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!

Don’t be an A-hole

In this great country we have freedom of speech. We have the right to express ourselves. We have freedoms and rights up the wazoo.

That having been said, my question is:
Just because we can do something, we have the right to, should we?

I recently had a conversation with a teacher about a thirteen-year-old student that physically lashed out at another student for calling her fat. When you first read that you may think, well that sucks that she was called fat but hitting is excessive. But what if I told you she was called fat in front of the whole class, twenty-five students, and they all laughed at her? Does that change your perception a bit? So the teacher called her parents to tell them what happened. So I said, “Did you call the parents of the name-caller too?” The teacher said no. Hmm. She explained to the so-called “fat girl”, that in life people are going to say things you don’t like and you just have to learn to deal with it.” I think that’s the wrong message.

I write for young adults. What they say to each other matters. What they post about each other matters. So what I say to them or about them matters. What I say about other adults also matters because the young people I write for, and live with, are always watching, online and in person. Always.

Should you punch everyone in the face that talks crap you don’t like? No. You’ll go to juvie or jail. But on the flip side of that, let’s make the name callers accountable too. Let’s hold each other accountable.

Social media is BANANAS. I live in the Northeast but because of the internet I have the opportunity be friends with all sorts a peeps all over the world, young and not so young 😉 Bananas!

But it’s not all love and sunshine through these cable wires and satellite dishes. It’s gotten a bit ugly out in cyber world. This past week I have read some awful things written about a YA author. I do not wish to comment other than to say just because you can write something doesn’t mean you should.

I’m not talking about censorship. If I want to write about a gay, purple-shoe-wearing, elephant-riding, hippo, that’s my right and you can’t tell me not to. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to read it. But written opinion about an actual person is different.

YA and MG authors write for young people. We tell them NOT to be bullies. We use examples of cyber-bullying that results in suicide for plot lines to drive home the fact that words matter. What you say counts. You can’t just swing your verbal blade and not care whose head gets cut off or whose guts spill out onto the floor. Well, you can, but that makes you an asshole. I prefer not being an asshole as much as possible.

So here’s the thing. We teach by what we do. So if we’re online being creeps to each other what are we teaching the very people we write for?

I’m no angel. My mother is probably saying a rosary and making the Sign of The Cross in my name right now as you read this. My anger has gotten the best of me more than a time or two. I can do better. But the big balls that are displayed in the hit and run posting, is not cool. Not cool at any age at any time.

Calling someone names and getting a class of twenty-five to laugh at someone sucks. Calling names on the internet where thousands if not millions get involved is beyond sucky.

I live with two amazing teenagers. My husband and I tell them every day; don’t let the assholes get to you today because there are a lot of them out there. My husband says “jerks” because his potty mouth is not as extensive as mine.

My point, without getting too preachy, is let’s not be the assholes. Young, youngish, and old as dirt, we can all do better.

PEACE…Spread it like fertilizer and watch the love grow.

2015…BRING IT!

Happy New Year fabulous people!!

Sorry I was MIA for a bit. I was stuck in a funk but I’m done being funky.

Rejection is the suckiest of all suckishness. My finalist #PITCHARAMA status is officially over. The editor who was interested in JESSICA MARCO PI has passed on the project. There, I’ve said it. I was sad. I was distressed. There was a day or two of immature pouting, kicking, rolling around on the floor. It wasn’t pretty. I’m over it. Overall, it was a really GREAT experience. The editor, Katie Teller at Curiosity Quills, was helpful in getting the book into the shape that it’s in. Now I just need to find the agent/editor that it is right for. Although this project wasn’t right for Katie, I would definitely submit to her again . If you’ve got a story, hit her up. She’s super cool.

Don’t go feeling sorry for me. This is the game I’ve chosen. It’s just part of the process and I learn from every experience, even the ones I don’t particularly like.

Let’s move on! *fist in the air. feet marching*

While I’ve been away the holidays came and went… Happy Happy, Merry Merry EVERYTHING! (((Hugs Abound)))

I spent some great time with friends and family– eating, drinking, watched awesome movies, read fricktastic books, spent a day at the zoo, and visited an indoor trampoline park TWICE! I have no pictures of the amazing back-flips I did without killing myself or any small children in my vicinity– you will just have to take my word for it.

Some of my writer friends are choosing a word for inspiration in 2015 instead of resolutions. Cool with me. I pretty much have the same resolution every year: Be a better me. If I’m a better me, hopefully I’ll inspire you to be a better you. Better me. Better you. Better world. Simple.

Back to my word problem. What word will I choose? Oh, the pressure *back of hand to forehead* Good Lord there’s so many! Triskaidekaphobia? Not a great choice for inspiration since it’s the fear of the number 13. I don’t want the fear of anything. Fear is a real friger!

Fear can frig up the best of plans.

“I want to draw but I’m afraid no one will like it.”

“I want to take a dance class but I’m afraid I’ll look silly.”

“I want to talk to that person I think is da bomb but I’m afraid they won’t like me.”

“I want to write a book but I’m afraid I’ll suck.”

Before even trying, fear can beat you into nothingness. I don’t know about you, but I’ll pass on nothingness. I want to be lots of somethingness. I’ll get back to this.

I want to share some of the books I read.

The first is called Finding Out by Sheryn MacMunn. I had the pleasure of having tea with Sheryn, who is a self-published author, and has had huge success with this debut novel. It’s a story about a young woman in the corporate world whose life falls apart and gets help putting herself back together from her neighbor, a Holocaust survivor. Sheryn marries two very different stories in a cohesive interesting tale that I really enjoyed. She shows how the human spirit can endure and overcome just about anything. I personally find the spirit to be an amazing thing and love to read stories that show that. Check her out at sherynmacmunn.com.

Another book I read is Because of Low by Abbi Glines. I was especially interested in reading this book because it is in the New Adult genre just like my JESSICA MARCO PI and because I heard Abbi speak at the NYC 2014 SCBWI conference. LOVE her! It’s a romance with a great backbone. What do I mean by that? It’s not all about sex. It’s a great story about overcoming some crappy life circumstances told from the POV of the two main characters. Again, it’s that human spirit, that amazing power we all have to overcome. Abbi uses two very distinct voices so you see it clearly from each angle. She even had me sympathizing with the jerk in the story! Find her at abbiglines.com.

And the last book is called Every Day by one of my favs, David Levithan. LOVE! Imagine waking up everyday in a different body. You are always the same age but some days you’re a girl, others a boy. You have no control over who you land in whether they be obese, a drug addict, gay, straight or suicidal. Totally about the spirit of each of us who is really who we are anyway. The body is just a vehicle. It’s like a car for the soul. Trippy right? This book is awesome! For me this is what writing fiction is all about. Being able to step into the shoes of a character and bring you along for the ride. Did I mention LOVE? David has way too many other books for me to mention the love for, so go to davidlevethan.com. Be in awe. Come back when you’re done…. I’ll be here.

Welcome back!

So. My word for 2015? You probably guessed it-

FEARLESS

Fear is the stop before I start. Fear is paralyzing. Fear is anxiety producing. Fear of failing will keep me from ever being published. Not havin it. Don’t have time for it.

Are there an abundant amount of things to be afraid of? Hell yeah, just watch the news for five minutes. Will my worrying about any of it help at all? No. Am I telling you not to be afraid of anything? No. As my mother always said, “a little fear will keep you safe.” If you’re in a house that’s on fire– RUN! There’s a difference from being fearless and being stupid. Don’t be stupid. All you stupid people should be reading some other blog. Everyone else… Be fearless with me in 2015!

Until later this month,

PEACE, LOVE, AND A FEARLESS 2015.