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 MissFlirt@hotmail.com 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.

~Jessica

April 7, 2008

Reflecting about Corey Craig

Filed under: "13 Reasons Why" — jexter1 @ 11:25 pm

I just completed a couple of the articles that Karen sent us from the link regarding the 2006 death of Corey Craig, the vibrant and well-liked daughter of the Mr. and Mrs. Craig. Before I get into the educational aspect, I would like to send my respect and condolences to Mr. and Mrs. Craig. If you are able to read this, I want to tell you that your daughter’s positivity towards others until her final day puts me in awe. She was clearly a wonderful human being, selfless and thoughtful of others. I can only hope to be half as inspirational. I look forward to meeting you (Mr. and Mrs. Craig).

Secondly, the educational effect of articles and guest speakers is astounding. Newspaper and/or magazine articles of real life situations and encounters that explicate the topic(s) discussed in current reading are excellent ways to engage young readers further into a topic or book. Having a real life reference, besides just the fictional word of “some author,” will bring a reality to the topic and/or theme. For the students who find the topic resonates with them all too well, they have the comfort of reading the stories and hearing (if guests are able to come and speak) the stories of actual events so that they do not feel alone.

Some young adult readers will proclaim, “This could never happen in real life!” Articles, news segments, guest speakers, and so on and so forth provide the teacher with a plethora of resources to prove the gravity and truth of the issue. The more examples and visual aides that we give the students, the better they will understand it.

Lastly, the use of two or twenty different resources to support the topic/issue/lesson allows room for exploring different avenues in writing assignments. The students can write poetry that describes an actual even that they read in an article that relates to the novel, they can reflect in their journals, write a short story of their own, write in the voice of a character in the novel by using the examples of articles they have read, etc. Any other ideas??

~Jessica

Thinking about 13…

Filed under: "13 Reasons Why" — Mandy @ 1:40 pm

I finished 13 Reasons Why and am facilitating this book, along with Jess, this week in class. Like Tyrell and other texts this semester, this was a book I literally could not put down. I absolutely loved it. Not only does Asher have a wonderfully creative writing style, with Hannah’s tapes interspersed with Clay’s reactions to the tapes and the world around him, but the content is so emotionally powerful. I was also struck by how suspenseful this story was; despite the fact that readers automatically know Hannah committed suicide. Asher provides a new way for readers to explore the issue of suicide, especially teens. Also, I think this book has essential importance in classrooms. As Crutcher stressed, controversial texts give kids a way to talk about things through characters that students may actually be dealing with in real life, and by giving kids an outlet to talk about suicide, we may literally be saving lives.

On the inside flap, Asher writes that Clay learns a lesson about himself, and I definitely think that lesson is he realized he was a coward because he didn’t get to know Hannah, rather he believed the rumors and reputation associated with her. However, the ending suggests that he gets a chance at redemption, as he courageously acknowledges Skye. Although he impacted Hannah’s choice, I think that Asher is letting readers know that while we all make mistakes, we must learn from them.

I walk away from this book wondering many things…Why are adolescents so cruel to each other? Who is to blame for Hannah’s suicide? What does Asher want his audience to come away with, especially his teen audience? How can we ensure that people we care about don’t “give up?”

-Mandy

April 2, 2008

At the top of my list

Filed under: "13 Reasons Why" — kariredmond @ 8:26 pm

This novel was one of the first “real” YA lit books that I picked up in preparation for this course, and boy was I introduced to the genre with it’s captivating story line.  I literally could not put it down… I walked around with my nose in the book bumping into things so I didn’t have to miss a word. 

Not only did it spark my interest into my seminar topic, but it also made me think more about Corey Craig. I have (a couple times now) included a post standard series about her death and the work her parents are doing to help others, but I will post it again.  I think it is important for everyone to have some background since Karen has so graciously invited her parents to attend our class discussion on this novel.  This link also has a link to an article written by one of her classmates that is really touching and tells readers how the Craigs would go to Bishop Ludden to console the friends of their daughter. Where did they find this strength to help others? I cannot wait to meet these courageous people and get their opinions on this novel.

Have you guys started it yet? What do you think? Does it accurately portray the depressed teenager’s experience? If you saw hannah baker in the hallway would you have thought twice about her mental/emotional state? Do you think it was selfish that she sent these tapes or do you think that it was a final attempt for her to gain justice and/or peace of mind?

~Kari

February 9, 2008

13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Filed under: "13 Reasons Why" — sostrom @ 5:24 pm

The short of it: great book.

The long of if: It may seem like a story of teen suicide (and it is, in part), but it’s about so much more.  It depicts the social trauma of high school – the power of rumor and reputation.  It hits on so many topics: rumors, promiscuity, reputation, adolescents’ burgeoning romantic and sexual identities, cliques, accountability, objectification of women, the ethical struggle to do the right thing or turn a blind eye, missed opportunities and the snowball effect of all these things together. 

I would be remiss if I did not mention the book’s format.  Essentially, two stories – the story of Hannah Baker, a girl who kills herself (and her 13 reasons why) and Clay Jensen, a classmate and admirer of Hannah’s through whose lens we hear Hannah’s story.  Hannah records her reasons on cassette tapes, and Clay listens and responds to them adding his perspective.  It works.  Both voices come through clearly.

I really liked this book.  Although it was sad, I think it would be a great tool for opening up discussions with students about these issues.  I stands on its own as a book that might provide the sense of camaraderie so often missing from middle/high school students lives.  It also encourages readers to remember that there is so much more to a person that what we see on the surface. 

Kari recommended this book as one of her favorite YA titles.  I suspect (correct me if I’m wrong) that it may have instigated her seminar topic 🙂

-Sarah

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