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!

JUDGMENT AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS

There is a ton; I’m talkin’ a mother-cluckin’ boat-load of judgment out there. And when I say out there, I mean on the Web, on the TV, on the street, at your job, your school, your neighborhood, in your own house, among your family. EVERYWHERE. We’re so quick to judge celebrities, authorities, teachers, parents, other people’s kids, our own kids, races of people, enemies, strangers, and even friends.

Why?

Is it because it makes us feel better? Not me. I’ve instantly regretted saying something negative about someone else the moment it left my lips. But I’m certainly guilty of it. I’ll admit sometimes my lips move faster than my brain and I speak with out thinking. SORRY if I’ve ever said something that has hurt your feelings! I am not a mean-spirited person and meant no harm. I’m also guilty of going up to complete strangers and telling them I like their shoes, haircut or fabulous outfit. My daughter says “it’s creepy”. Whatever.

So, is it because we’re stupid? Okay, maybe that’s a bit harsh. Is it because we’re ignorant to the effect our words will have? You say, well the person, be it online or on the street that you pass in a car, can’t hear what you say. What about the person we are saying it to? Does that encourage them to do the same thing or worse? Or does the negativity swirl and fester and carry on to other things throughout the day? I think it does.

How about self-judgment? Sometimes that’s worse than how we judge others. I know it is for me. My skin’s too pale, my hair’s too frizzy, I have ugly feet. Now don’t be checkin’ out my ugly feet the next time you see me in flip-flops!

So why are we so apt to tear someone up rather than build someone up, including ourselves?

Because it’s easier.

Anger comes quick and easy. I have a hot temper. I know right, who’d a thunk it! Anger is an easier emotion to handle. Anger keeps you from accessing a situation properly. I have found, with things that really matter that are out of my control, anger keeps pain from getting too close. But it has its downfall too. Anger keeps out love, peace and happiness.

It takes work to be happy. It’s a choice. Even when life sucks it’s still a choice.

I was recently accused of having a happy life. It’s crazy but I felt like I needed to defend myself. It’s true; I have an amazing husband that after 22 years of marriage I’m still stupid-ga-ga in love with. I have two teenagers who are not only NOT strung out on drugs but are A-students, healthy, beautiful loving people who I truly love to be around. My husband and I both have jobs, we own a house, cars, clothes and we can put food on our table. We usually get to take a vacation once a year. Is there room for improvement? Hell yeah! After three years we’re still renovating the damn house! LOL. I also have a crazy French Bulldog who had to see a psychiatrist recently—don’t ask—and there’s never enough time in the day to get everything done.

I am blessed and I am grateful but no one gave me this life. I’m not a trust fund-kid. It has been hard work. It’s still hard work. And I have skeletons in my closet just like everyone else. What’s that saying, “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence until you get there and they have the same overgrown weeds you do and big holes that need filling and snakes in the Pachysandra and a deck that’s not done and huge puddles when it rains.” I actually may have just made that up, but just go with it.

There is, however, a real quote that a lot of people post: “Don’t judge me. You have no idea what I’ve been through or where I come from.” Isn’t this true of all of us? I’m partial to the other version: “Don’t judge me. You have no idea what I’ve been through or where I come from and I have no problem punching you in the face.” LOL!

When you look at someone, before the judgmental words tumble out of your mouth, think about this:

Are they struggling with an eating disorder? Do they go home to a mother that’s high on drugs? Are they being physically abused? Mentally abused? Do they have scars that you can’t see? Are they an alcoholic struggling to stay sober?

The kid that’s being a pain in the ass in your kid’s class… Is his mother working two jobs because she’s a single parent trying to provide for her children?

The check out person at the grocery store who’s a nasty bitch…Is her father a drunk? Is her boyfriend beating the crap out of her?

The neighbor that won’t talk to you or is just flat-out rude… Is he/she suffering from a mental illness?

The person that just cut you off…Are they rushing to the hospital or a job interview because they’ve been out of work for a year? Now, if they’re texting, and you friggin’ texter-drivers know who you are, by all means show them your finger. What? I meant thumbs down. HAHA!

We all face challenges in our lives. Trust me, I’m no saint, but I know from my own life; you have no idea what I’ve been through or where I come from. Don’t judge me. Happiness and the pursuit of it is a choice.

PEACE