Tuesday, July 19, 2011

13 Reasons Why You Should Read This Book

Thirteen Reasons Why
It is hard to write about this book now that I have finished it. I am sad. I am angry. I am blown away by both the premise and the execution of this book. Jay Asher wrote a book that would be hard pressed to find someone it didn't change deeply. I know Thirteen Reasons Why left me a different person. And here are thirteen reasons why you should read this book, and then pass it on...

1. Because when a girl wants to tell you why she committed suicide, everyone should listen. Hannah Baker is gone, but she left behind 13 stories about why she made the decision. She instructed the listeners, who are all mentioned in the tapes, to pass them on to the next person. She warned them that if they didn't, a second set of the tapes, full of their dirty secrets, would become public. And so a group of people, some more guilty than others, but all with a hand in the final outcome, passed their dirty secrets to one another. They needed to hear how they played a part in her decision to commit suicide.

2. Because you never know what the consequences of your actions will be. Not all the stories are as horrible as the others. Sure there are some that will disgust you, but it is the small things that hurt Hannah the most. For instance, a boy she didn't encourage when he came on to her after another boy tried to force himself on her in a diner (she was basically stunned and in shock) proceeded to take all her notes from her bag in Peer Communications. Since the teacher acknowledged it was hard for them to give each other compliments, she made them all bags where they could leave anonymous compliments. Hannah needed those. They were like a lifeline. When she realized it was him who was taking them, it hurt her more than the boy who tried to force himself on her.

3. Because bullying goes farther than the immediate incident. When a "Hot or Not" list placed Hannah in the "Best of" list for a specific body part, it seemed to make boys felt they had a right to objectify her. She wasn't even the real target of the mean-spirited list, but the consequences were long lived.

4. Because even someone with genuine intentions can be too late to change the direction things are going. Clay, the narrator listening to the tapes, really cared about Hannah, but his appearance in her life was too late. She had been hurt by so many boys that Clay seemed too god to be true and Hannah felt too damaged to give him a chance if it meant opening herself up to more pain and suffering.

5. Because there are some really bad people out there. One guy who repeatedly sent Hannah over the edge was known for this kind of behavior. In fact, as Clay listened to the tapes, he knew exactly who Hannah was talking about before she mentioned his name. So why did it take a suicide before this guy was called on his actions? Why didn't someone stop him?

6. Because there are always signs. Teens, or anyone for that matter, don't just kill themselves without warning signs. Change of appearance. Giving away items, especially those they care about or use every day. Saying goodbye. Don't overlook the signs. Don't make excuses for them. You can never be too careful.

7. Because even rumors and verbal bullying hurt. There is a misconception that rumors are just part of human nature. We are social creatures and we like to gossip, that's the justification, right? Well, why do we need to justify hurting someone for entertainment? Bullying isn't always physical. Many times, rumors and gossip are the most painful and the longest lasting, especially with technology today.

8. Because suicide happens, even if we don't hear about it. Many times the news keeps coverage of suicides to a minimum, out of respect for the family left behind. Just because we haven't heard about it, doesn't mean it isn't happening right outside our doors. This isn't a problem contained in after school specials and teen novels. It's real and it's killing our children.

9. Because everyone has a story. Hannah had a lot of them. Clay had his own. Everyone had their stories, and some of them were on the tapes. Hannah wasn't the only victim, she was just the one with a voice. Sometimes people just need their stories to be heard. Listen to Hannah's. She needs you to.

10. Because the best way to stop something like suicide is to talk about it. The more shame and guilt attached to these feelings, the less likely kids are to come forward with them. Opening a dialogue in a safe place is the first step. Is it hard to talk to your kids about suicide? Good. It should be. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't do it.

11. Because these characters are real people. Sure they are fictional for this story's purposes, but I'll bet you can think of someone you know who reminds you of Hannah. Someone who you think of every time you read Clay's story. You know a Bryce, a Marcus, and a Justin. So what are you going to do about it?

12. Because it is about time teachers and adults were made uncomfortable when it comes to the emotional lives of our children. We have a ridiculous notion school is just for learning subjects like math and science and history. Wrong. Dead wrong. Our kids are at war from the time they start school until they graduate. It is high time they had some allies in the adults in their lives. We might be uncomfortable getting involved in the emotional lives of children, but if we don't try, how will be help them? Hannah might have been helped had one single adult known what to do to help her.

And finally...
13. Because I need you to read this story. Like with any story such as Thirteen Reasons Why, I need to talk to someone about it! I am sure Clay felt the same way when he listened to Hannah's tapes. When something is that emotional, that painful you want to talk about it. I'm no different. So please, read this story. Yes it has some sexual content (mostly in rumors), and partying (not glorified), and uncomfortable subjects, but that is exactly why every adult and teenager should read this book. And when you do, you won't be the same. But that isn't a bad thing... not by far.

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