13 Reasons Why: Review

I see a Facebook post with a comment header, “Are you watching?”

I then notice an accompanying picture of a Netflix series titled: “13 Reasons Why: The Power of this TV Show”.

I look at the Mom’s comments, “I highly suggest you watch with your kids. It’s that important.”

She’s a mom I know and respect, so I click into the post to discover there’s a new Netflix series based on the bestselling book written by Jay Asher and read the commentary by a teacher who watched this show with her class.

It looks compelling and I think about getting my teens to watch it. I figure the 14-year-old girl will be much more interested than the 16-year-old boy.

It turns out I’m wrong.

Nick, the 16-year-old, walks into the room a few minutes later and I ask;

“Have you heard of 13 Reasons Why? It’s…” and I look at this face.

He smiles, “Yeah, I started watching it last night and couldn’t stop. I’m on episode 6.”

“Oh, I hear it’s really good,” I reply.

“Yeah. It is. It’s totally relatable.”

“I would love to start watching it…”

“I would re-watch the first 6 episodes with you if you want.”

This is an opportunity not to be missed, so I agree.

Katy, the 14-year-old, is in the midst of a sleepover (an every-weekend event actually). I ask her about the show and she and her friend have watched the first episode. They want to watch the series together.

I tentatively say okay and start watching the series with Nick.

We mainline the 13 hour-long episodes in 1 ½ days. We stay up until 1:00 – 1:30 a.m. and only stop because I can’t keep my eyes open. Greg joins us for a few of the episodes.

The series brings up teen choices, adult interactions, and life-changing events driven by seemingly inconsequential happenings.

The main themes are obvious and escalating.

Teenagers are notoriously self-centered, protective of their popularity status and obsessed with body image.

They are also completely and instantly connected to each other through technology.

These themes describe ‘every day and everywhere high school USA’.

That’s what makes this series so important.

Now, mix in this decade’s theme of sexual activity going from 0 – 60 on the first date.

Add in a new-to-the-school sensitive sophomore girl, an underprivileged boy, a highly entitled senior athlete and a few other insecure classmates and we’ve set the stage for out of control circumstances that lead to disaster.

The seemingly benign choices of being friends, dating and high school drama escalates to high pressure circumstances of sexual assault, rape and suicide.

The story is compelling, the characters intriguing and the unfolding captivating.

And, unfortunately, all too imaginable in today’s high schools.

When watching, you’ll be glad to be with your teens* as you can discuss events as they progress.

In the end, I’m glad I watched this series first with Nick. He says it’s more interesting watching it with us. He can totally relate to the events in the series and is empathetic to the girls’ teenage circumstances.

I now know Katy cannot watch episode 10, 12 or 13 without me, but the other ones can be viewed with her friend as we’ve already had lots of conversations about parties, choices, dating and other precarious teen situations.

It turns out, Katy’s friend has seen all of the episodes and Katy now wants to take her time watching the series.

I’m glad.

Because, now I’m going to watch it with her.

This way, we can take our time discussing things as they unfold. The pertinent parts will be different for her than for her brother.

I completely agree with the Mom’s Facebook post, “Watch with your kids – it’s that important.”

Fair warning: Once you start watching the series, you won’t be able to stop.

* When I say teens, I mean teens. In my opinion, this series is not appropriate for anyone under the age of a very mature 13 year-old.  The series involves sophomores, juniors and seniors in high school. Yes, it involves bullying, making friends, keeping friends and being connected through technology, but completely woven into these themes are the events of drinking, driving, sexual assault, rape and suicide. If you feel okay with your younger teen watching it alone, then I absolutely suggest watching episodes 10, 12 & 13 together. The circumstances depicted on screen in these episodes are unbelievably realistic.