37. Thirteen Reasons Why (Jay Asher)

Screen Shot 2017-05-06 at 9.36.43 PMThirteen Reasons Why was published in 2007 but has been in the news since the Netflix series has debuted.  It is the story of  Hannah Baker, a highschool student who committed suicide, leaving a legacy of reasons in a shoebox full of audio tapes.  These tapes were mailed sequentially to those that she held responsible for the rumours, the sadness and the loneliness that she experienced.

My daughter read the book and shared that she felt that it is a great book to start discussions, to make readers think about how their actions impact others and to understand how important it is to be kind.  Despite her very mature outlook on the topic, the Grand Erie School Board recently shared that they have “concern with the series as it may harm students who struggle with mental health challenges” and that it includes the “glamorization of suicidal behaviour and negative portrayals of helping professionals, which may prevent youth from seeking help”.  The board stated that “incidents of self-harm can increase after media portrayals of suicide. We do not want to contribute to this. We know, of course, that some students will watch this series or read the book outside of school” leading me to believe that this book may have been banned from the schools.

Before commenting, I had to read the book myself and wonder how many members of the Grand Erie staff have actually read the book?  I will admit that I have not watched the Netflix series so my comments are strictly related to the book.  It is a devastating story but one that leads to important discussions in relation to rumours, bullying, alcohol, parties, rape and suicide – all issues that are important to address at both home and at school since these are topics impacting students.

My challenge to the Grand Erie District School Board is to embrace this book, to open lines of communication with teens, to promote kindness and support for those that are struggling and develop curriculum based on 13 Ways Students Can Support Each Other.  The topic is serious but suicide can be a sad reality and schools must do their part to create positive learning environments.  I can appreciate that the school board may feel that it may provide “negative portrayals of helping professionals”  yet I can share personal experience of a guidance counsellor telling a depressed student that they need to “just force yourself to get out of bed” showing that there is a lack of education and understanding about depression and proving a need for more education to these role models.

This is a book that all families, all teachers and health professionals need to read.  It is a great conversation starter and can help make a difference to help students like Hannah Baker along with taking bullying and negative behaviours seriously and recognizing the signs when a student needs help and guiding them through the complex system of mental health resources.  Please take the time to read this book – it can be read in a day and the time spent turning pages will cause readers to reflect and be conscious of the impact of their words and actions on others.

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13 Responses to 37. Thirteen Reasons Why (Jay Asher)

  1. I haven’t read the book but I will. I finished watching the TV series last night and I do agree with some professionals that this series could be dangerous. As a women who was bullied and sexually harassed in and outside of high school it brought back a lot of memories, harmful memories. I also suffer from mental illness due to a lot of things from my past.

    I do like that it is a conversation starter and brings awareness and I hope more then anyone that school officials are discussing it. I do disliked how far the series went with it’s rape scenes. They did give a warning at the start of the episodes but I didn’t think they needed to go that graphic to prove a point. It personally made me feel very unconformable and upset especially for any women who have been raped that did watch the show and perhaps were not ready for how graphic the nature of it was going to be. At the end of the day it’s the most talked about show at the moment which on the grand scale of things can only be a good thing in spreading awareness about suicide in teenagers. It’s defiantly given me a new prescriptive on what to look for in my friends that are struggling and how to just be there for them.


    • Thanks for sharing Annalisa. I hope that you were able to get support! I can’t comment on the series as i my comments were only related to the book but do hope it opens conversations. 🙂


  2. Christine says:

    That is helpful to know. I felt confused when my daughter was raving about the show yet I was hearing the concerns expressed on CBC radio. We will give the book a try…. and get talking about it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: 38. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton) | A Year of Books

  4. I like your take on this. Unfortunately, I know from experience how guidance counselors are so poorly trained and equipped to deal with students who may need help.


    • It is unfortunate that guidance counsellors are not health professionals with a background in mental health.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I agree. They should have actual licensed social workers at schools t on help kids that need it. My son’s school system emailed parents warning of the content of the show and emphasized how parents should trust the staff in the schools. That, to me, anyway, seemed a little off. They know that guidance counselors aren’t equipped, but kids are continuously told by staff that a guidance counselor is their best resource for getting help, when it’s not the case at all.


  5. One of the things I’ll be advocating for my son is to know where to find real help. Schools are scared, and I believe they should be.


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