Author Jay Asher visits, discusses popular book, ‘Thirteen Reasons Why’

Durva Trivedi, News Editor Emily Zhen, Staff Writer
April 2, 2012

Books can inspire profound effects in people, change how readers think, and in some cases, affect how people interact with one another. After reading the book “Thirteen Reasons Why” by Jay Asher, sophomore Rachel Tinker said she started paying more attention to the way she treated others.

Asher, who also co-wrote the book “The Future of Us” with Carolyn Mackler, visited Central for a book talk on March 9. His presentation attracted students like Tinker who felt a personal connection to the story.

In his presentation, Asher talked about how he chose writing as a career and the struggles he faced before becoming a published author.

In reference to “Thirteen Reasons Why,” Asher said, “I was really nervous about working on this book because I don’t personally like serious books, and I don’t like depressing books.”

Nonetheless, in his best-selling fictional novel one of the main characters, Clay Jensen, learns the 13 reasons why his classmate, Hannah Baker, committed suicide just two weeks earlier by listening to prerecorded tapes that she leaves behind.

Asher said that the inspiration for this book came after a relative of his, a junior in high school at the time, attempted to take her own life. Although Asher’s relative survived, his character of Hannah was not so lucky in the novel he wrote a couple years later.

“I had an issue that I thought was important, and I was just trying to write a good story based around it,” Asher said.

Library Director Lauren Peterson, who invited Asher to Central after realizing the popularity and impact of this novel, was impressed by students’ positive reactions.

“‘Thirteen Reasons Why’ is by far our most circulated title right now,” Peterson said. The Central library has 55 copies available for check out.

Additionally, Peterson said that due to its addition to the book list for the mental illnesses unit in Health classes at Central, many students are excited about reading this book and feeling the powerful effects of this simple story. Sophomore Vanitha Raguveer is one such student.

“The book taught me to be careful in what I say and do, because people react to things in different ways, and my words and actions could affect other people in ways I don’t think about,” Raguveer said.

Readers have opposing viewpoints about the authenticity of Asher’s portrayal of teen suicide.

Tinker feels that Asher’s account was accurate and true to life.

“Suicide among teens is a terrible and pressing issue that has become much too relevant,” said Tinker. “Jay Asher’s book handled this topic amazingly.”

Raguveer, however, disagrees. She, like some critics, believes the book romanticizes suicide.

“I thought the book was unrealistic because Hannah decides to commit suicide over the smallest problems,” said Raguveer. “I get that everyone has problems and people react to stress differently, but sometimes I thought that such an insignificant issue shouldn’t have caused her so much grief.”

Asher recognized these critiques and said he acknowledges how important it is to place some of the blame with the suicidal person.

“I wanted people to see that Hannah was not perfect,” Asher said.

When he started with “Thirteen Reasons Why,” Asher knew exactly what he was trying to say.

“One main thing I wanted people to realize was, you never know what else anybody is dealing with,” Asher said.

Additionally, he wanted to write the kind of book a reader could not put down until it was over.

“My focus was on making it a page turner,” said Asher. “I wanted it to be an entertaining piece.”

Asher said that some of the fan mail he got was astonishing and humbling.

“I was having people email me saying ‘your book saved my life,’” Asher said.

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