Friday, February 03, 2012

Book #4: Thirteen Reasons Why (+ Dear Bully)

Since it's Poetry Friday, I’m going to start this post off with a little poem from this young adult novel:

If my love were an ocean,
there would be no more land.
If my love were a desert,
you would see only sand.
If my love were a star –
late at night, only light,
And if my love could grow wings,
I’d be soaring in flight.

This book really touched my daughter.  We both read it for the teen book group I co-lead at our neighborhood library, and I'm really looking forward to hearing what everyone has to say about Thirteen Reasons Why when we meet this weekend.  It's a difficult read, telling the story of Hannah Baker, in her own words.  It's the story of why she committed suicide.

Skye is only twelve, and so I wondered how she’d handle reading about such a painful topic. She read it on her own, and we discussed it every day or two. She was usually a little ahead of me in the story, and she’d tell me a bit of what was coming up (being careful to ask if I minded spoilers.) One day, she said, “Hannah wrote this beautiful poem, Mom. Want me to say it for you?” And she recited the poem above – she’d memorized it. It was lovely to hear it in her voice! She admired Hannah’s ability to describe a great big love, as well as her talent with rhyme and rhythm. She found the poem to be both happy and sad, expressing a bittersweet feeling.  In the book, Hannah makes fun of her poem a bit, but I love its innocence and pure beauty, and I love that my daughter saw that, too.

After reading this book, I requested Dear Bully from the library, which I had heard about on on Lee Wind’s blog. It’s a book of stories, poems, and essays about bullying, written by 70 young adult authors. They describe their own experiences and observations, as well as their hopes and dreams. Some are from the point of view of the victim, and others describe what it’s like to be the bully. Still more discuss being someone on the sidelines, watching the bullying, unsure of what to do about it.

Skye loves this one, also. She hasn’t come to any finite conclusions about bullying because of it – she’s still baffled by and angry with those who do it, and confused about how we can stop it. But both Dear Bully and Thirteen Reasons Why have certainly provided lots of opportunities for discussion between us. I think both books encourage and empower kids to speak out about bullying they experience or observe, and know that they aren’t alone in their feelings.  I think it's also a great book for adults to read.

A huge thank you to Jay Asher, author of Thirteen Reasons Why, and Megan Kelley Hall and Carrie Jones, editors of Dear Bully, for taking on these important topics to help our teens. Be sure to visit their websites – click on their names for the links – as there are some wonderful things there.

And for more poetry this Friday, head over to Karissa’s blog, The Iris Chronicles.


Myra Garces-Bacsal from GatheringBooks said...

Hi Caryl, I've heard quite a number of reviews about Thirteen Reasons why - and for the most part, reactions and thoughts vary. I am glad though to hear your own experience with it, alongside your daughter's response to it. My ten year old daughter and I have likewise been sharing poetry and novels together (we both adore Selznick and will be reading Patrick Ness' A monster calls starting this evening). I've also heard about Dear Bully for quite a while now, and I've been meaning to borrow it from our library. Thanks for the reminder.

Caryl said...

I wasn't sure what I thought of the book until the end, and I found it nicely done. Also, I don't think I (a grown-up) am particularly the audience for this kind of book. That's why it was so interesting for me to see Skye's response to it. I wouldn't have suggested this one to her, thinking it was for older teens, but it worked really well for her, and helped us to have the opportunity to discuss some sensitive topics.

We love Selznick, too. Have you seen the movie Hugo yet? I thought it was very well done. And I also want to read A Monster Calls. Enjoy!

Thanks for posting, Myra!

DHooper said...

I taught HS English for a while and I know some of my students were picking up this book to read. I like the pairing with Dear Bully for further discussions with your daughter.