Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why is the Perfect YA Novel Adaptation

13-reasons-why-book-to-netflix

13 reasons why jay asher netflixIt’s not often that you read a book that moves you. And I mean truly moves you, bringing a tear (or 20) to your eye and making you think about it for weeks and months and even years later. Thirteen Reasons Why, written by Jay Asher, is one of those books for me. So you can imagine how excited I was to hear that it’s now a Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why, out today, March 31.

I picked it up because of the buzz; when the young adult novel came out nearly 10 years ago, it was an almost instant bestseller, and the word-of-mouth alone was enough to make me intrigued. But as soon as I read the heartbreaking story, I knew it would be a modern classic — the kind of book I’d turn to again and again.

13 Reasons Why is executive produced by Selena Gomez and the story has everything that’s guaranteed to appeal to a Netflix audience: mystery, romance and an emotional premise that will definitely bring on the tears. The trailer alone is enough to give me major goosebumps:


The story of 13 Reasons Why is about Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette), a shy and sweet high school boy with a crush on Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford). When Hannah suddenly kills herself, Clay receives a mysterious set of 13 tapes, each one recorded by Hannah, and each one explaining why she committed suicide. But Clay isn’t the only person to receive them, as Hannah sends them to 13 people in her life who had some hand in her decision to end her life. As Clay listens to the tapes, it takes him on a journey through Hannah’s life and all of the small and big moments that led to her death.

Both mysterious and heartbreaking, 13 Reasons Why is a story that gets right to the heart of what it means to be a teenager. The book doesn’t shy away from the harsh realities that Hannah faced while alive: from sexual assault to bullying to her own guilt at how she responded to certain events. It’s a story that’s uncomfortable at times, deeply sad and strangely hopeful. It’s also a story that seems perfect for a Netflix show, with each episode potentially diving deeper and deeper into Hannah’s life, slowly revealing her painful decision as the series goes on.

I personally can’t wait to binge 13 Reasons Why, though I’ll be sure to keep those tissues close by. And, hopefully, this is just the start of young adult novels being adapted for streaming sites like Netflix and Hulu. In fact, there’s a whole list of YA novels I’d love to see on the small screen soon.

Here are three books, like 13 Reasons Why, that would make awesome Netflix shows:

The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas (Balzer + Bray, February 28, 2017)

the hate u give 13 reasons whyEveryone is talking about Thomas’s heartfelt novel lately, and for good reason. Drawing heavily on recent political events and the Black Lives Matters movement, Thomas tells us the story of Starr Carter, a teen who witnesses a horrific tragedy. Torn between two worlds, Starr attends an elite prep school during the day, but goes home each evening to her more impoverished neighborhood. When she sees her unarmed friend, Khalil, shot and killed by a police officer, Starr finds herself caught in the middle of a national debate. Between the institutional racism that she faces on a daily basis, her own rage, and the demands of both her communities, Starr is forced to make a decision that will change her life forever. This is another one of those moving books, both topical and heart-wrenchingly honest. It’s slated to become a movie starring Amandla Stenberg, but I kind of wish it would become a TV series instead – then we’d just get more and more of this amazing story.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, Jenny Han (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, April 15, 2013)

to all the boys I've loved before 13 reasons whyRomantic and sweet, Han’s 2014 novel has spun into a series, with the newest offering, Always and Forever, Lara Jean, coming out on May 2. I’m not surprised that fans have been clamoring for more since the first book was published – Lara Jean Song is such a relatable heroine, and her story is both touching and poignant. More comfortable reading about love in books, Lara Jean has her whole world rocked when the private letters she wrote to the boys she “loves” get mysteriously mailed out. Now those secret loves are not-so-secret anymore, with each boy getting a very detailed description of why Lara Jean loved them. When one boy, Peter, comes knocking on her door, the two decide to fake a relationship, further blurring the lines between reality and fantasy. The next two books dive even deeper into Lara Jean’s future, her family and her love life, showing us how she matures and grows over the years. It’s a sweet story that would make a great show, giving a clear picture of what it means to come of age after your private life is completely exposed.

Hunted, Meagan Spooner (HarperTeen, March 14, 2017)

hunted meagan spooner 13 reasons whyWith Beauty and the Beast in theaters, I’m on a constant hunt (no pun intended) for more fairy tale stories. Spooner’s Hunted is a Russian-inspired version of our favorite beastly childhood tale, but a little darker and with a much more badass heroine. When Yeva’s father moves her and her two older sisters away from the high society of the city to the outskirts of the wilderness, the teen girl is more than pleased. She instantly takes to the woods, and when her father goes missing one day, she decides to hunt “the beast” he was chasing all by herself. But her quest takes her farther than she could have imagined, facing heartbreak, imprisonment, and a beast who slowly wins her heart. Mixing Russian fairy tales, forest life and the story of Beauty and the Beast we all love, Spooner weaves a magical and dark tale that is definitely worthy of its own Netflix series. 

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Rachel Carter grew up surrounded by trees and snow and mountains. She graduated from the University of Vermont and Columbia University, where she received her MFA in nonfiction writing. She is the author of the So Close to You series with Harperteen. These days you can find her working on her next novel in the woods of Vermont.