My take on the “13 Reasons Why” alternate ending

I read the alternate ending, and I see why Jay¬†Asher’s editor Kristin Pettit nixed it. It’s only partly because of the message. The problem is the necessary plot holes. In the alternate ending (not spoiling anything here), everyone “knew” she’d died by overdosing on pills. The school and the community mourned her loss, believing that her family had left for an out-of-town burial, when in fact it was Hannah’s hospital that was out of town. After some weeks, Hannah and her family returned home, but it was even more time before word got out that she’d survived.

Are we to believe that in this hyperconnected world, there was no way for those pieces of information to get back to anyone? That nobody, not students, school officials, or even law enforcement would have noticed the absence of a death certificate, or that they had somehow been sworn to secrecy so that not even the teachers knew? That neither Hannah nor her parents would have said anything? That Hannah wouldn’t have so much as left her house? There was no even remotely credible way to make that work.

But back to the story’s message. Having Hannah survive would be a deus ex machina ending that would have undercut the whole story’s theme of finality. People are still arguing hotly about all sides of Hanna’s suicide (BTW, those ensuing arguments have not changed the opinions I expressed in my earlier post). Did the book or the show glorify or romanticize suicide? Was she guilty of cynically weaponizing it as an act of revenge? How much did she think¬†her suicide would be an end to her own pain versus an end to the pain she believed she caused the people around her?

If she had survived, the story would not have been that suicide is an ugly thing that is absolutely permanent, and benefits nobody. It would have trivialized Hannah’s actual suffering, and even her character–we would have felt about her the way Heather Duke felt about Martha Dunnstock.

That’s certainly not what Mr. Asher was going for.


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