I am fortunate enough to live in a county that has an impressive library system. Our county library system hosts a variety of events, groups, clubs, and programs for our community. Over the past year, they have had several authors come to the region to speak about their books, their writing process, and to do a meet and greet. Due to my overloaded schedule, I have never been able to attend one of the events… until now.
Jay Asher, the author of Thirteen Reasons Why, was originally scheduled to come to Canton on November 14. A mechanical issue with his plane, left him stranded in Singapore and made it to where they had to change the date to Monday, November 20. This was fortunate enough for me, because I wasn’t sure my schedule would allow me to attend the original event. The change in date allowed me to even bring my son to hear Jay Asher speak and to get his autograph.
When we first arrived at the Canton Palace Theater, I wasn’t sure how the turnout would be. Since I had never been to one of these events, I worried there wouldn’t be a lot of people to show up. Especially considering the controversy that has been brewing over his book touching on the topic of teen suicide, alcohol use, rape, and depression. Fortunately, the library had worked with Stark County’s Mental Health & Addiction Recovery to help make this event happen. Regardless of how you feel about the topics and the way Jay approached them, these are topics that need to be discussed with today’s teens. As a future educator and someone who felt many of the things expressed by Hannah in the book, I feel there is a true need to bring these kinds of discussions to light.
As a parent, I realize that my eleven-year-old is a little young for some of the topics in the book and there are parts of the Netflix series that he hasn’t been able to view yet. But I did feel it was important enough to address the bullying, rumors, and how easy it is to feel as if no one understands. This is important to our family because my son is currently going through something that could easily lead him down this same kind of dark path. No, it’s not as serious as some of the things addressed in the book. But as I said, there is a need to start having these kinds of discussions with our kids.
I wish I could recall every aspect of Jay’s presentation, but honestly I was so focused on what he was saying, that I didn’t bother to take notes for this blog. Here’s the things I took away from it: Jay’s book Thirteen Reasons Why was never the kind of book he thought he would write. Much like myself, he was interested in becoming an educator and he had intended to write children’s books. The book came about over a period of years, in which he had a lot of time to talk to a family member who had attempted suicide and other prominent women in his life to discover their views and memories of the high school experience for girls. He never intended to write this book, but he felt it was important to bring these topics to light. He talked about the process of writing and even included some of the most memorable e-mails/messages he had received in response to the book and eventually the Netflix series. Regardless of how you feel, there are a lot of people in this world who can relate to the issue brought up in this book and it affected them.
One thing I enjoyed most about Jay was that he was funny. He never joked about the serious topics, but he was able to present his work, his process, and the importance of it all in a very relatable manner. Another thing I admired was his variety of books. Although he’s only written four books in the last decade, each book is different from the next. He’s not bound to one style of book and I am eager to read his other three books. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not opposed to people who only write mysteries, erotica, or romance, etc. But I have a lot of respect for someone who can allow themselves to explore different types of genres and stories. I have always struggled with my own writing because I felt I had to choose a genre and stick to it. Now, I see that isn’t the case.
The highlight of the night was to actually meet Jay and get his autograph. I had not read Thirteen Reason Why before it became a Netflix sensation. It came out a few years after high school and never really reached my radar. However, after watching season one, I went back to read the book and I found that I could connect to the pain and struggle that Hannah endured in high school. I remember how lonely high school felt, even though I had friends. The book helped me to reflect and come to terms with some of things I went through in high school and I think it has inspired me to be more aware with others. If there’s one thing I hope to pass on to my future students and with my sons, it’s that they are not alone and that someone does care: me.
You can click the image below to check out Jay Asher’s books:
You can learn more about Jay Asher by connecting with him through social media or checking out his blog: