(KMSP) - Author of award-winning novel “13 Reasons Why,” Jay Asher, spoke on Saturday at the Twin Cities Teen Lit Convention after the book received lash back from mental health critics.
Asher said he has been dealing with criticism since the novel first came out 10 years ago, some even wanting the book banned. The author believes the Netflix series based off of the book is sparking an important conversation about some difficult issues.
“The only thing that bothers me, is when people try to and shut down conversation about it,” said Asher. “To me, that is the most dangerous thing.”
QUICK READ - Why '13 Reasons Why' is so controversial
Hundreds of budding teen authors listened on Saturday as Jay Asher described the creative process behind “13 Reasons Why.”
The novel, and its adaptation into a Netflix series, follows a fictional high school student named Hannah Baker who takes her own life. Hannah leaves behind a series of audio tapes explaining the reasons behind her suicide.
Teens in the crowd wasted no time asking about the controversy surrounding both the novel and the Netflix series. Some critics take issue with the way the story graphically depicts the issues of teen suicide and sexual assault.
“The way we're comfortable, the way we've dealt with them for decades, you know the camera fades out,” said Asher. “Right, it happens in another room, and then all this time, though, we keep wondering why do people do not understand, how horrific it is. It's because we never show those people how horrific it is.”
Lakeville Area schools were among the districts across the country warning parents about the show. The schools offered ways to help parents frame the conversation about suicide.
Critics have called the premise and plot unrealistic and dangerous, as it depicts counselors unsympathetic to Hannah’s concerns.
“I guarantee there's nothing in that show or the book that hasn't happened to teens,” said Asher, when asked about this. “Sometimes it hasn't happened very often, but it does happen. When we hear adults saying ‘adults wouldn't react that way,’ I can guarantee, I've heard from teens who said that's what happened when they reached out.”
Many at the Twin Cities Teen Lit Convention at Henry Sibley High School support the author and the book.
“I feel like it’s good to bring attention to this subject,” said one teen.
Asher says the story is a cautionary tale, and rather than glorifying suicide, it has led teens and adults across the country to seek help.
“Every scene in the book that one person has contacted me saying they have a problem with, or that they thought was irresponsible, I've had dozens of people say that was the part they connected with.”
Asher said he based the story on a female relative who attempted suicide, she had left hints along the way that were not heeded at the time.
If you are in need of help, please continue to reach out and find someone you can talk to, or contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
You can text “HELLO” to 741-741 or call 1 (800) 273-TALK.