Author Jay Asher didn’t set out to write a book about bullying. In his eyes, the story he had to tell of a teen who commits suicide after suffering the emotional slings and arrows of her peers didn’t fit the traditional definition of the word.
But in the years that followed the publication of “Thirteen Reasons Why,” Asher kept hearing from readers that the book had helped them understand bullying in a new way.
“The book just grew and grew,” he said. “And I came to see bullying as something more than I used to.”
Since its publication in 2007, the book has spent weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, and given Asher a platform to educate youth about bullying and suicide prevention. As part of that mission, Asher visited SM East Friday as part of his “50 States Against Bullying” tour. In the coming months, he’ll be visiting one high school in each state to deliver a talk. Kansas was the third stop on his tour after California and Texas.
As he told the 1,400 students who gathered in the SM East Auditorium Friday for two assemblies, the idea from the book came from a deeply personal experience: A young relative of his tried to take her own life. Through the experience of processing that suicide attempt with her, Asher said he gained an understanding of the torment young people can go through.
Asher’s stop in Prairie Village was in part arranged by Rainy Day Books owner Vivian Jennings, whose granddaughter is a student at the school.