The Original '13 Reasons Why' Ending Would Have Totally Changed The Story

Beth Dubber/Netflix

13 Reason Why begins with the end of a life. Beaten down by the cruelty of her peers, Hannah Baker decides to kills herself, leaving behind a collection of pre-recorded, confessional cassette tapes detailing the events — and the people responsible for them — that led up to her tragic death. It's an incisive, heart-wrenching examination of teen suicide, serving as a poignant wake-up call to take notice and treat each other with kindness. But according to Jay Asher, who authored the acclaimed YA novel the show is based on, the story was almost very different, because Hannah survived in the original 13 Reasons Why ending.

Asher writes in the book’s 10th anniversary edition that initially, Hannah attempted to kill herself by swallowing pills, but was ultimately saved when her parents got home and rushed her to the hospital to get her stomach pumped. Upon reflection, however, he realized the message would be stronger if the characters couldn't save her. So instead, he opted to finish the novel with Clay — who'd been one of Hannah's closest friends — reaching out to another girl named Skye after recognizing she may be grappling with some of the same feelings as Hannah. As Asher told EW:

Out of seriousness for the issue, we realized we can’t go there. No matter that there were missed opportunities for her. Those opportunities aren’t there if you do this. Once I realized that the message of the story would be stronger and that it would definitely be more of a cautionary tale. I felt that was definitely the way to go. That’s why Skye’s character made a reappearance, which was cool to see her have a bigger role throughout the TV series.
Beth Dubber/Netflix

The show ends similarly, but with an added gut punch: In the final moments of the finale, it's revealed that (Spoiler alert!) Alex Standall attempted suicide by shooting himself in the head, and is at the hospital in critical condition. It's a startling twist, but one that's quite purposeful. Hannah cited him as the third reason for her death, and as the series pressed forward, he visibly struggled, spiraling further and further into an emotional tailspin. Yet, as his fellow students raced to keep their secrets buried, they again failed to see past their own self-interest, and let another kid slip through the cracks.

That story, of course, is different from Asher's, but it shows that if they didn't take anything from Hannah's death, they certainly wouldn't have learned anything from her attempt. Yes, Hannah surviving would have been more hopeful, but it wouldn't have spoken as powerfully.