13 Reasons Why- Book Vs Show-10 Differences

13 Reasons Why Netflix series is the adaptation of the bestselling book of the same name published by Jay Asher in 2007, almost a decade ago. The book was such a hit that it was adapted into a webcast television series with Selena Gomez as the executive producer and Jay Asher as the consulting producer.

The series has 2 seasons with 13 episodes each. Each episode is 1 hour long which means each side of the Hannah’s tape gets its full attention due. But still a lot of changes were made during production for this Netflix miniseries. They, by no means, have restricted themselves to the book which is interesting because the story has actually been improved and made into a more detailed version. Rather than keeping it all in Clay’s point of view, they have tried to include perspective of other characters as well which is expanding the understanding of the story and putting forward the whole truth instead of just Hannah’s view.

13 Reasons Why is one of those adaptations where the story has been altered and yet is as good as the original source.

There were a few changes which were minor but some changed the course of the whole story. If you have read the book and finished watching the series then you must have noticed these changes too-

1. Modern Setting-
In the book, the rumors seem to spread through word of mouth, in an old-fashioned way. Social media is not a thing in the book. It makes sense because the book was launched in 2007 and Facebook and twitter were not as popular among people as they are now. In the show social media is the focal point of all the gossip and students own cell phones. Terms such as ‘olly olly oxen free’ used in book are replaced by ‘Fml’ in the show. The show has been made more relatable to the modern teenagers.

2. Time taken by clay to hear the tapes-
In the book, Clay listens to all the tapes in one night. In the show, he is taking his sweet time to listen to them. Each tape takes one episode so the emotions and thoughts of Clay are better uncovered in the series. In the book, i felt Hannah’s thoughts are better focused on than Clay’s. Also, other characters and their point of views are also expressed in the show which gives us the whole picture of how everything was affecting everyone.

3. Hannah’s Suicide-
In the book, Clay mentions that she “swallowed handful of pills”. Other than this, there is no description of the way she died, how was she found or who found her. On the other hand, in the show, Hannah slits her wrist in the bathtub and her mother finds her. This scene in particular is extremely graphic and not easy to watch.

4. Relationship between Hannah and Clay-
In the book, Clay has a huge crush on Hannah but he is too shy to tell her or get to know her better. They briefly worked together for one summer but were more like acquaintances rather than close friends or even friends. In the book Hannah tells clay that she wishes they could have been closer and had gotten to know each other better. In the show, they have a lot of interaction and hang out together. In both the cases, it was only after he has listened to her tape that he comes to know that she liked him too but it was too late.

5. Parents Involvement –
In the book, there is very little light on Hannah’s parents and what is their state of mind. Also, Clay’s parents make a quick appearance in the book when Clay has just started to listen to the tapes at night. His mom checks up on him, mildly concerned, offers advice and thats about it. But in the show we see the characters of their parents extremely developed. Hannah’s mother is heartbroken and is trying to figure out what happened that led her to take her own life. She even sues the school. Clay’s mother being a lawyer is defending the school on the case.

6. Order of the tapes-
Clay is the ninth person to receive the tapes in the book and simply mails them off to the tenth person. In the show, Clay is the eleventh person to receive the tapes and he skips Bryce, the rapist, who is on the twelfth tape and mails them to the last on the list Mr. Porter. In the book, there are no conspiring classmates to keep the tapes from being leaked.

7. Hallucinations-
In the book, Clay has no hallucinations of any kind. Whereas in the show, Clay can see Hannah and he even talks to her. He saw her bleeding out in the middle of the gym and school dance. He is also the slowest to listen to the tapes in the show because he takes deluoxetine to treat anxiety disorder which explains why he can only listen to one tape at a time. None of this happens in the book.

8. Lawsuit-
There is no lawsuit in the book. This is a major change in the course of the storyline. The Bakers are hardly making any appearance in the book. The only time is when someone mentions that they have closed their show store in the wake of Hannah’s suicide. In the show, the Bakers own a pharmacy and they sue the school to get answers for Hannah’s suicide. The lawsuit leads all the people on the tapes to give statements in the court. The ending is nowhere near like this in the book.

9. Tony’s Role
The book Tony is a friend of Clay who is always working on his Mustang. He is initially shown as the means for Clay to listen to the tapes because Tony is one of those people who possess the working Walkman. Its only much later that we discover that he is the one Hannah left in charge of making sure the tapes get passed on. In the show, however, he has twice as big role to play. He is not only the tape enforcer but also works as Clay’s bodyguard. Tony is more like a guardian angel who stops other fellows from hurting Clay.

10. Revengeful Clay
In the book, Clay is potrayed as the boy next door who would never harm anyone. This is completely different from the Clay in Show because he is seeking revenge. He is taking his time to listen to each tape and then confronts them one by one. He even got a confession of Bryce on tape. He is trying all that he can to bring justice to Hannah. Even when Tony tries to talk him down, he is still not sure if wants to stop. This side of Clay is nowhere to be seen in the book


The book and the series both have done justice to the story but after watching the series we can say that the book is a simpler version of the show. A lot of changes took place in the adaptation but we cant say that those changes were poor. In-fact it developed the characters, improved the story and brought out the message clearer.

Were you able to find these differences? What other differences were you able to notice? Read my book review of 13 Reasons Why here.


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  1. Kritika Bhardwaj says:

    Ama-azing! I cant even fathom the level of dedication you show for writing honest, holistic and comprehensive book reviews (like this) ! Observation skills on point πŸ€“

  2. Neeraj says:

    You really needs to be appreciated for this oneπŸ‘ŒπŸ»πŸ‘ŒπŸ»..
    You have extracted out and described the differences very precisely.

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