Author of Thirteen Reasons Why, Jay Asher, visits EHS


Grace Wolf

Jay Asher visits EHS

Anjali Aralikar, staff writer

On Tuesday, October 25th, author Jay Asher visited Edina High School talk about his novel, Thirteen Reasons Why. This event was hosted by the EHS Book Club and very enthusiastic crowd.

Asher started off by asking the students if they had read his novel and nearly everyone raised their hands. Thirteen Reasons Why is one of his most well known novels as well as a New York Times Bestseller. It’s about the story of a girl who commits suicide and leaves behind cassette tapes containing 13 reasons why she committed suicide (hence the title), and a boy (the narrator) who listens to these tapes and, along with the reader, tries to figure out why she committed suicide. It tackles subjects such as suicide, love, betrayal, and guilt with eloquence and grace. In fact, it’s his ability to write about these subjects that appeals to readers the most. “I like how his stories are different,” said sophomore Caroline Machart. “It’s something new that I haven’t really read about before.” The book alternates perspectives within chapters; the girl’s perspective through tape recordings and the boy’s perspective as the narrator of the story. It creates an element of suspense, leaving the reader hanging onto every last detail.

Asher then moved on to talking about his writing progress, “You can find a ton of awesome interesting ideas if you take a trip to Las Vegas.” He told the story of how he got his first idea for the book in Las Vegas at an Egyptian-themed casino. His idea came from the audio tour of a mock up egyptian tomb, where he went around listening to tape recordings, which told him about the specific story about each location on the tour. What inspired him was the fact you could press pause or rewind and the story could still be there. “At the very end of the tour, I thought I want to write a book set up like this where instead of chapters you have sides of cassette tapes,” Asher said. His second idea came from a close relative of his who attempted suicide. This experience gave him the opportunity to explore how this relative was feeling and their life experiences which ended up shaping the novel.

When the two ideas finally came together, Asher was excited but rather nervous to write about it. “To this day, I honestly don’t like reading sad books and the book was obviously going to be sad,” he said. “My goal was to write it so someone like me, who doesn’t like sad books would have a hard time putting it down.”  This was the reason the novel was shaped as a suspense novel. Another aspect he wanted to keep in check was the pacing, which is why he came up with the number of reasons, 13, because he wanted it to be a pun on his character’s last name, Baker (“baker’s dozen”). He also includes the emotions around gossip in his novel, since gossip impacts almost everyone’s life. Asher then started talking about the publishing aspect of his book. He was rejected 12 times before he finally was accepted by a publisher. He shared some of the rejections with the group, which gave the group some insight on how to take rejections.

After that, Asher transitioned to talking about how the book impacted its readers. He shared some of the emails he received, which were about how the book resonated with each of the readers. The emails ranged from topics about how the book inspired them to be a better person and how they could relate to the characters in the novel and how that inspired them to take action in their life. So that what happened to the character, Hannah, would not happen to them or to anyone else in their life.

Asher then gave us the news that there would be a 13-episode mini-series created by Netflix based on the books which would be coming out in March. He went on to talk about how the book has fared in other countries and how the cover of the book has changed from country to country. He also talked about his other projects which involved co-writing a book with Carolyn Mackler, the Picture of Us, and ends with talking about his new novel, What Light, which is about a girl, falling in love with a boy, even though they both live very far away from each other.

Even though the bell rang before any member of the group had the chance to ask more questions, they still had time for a picture and book signing. All in all, the event turned out to be a very heartening event, short and sweet. For those of you who haven’t read Thirteen Reasons Why, it is definitely worth read, or even worth the wait if you want to see it on Netflix in March.