sends the photo to Bryce, a.k.a. the most popular guy in school, who then sends the photo to the entire sophomore class. This adds an extra layer of pain and embarrassment to Hannah's accounts.

  • Courtney's sexuality

    When Asher has Hannah and Courtney give each other sensual back massages in Hannah's room to try and catch her Peeping Tom, nothing really happens. It's only after, when Courtney spreads rumors about Hannah for seemingly no reason at all, that drama ensues. The show, however, presents a very different version of events: Courtney Crimsen is gay.

    Courtney still tries to help Hannah catch her Peeping Tom, but the girls also get wasted, and Courtney ends up daring Hannah to kiss her. It's then that Tyler, Hannah's stalker, snaps a photo of them kissing — before Hannah and Courtney catch him in the act. Tyler ultimately sends the photo to the entire class, and while you can't really identify Hannah and Courtney in the pic, rumors run wild. Courtney, mortified by the photo, ultimately starts a rumor that Hannah's a lesbian to cover up her own sexual orientation.

  • The random student killed in the car crash

    In the book, a nice cheerleader named Jenny gives Hannah a ride home after the party. But she accidentally knocks down a stop sign on her way to Hannah's house, and instead of calling the police, Jenny leaves the scene of the crime before anyone can see what happened, which leads to a car accident that kills one of their classmates. Clay describes the student as “just one of the many faces at school I never got to know.” But in the show, the student killed is Clay's charismatic tutee, Jeff, the only truly nice guy in this story.

  • Hannah and Clay’s relationship

    Hannah and Clay worked at the movie theater for one summer, and although Clay had pined for her, he never acted on it. In fact, they never even had a real conversation until the party, where they talk all night and eventually make out. As they kiss, Hannah is reminded of Justin, which makes her panic and tell Clay to leave the room.

    In the show, Clay and Hannah are what you might call a slow burn. Both wry young outsiders, they talk all the time, and Hannah even affectionately calls him “Helmet.” There's a mutual attraction, but neither of them act on it until the party. Hannah and Clay finally kiss, but similar to the book, she pushes him away because she is too afraid that her darkness will ruin him. The following Monday, Hannah tries to talk to Clay, but this time, it's him who pushes her away. As he listens to his tape, Clay feels terrible for letting Hannah down: “I cost a girl her life because I was afraid to love her.”

  • Rape

    The book implies that Bryce raped Hannah in the hot tub. She recounts how he put his hand inside of her bathing suit and that he “didn't stop there.” But the show makes things more explicit: Hannah repeatedly says no and fights back until Bryce overpowers her and rapes her. Every ounce of pain, embarrassment, and fear shows on Hannah's face. The book also never identifies the classmate who Bryce rapes the night of the party, only noting that both Hannah and Justin were implicit because they knew it was happening and did nothing to stop it. In the show, however, Hannah and Justin witness Bryce rape Jessica at the party.

  • Hannah's suicide

    In the book, it's mentioned that Hannah overdosed on pills. Meanwhile, the show graphically depicts Hannah slitting her wrists and bleeding in a bathtub. Katherine Langford, who plays Hannah, told MTV News that “the choice to stay on these moments to a point where it makes the audience just past uncomfortable was a very deliberate decision, and it was done because we wanted to show the ugliness and not use these events and issues as plot devices or romanticize them in any way.”

  • The ending

    The ending has changed significantly. In the book, Clay mails the tapes off to the next person named in them, then shows up the next day at school and reaches out to Skye, an estranged childhood friend who is showing signs of being suicidal. And that's it. But the show has a lot of extra plotlines to tie up, in addition to potentially setting up a second season.

    Tony, the classmate Hannah gave the second set of tapes to in case someone destroyed the first, gives Hannah's parents a thumb drive with 14 audio files on it. Thirteen of them are Hannah's original tapes, and the last is a secretly recorded confession from Bryce, who admits he raped Hannah that night in his hot tub. (You can thank Clay for that recording.) Not only is this the evidence Hannah's parents need to win their lawsuit, it's also their catharsis. Hannah never left them a note, so now they'll finally know why she did what she did.

    But that's not all: Jessica tells her father that she was raped, Justin confronts Bryce and seemingly skips town with a gun in his bag, and Alex attempts to kill himself (at the end of the episode, he's in critical condition). It's a lot to unpack, which makes the show's final scene all the more welcome. The last shot is decidedly serene, as Tony, Clay, Skye, and Tony's boyfriend silently drive top-down in Tony's 1965 Ford Mustang.