Book Review: THIRTEEN REASONS WHY by Jay Asher

I’ve just read Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. I know, I know! All my writer buds are shaking their heads at me that I’m just now reading it.  *hangs head in shame*. But whatever, I’m a slow reader and my reading list is frickin HUGE! *High-five to all my slow readers*

This book was Jay’s debut novel. It won fourteen different awards (maybe more now) and earned blurbs from some very heavy hitters in the literary world such as Sherman Alexie, author of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and Ellen Hopkins, author of Tricks, Identical, Crank and Collateral just to name a few. EXTREMELY IMPRESSIVE. And….it’s going to be a movie!

This is an amazing book. I could not put it down. The story is told on cassette tapes- thirteen of them- by Hannah Baker who is dead. Love this premise. It is a journey through some very distraught days of her life, choices she made, choices others made. Clay Jennings, the boy who receives the tapes, does not want to take this journey and yet he must. He has no choice but to listen to the end. What he learns changes his life forever.

This is one of those books that will stay with me forever.

WARNING! SPOILER ALERT!! WARNING!  YOU’VE BEEN WARNED.

This book is about bullying. Bullying is not just about one person punching another person in the face. In fact, it’s rarely ever that anymore. It’s about what’s said, whispered, and written.

It’s about sexual assault and rape. It used to be “no means no”. But my daughter informed me from her health class, “without an enthusiastic YES, it’s no”. Which means unless both parties are enthusiastically saying YES, it is sexual assault or rape. Don’t ever assume you can put your hands on another person.

It’s about turning the other way, not helping when you could have. Doing nothing makes you part of the abuse. Nobullying.com reported for 2014, 64% of children who were bullied did not report it. Only 36% reported bullying and more than half of bullying situations stop when a peer intervenes on behalf of the student being bullied.

It’s about not perpetuating bad behavior. I don’t believe in the mentality of “It’s a rite of passage” when such rites hurt other people. Or “It happened to me and I survived”. Let’s stop that BS and do better.

After reading this book I started thinking about my actions as a young person. Did I have an effect on someone else’s life? Was it good or bad? In a perfect world there’d be no hate, everyone gets three cookies and a glass of milk at the end of the day, and we all hold hands singing “We Are The World” and not just at Christmas time. But that’s not the world we live in. But it could be better. I could be better. We could be better. Better us, better world. *Sigh*

Not everyone likes me. *Gasps* You all better be gasping! Here’s another shocker- I don’t like everyone out there either. I never claimed to be the Blessed Mother! We don’t all have to be besties but we should try to be open minded and not wound anyone with our words or actions. I don’t always get it right. When I was younger I got it even less right, but that’s part of growing up, isn’t it?

I don’t have a time machine — actually really pissed about that– so I can’t go back to the 1980’s and right the wrongs that I may have done. You’re probably thinking, “well I’m sure you didn’t kill anyone, so what’s the big deal?” And you would be right. I’m happy to report; homicide is NOT on my resume. But did I ever cause someone irrevocable damage with my words or actions like Hannah experienced? Could I have ever made a difference in someone’s life who may have been struggling? Did I partake in gossipy bullshit that could have ruined someone’s reputation? I don’t like gossip. Never have. So I’m pretty sure I’m safe on this one but for the rest, I honestly don’t know. Just for the record, if you are a person from my past, those middle school-high school years, and I wronged you in any way, I’m truly sorry.

So no time machine, but what I do have is my voice, my words. That is power.

I’m a parent of teenagers now. CRAY-CRAY. So even though I can’t go back in time, I can speak to my kids about making the right choices today. Sure, they’ll make some wrong choices anyway on their own, because we can’t control everything our kids do and we’re human, imperfect. We just need to put our best effort into not making mistakes that mangle someone else’s life.

I talk to my kids all the time. All. The. Time. They will roll their eyes and totally attest to this fact. I have one boy and one girl. They each come with their own unique ideas and personalities. And neither one of them came with a hand book. Whoever said God doesn’t have a sense of humor doesn’t have kids. It’s a challenge at times to say the least. But it’s worth it. It’s necessary. If we don’t tell them not to criticize the way someone else looks, they won’t know.  Nobullying.com also reported that “The reasons for being bullied reported most often by students were looks, body shape and race.”

Looks. Body shape. Race. Really?? Come on! We are like a box of chocolates, thank you Forrest Gump. We are different shapes, different colors and we are all fabulously de-lish!

If we don’t guide our kids on what is acceptable behavior, shame on us.

And it’s not enough to just speak to our own kids. We have to reach out to other kids too. If we don’t show them love, kindness and respect how will they show it to others? I know it’s cliché, but still true, we lead by example.

Gossip is poison. Don’t do it. If your friends are doing it around you, stop them. Give everyone the benefit of the doubt and judge no one.

Be kinder. Not because of what someone can do for you or what you can get from them but because it’s the right thing to do.

It is my opinion that Thirteen Reasons Why should be required reading from seventh grade up. A young man in my daughters school killed himself the second day of freshman year. Bullying was a huge factor. I heard about a teacher that bullied a student in front of the whole class just yesterday. This is unacceptable! We can do better. We MUST do better.

I have not had the pleasure of hearing Jay speak in person yet but I do stalk, achem, follow him online and you can too!

www.jayasher.blogspot.com or on Twitter @jayasherguy #ReasonsWhyYouMatter #50StatesAgainstBullying.

 

Until next time…PEACE, KINDNESS AND COOKIES FOR ALL!

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