Whether you read the book or watched the entire show in one sitting, only getting up to pee and grab more M&Ms, there’s a pretty good chance you’re among the many people (like, practically everyone) who consumed “13 Reasons Why” in at least one form. And if, like me, you feel a sense of emptiness and listlessness when you finish a book or a series you really like, chances are you go roaming around looking for a replacement…and maybe some more M&Ms (what? I really like M&Ms).
If that sounds like you, I’m here today with a few suggestions (books, movies, and a TV show) that might help you come down off of 13 Reasons Why without crashing and burning like the three Red Bulls you drank this morning just wore off. Of course, none of these are exactly like Jay Asher’s creation, but the similar themes and ideas may appeal to you in some way.
1. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
For me, Speak was the first YA novel I read that was actually relatable. This book was originally published back in 1999 (it’s insane to think that that was almost twenty years ago), but I didn’t read it until some years later (at a point when it became more age appropriate, of course). Since then, it has easily stood the test of time and is still just as impactful today. In Speak, our main character, Melinda Sordino, begins her freshman year of high school as a complete outcast. Over the summer, Melinda called the cops on a huge party, successfully turning her classmates against her. No one will be friends with Melinda, no one wants to be around her, no one will even talk to her.
But Melinda is suffering from much more than just the wrath of the herd mentality; unbeknownst to anyone but her and her attacker, it turns out Melinda was actually sexually assaulted at the party in question. Much like Bryce in 13 Reasons Why, Melinda’s attacker is revered as a veritable golden boy: an upperclassmen who’s well-liked by everyone, and who Melinda must continue to go to school with and see on a daily basis, knowing what he did to her and watching as the rest of the school carries on, completely oblivious to what kind of person he really is. As a result, she’s withdrawn so much, pulled so far into herself, that she isn’t just not talking about what happened—she’s not talking at all.
Through the course of the book, we watch Melinda gain the strength and the ability to speak up for herself, to tell the truth, and to defend herself when—inexplicably—her attacker attempts to take advantage of her again.
Laurie Halse Anderson is an incredibly talented writer, and as a result, Melinda’s pain is laid bare on the page. This book is downright heartbreaking, and very frankly and honestly addresses issues like bullying, sexual assault, and the importance of reaching out and asking for help. I’m sure I don’t have to warn you of this, but I will, anyway—parts of this are really tough to read.
And if you’re into book-to-movie adaptations, Speak was adapted into a film in 2004, starring a pre-Twilight Kristen Stewart as Melinda.
2. Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight
Like 13 Reasons Why, this novel by Kimberly McCreight is a journey back in time, a journey to piece together the last moments leading up to the tragic end of a young woman’s life. But instead of fellow students, this mystery is being pieced together by Amelia’s mother, Kate.
Kate is told by Amelia’s school that Amelia was caught cheating and, in complete emotional turmoil, she killed herself by jumping from the roof of her school. But as Kate tries to come to terms with what happened, she receives a cryptic text message informing her that things are not as they seem, and that perhaps Amelia didn’t end her own life.
Kate embarks on a journey to piece things back together, and as she does, she realizes how much she didn’t know about her daughter’s life.
Kate may not be pursuing a lawsuit in the way that the Bakers do in the Netflix adaptation of Jay Asher’s novel, but in her own way, she is pursuing justice and vindication for her daughter, and fans of 13 Reasons Why may find this novel enjoyable, as well.
3. Audrie & Daisy — available on Netflix
This documentary, released just last year, is perhaps the most distressing of any of the media featured on this list. It details the stories of two young women who suffered similar plights—one of whom committed suicide, and one of whom fights on to this day. The titular subjects, Audrie and Daisy, were both sexually assaulted by young men who they trusted—young men they thought were their friends. But their suffering didn’t end there. After the assaults, both young women were plagued by rumors, humiliation, and constant harassment in the form of cyberbullying, while the young men continued on with little to no consequences whatsoever.
This documentary does an excellent job of shedding some light on the severity and lasting effect of cyberbullying, especially in a situation like this. Not only do we see the effects of these horrible acts on Audrie and Daisy themselves, but also the way the situations have impacted their families.
Emotionally, this one is very difficult to get through, but I definitely still recommend giving it a watch.
Oh, and don’t keep anything breakable nearby while watching—no matter how much a pacifist you usually are, you’re going to want to throw shit when you see how the local police speak about these cases.
Cyberbully, sometimes written as Cyberbu//y, is another movie that hones in on the more recent development of harassment via social media and our constantly connected lives. Starring two young women of former Disney fame, Emily Osment and Kay Panabaker, Cyberbully tells the story of Taylor Hillredge, who gets a new laptop for her birthday and thinks it’s the best thing ever…but she quickly learns otherwise. This movie shows how some petty, teenage girl bullshit can escalate into suffering of nearly unbearable proportions with the assistance of technology and the way it gives bullies to opportunity to enter our lives 24/7, whether we’re in a public setting or not. Although some parts of the movie seem a little out of touch with the real lives of teenagers, it still explores an important topic that I think many people can relate to all too well.
This movie is available to watch in full on YouTube or for purchase on iTunes.
5. Guidance — available on Hulu
Guidance, from Awesomeness TV, examines a slightly different issue presented by modern technology. Starring Amanda Steele (of MakeupbyMandy24 fame) and Michelle Trachtenberg (of Harriet the Spy fame/little sister of Buffy fame/conniving beeyotch Georgina Sparks fame), Guidance begins when a popular girl, Miriam (Amanda Steele), has her risqué photos made available to anyone and everyone via social media. As the school’s guidance counselor, Anna (Michelle Trachtenberg), attempts to unravel the mystery behind who leaked the photos and why (and desperately attempts to educate her students about cyberbullying along the way) things just continue to spiral more and more out of control.
Guidance consists of six roughly thirty minute episodes, and while some of the acting is so-so, it’s still an interesting watch, and quite a mystery to unravel. One thing’s for sure—as hapless as she may be, Anna Schmidt could probably still teach Mr. Porter a thing or two.
What do you suggest for readers and watchers who loved 13 Reasons Why? Have you read or watched anything listed above? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to talk.