Young Adult Lit/Crit

April 8, 2008

“13 Reasons…” hits closer to home than one thinks.

Filed under: "13 Reasons Why" — jexter1 @ 9:14 pm

While waiting to watch the hilarious and brilliant Taylor Mali, I got to talking with Professor Stearns and Mandy about “13 Reasons…” I told them how I found a way to relate closely to the story, despite never having been suicidal and never needing to deal with suicide first-hand. After sharing my story, they encouraged and convinced me to share it on the blog with the rest of you. Perhaps this will lend a hand in proving that even the most obscure topics and books can resonate with you, as long as you just give it a chance

In “13 Reasons…” Hannah explains that the root of her problems, which brought her to suicide, came from a “list.” This “list” was her school’s version of Class Superlatives, a.k.a. Who’s Hot, Who’s Not. Hannah made it on the list under “Hottest Ass.” She goes on to tell the story of how this title came about and how it ruined her reputation, and gave unwarranted permission to guys to grab her “ass” and view her as an object. One would think that she should have taken such a label as a compliment, but she found no integrity, self-respect or pride in having the “hottest ass” while she knew it was a result of rumors of her being a slut (untrue, but how can you “disprove a rumor?,” she asks).

At first, I read through the novel without connecting to it on a personal level. And then, I had time to reflect. I realized that this hits home closer than I had fathomed! In 8th grade, I received the “title” of “Class Flirt” on the list of 8th Grade Superlatives (highest grade in the middle school, so this was a big deal). I originally found it funny; it was somewhat humorous and exciting to be awarded a title, and to be recognized as someone specific rather than an average teenager.

My sentiments quickly changed once I got home. My dad was infuriated by my new position in middle school society. He told me that “Class Flirt” is basically another way of calling me “Class Slut,” and asked me if I wanted to be perceived that way… IN 8th GRADE, NONETHELESS!?! My dad demanded that I change my e-mail address from my newly created to something more generic, or at least have it be a better representation of who I am. My parents explained that “Class Flirt” is in no way indicative of the kindness, thoughtfulness, friendliness and compassion that I show others. I pondered this and realized that “Class Flirt” merely says, “You’re popular enough to be noticed, but not cool enough to be noticed for something substantial (like best looking, smartest, nicest or funniest).”

My rank in the school caste system did not change. The soccer girls (i.e. popular girls) did not invite me to their lunch table, and I was only invited to the “cool kids'” houses for parties, never private gatherings. Instead, my reputation was predetermined by the Class Superlatives. From the first day of high school, until I finally had a serious boyfriend, I dealt with girls calling me “slut,” “bitch,” and “whore.” Girls whose boyfriends spoke to me, or god-forbid were my friends, hated me and accused me of trying to “steal their boyfriends.” These girls were rounding third base when I had just gotten my first kiss a few months earlier, yet I was being ridiculed! Since I had a strong foundation of supportive, involved parents and loyal, understanding friends, I never was consumed by these names; however, it did bring on some tears and confusion as to why so many girls didn’t like me when I had done NOTHING.

So, I digress, and want you to know that deep within every story is a story that someone can connect to. And deep within every rumor are a lie and a truth, both aching to be heard.



1 Comment »

  1. Jess,

    Thank you for being so courageous, and sharing your story. One thing that really impresses me is how much your parents were involved in helping to “show you” what labels can mean, and protect you from embracing a possibly damaging role that might be difficult to shuff.

    Your parents obviously love you very much, and want you to succeed in this world free from being a superfluous categorical place holder. It’s encouraging to know that parents like yours are out there. And it’s also good to know that empathetic people like you are here as a result.


    Comment by Joyce — April 9, 2008 @ 7:14 pm

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