Jay Asher had no idea how much of an impact his book would have on students when he originally wrote it as a response to the suicide attempt of a close relative. In fact, his book was originally not received well, as it was rejected 12 times, to the point that he likened every rejection letter to a breakup, noting to HP students, “If I was going to get through this rejection process, I was going to have to make a game out of it.” His good humor and resilience kept him moving forward and he was eventually signed on by a publisher. Since then, Asher’s book has become a call to action for an anti-bullying campaign. This year, he has launched a tour called 50 States Against Bullying and is visiting a school in each state. Highland Park was honored to be the Minnesota school.
Asher’s book, Thirteen Reasons Why, deals with suicide and a lot of issues that teens face in their time in high school. Today, Asher offered wise words to Highland Park students. With regard to the people that we see at school every day, Asher stated, “A lot of what you know about them is just what you’ve heard about them.” There is a quintessential truth to this statement, as gossip and rumors can become commonplace in high school, so often accepted as truth that they lock high school students in an ongoing battle to be who they are amid the overpowering idea of how others perceive them. Asher’s character faces a similar dilemma. Hannah Baker has a series of vicious rumors that circulate about her, rumors that, according to Asher, “change how they see her and then change how they treat her and eventually how she sees herself.” Although Asher never meant to challenge how we treat each other, his book seems to reminds high schoolers of their power and influence in the lives of each other.
Asher’s book resonates with different teens in different ways. That is one of the reasons why it is such a powerful story. At his presentation, Asher shared many of the responses that he had gotten. Many cited the book as a life changer; some realized that they weren’t alone in their struggles, while others pledged to open their eyes to how they treat people and work for others.
It isn’t hard to see why Asher’s book was such a success. His presentation was loaded with wit and humor, and he seemed to connect with the struggles of high school students that often seem overlooked especially by adults. On behalf of Highland Park students and staff, thank you Jay Asher for choosing our school and for all your work to bring awareness to bullying and suicide.
Follow Jay on Twitter @jayasherguy and visit his blog at jayasher.blogspot.com (As he said, “This is how we can all stay friends when I go home.” )
Above: Jay Asher speaks with Highland Park students at the assembly