I’ve been meaning to talk about 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher for nearly three years. It is one of the most moving books I’ve read, and it goes well with this month’s topic. I believe, quite simply, that it is the best book ever written about suicide.
Synopsis: Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker—his classmate and crush—who committed suicide two weeks earlier.
On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out how he made the list.
Through Hannah and Clay’s dual narratives, debut author Jay Asher weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect teen readers.
I think that every teen should read this book. I think that everyone who works with teens or has teens or lives in the human race, possibly, should read this book. It’s about more than suicide. It is also, strongly, about the affects of sexual objectification, harassment, and assault. It’s possible that the teen boys who treat girls like pieces of meat don’t know how deeply that can affect them, so this book is for them. But it is, also, about suicide. About a girl who has given up hope, and about a good boy who wanted to help and couldn’t.
It’s not an easy book, but I think it’s important for everyone to read for a number of reasons. For anyone who works with teens, this book provides a roadmap of what to look for and listen for in students to indicate that they are considering suicide. Sudden changes of appearance, giving away possessions, actually reaching out for help and saying you feel hopeless. For non-suicidal students, it is an exercise in awareness-raising, how your words and deeds can affect someone else. And also, a call to have a little courage and go the extra mile when you can tell someone is struggling. But for suicidal students, and this might be the most powerful–and delicate–point to the book, it is a voice of reality saying you always have a choice.
The book is written as an extended suicide note interspersed between the narration of the boy who could have helped Hannah. Who wanted to help Hannah. Who was perhaps too cowardly, in the end, to help Hannah, but who would have been there if she’d tried. And she didn’t. Over and over he asks, while he listens, why she didn’t tell him. Why she didn’t get help. And he guesses the answer: she didn’t really want help.
No two people can ever know each other, really. We can never know what is going on in another’s life, or how another is feeling, or what they are really thinking about. But our lives are inextricably linked, nonetheless. And in each interaction, we have a choice: we can choose to listen, and we can choose to open up and speak. We can choose to connect. In the end, this book is a plea to do just that. If you are hurting: speak. If you are with someone who is hurting: listen.
Thanks for stopping by.