This week, I finally read Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. I wish I hadn’t waited so long to pick it up. Like The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, the book resonated with me and I found it to be poignant, thought-provoking, and…very necessary.
I’d like to first start by listing the awards associated with this book:
South Carolina Book Award: Young Adult Book Award (2010)
Georgia Peach Honor Book Award (2009)California Book Award
Abraham Lincoln Award
New York Times Best Seller
Starred Kirkus Review
Having attended a high school which earn the nicknamed “Suicide High” – complete with a CNN helicopter hovering over the field during my soccer practice – I became well-informed about suicide as a young adult by way of incessant teacher talks, dramatic assemblies in the field house, an endless barrage of fact sheets and surveys, and even a group called “SOS” which stood for “Save Our Students.”
Working as a Page at Oxford Public Library, I even sported an orange “SOS” t-shirt as I shelved young adult literature in the newly-built library; however, the books I was shelving back then didn’t even come close to today’s contemporary realistic fiction. What was common: stories about the first kiss, winning over the most popular guy, and books about girls working an after school job and saving up for the perfect prom dress while desperately hoping that their crush is a mind-reader and asks them to prom.
Even though I was handling those books several times a week — checking in and shelving — I wasn’t even the slightest bit interested in reading any of them. My lack of interest was not because I thought they were poorly written, but rather because I found myself unable to relate and ended up feeling frustrated and even more ostracized.
I didn’t need escapism, what I needed was reality. I wanted to know that I wasn’t alone. (“It always shocked me when I realized that I wasn’t the only person in the world who thought and felt such strange and awful things.” –John Green)
Trending on Facebook right now is a picture of Judy Blume with a powerful quote about librarians: “Librarians save lives by handing the right book at the right time to a kid in need.” It’s been shared on my timeline twice and sent to my inbox several times. I’ve already blogged, several times now, about the importance of contemporary realistic fiction for teens. Judy Blume summed it up. I’ll spare you… (…it’s a topic that I can go on and on and on about.)
Thirteen Reasons Why is not a book for everyone, but it could be the right book at the right time for the right kid. Back in the day, if it had published, it might’ve been the right book for some of my classmates. It would’ve helped to put some things into perspective for me.
Quotes which resonated with me:
“Like driving along a bumpy road and losing control of the steering wheel, tossing you — just a tad — off the road. The wheels kick up some dirt, but you’re able to pull it back. Yet no matter how tightly you grip the wheel, no matter how hard you try to drive straight, something keeps jerking you to the side.”
“And after I dropped him off, I took the longest possible route home… I explored alleys and hidden roads I never knew existed. I discovered neighborhoods entirely new to me. And finally… I discovered I was sick of this town and everything in it.”
“You don’t know what goes on in anyone’s life but your own. And when you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re not messing with just that part. Unfortunately, you can’t be that precise and selective. When you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re messing with their entire life. Everything. . . affects everything.”
“No one knows for certain how much impact they have on the lives of other people. Oftentimes, we have no clue. Yet we push it just the same.”
“Sometimes we have thoughts that even we don’t understand. Thoughts that aren’t even true — that aren’t how we feel — but they’re running through our heads anyway because they’re interesting to think about.”
“Just knowing that I’d be going to Monet’s to write poetry made the days more bearable.”
“If you hear a song that makes your cry and you don’t want to cry anymore, you don’t listen to that song anymore.
But you can’t get away from yourself. You can’t decide not to see yourself anymore. You can’t decide to turn off the noise in your head.”
“You can’t go back to how things were. How you thought they were. All you really have is now.”
“I was breaking. If only I’d talked to you sooner. We could have been…we could’ve…I don’t know. But things had gone too far by then. My mind was set. Not on ending my life. Not yet. It was set on floating through school. On never being close to anyone. That was my plan. I’d graduate, then I’d leave.”
“‘I didn’t know what to make of that night. Everything that happened. I’d liked her for so long from away, but I never had a chance to tell her.’ I look down at the Walkman. ‘We only had one night, and by the end of that night, it seemed like I knew her even less than before. But now I know. I know where her mind was that night. Now I know what she was going through.'”