I’ve always enjoyed books that focus on the aftermath of an event because we never talk about it. I think that is the reason I liked Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher so much because it was life after suicide. And We Stay is also the story of the after, after Emily Beam’s boyfriend kills himself in the school library. It is the story after her abortion and the guilt that drives Paul Wagoner to kill himself in front of his girlfriend.
We as a society don’t often talk about the after. We either focus on the before or the event itself but never the after. Why was there so much personal outcry against Thirteen Reasons Why? This is just my opinion but I think because it talked about the after.. Hannah Baker couldn’t be saved and we as a society couldn’t accept the fact that suicide happens and people are successful at it. It’s a sensitive subject because we probably all know someone who has committed suicide and we don’t want to talk about it because it hurts too much. We need to talk about it. I cannot stress how much we need to talk about it because there are kids out there hurting who feel they can’t talk about their suicidal thoughts because then they would get labeled. There is such a stigmatism surrounding suicide that some people are fearful of talking about it because they are not sure how people would react.
A girl recently convinced her boyfriend to commit suicide and that is tragic. Her boyfriend reached out to her and she obviously did not help him but let us use this as an opportunity to talk about suicide. I’m sure everyone at some point in their life has thought “why go on?”. However will any of us openly and publicly admit this? Why?
We live in a world where Netflix can take a book about suicide, make it into a tv show and then in everyone’s opinion “glorify” suicide. I admit I haven’t watched the entire series nor do I plan to simply because of Netflix’s decision to show Hannah’s suicide and not in the way she did it in the book. However that hasn’t stopped me from rereading the book I loved as a middle schooler and still do. I know this is not a review of Thirteen Reasons Why but what And We Stay and Jay Asher’s novel have in common is suicide a subject that is never talked about enough. Jay Asher wrote a story about a girl who committed suicide. It happens and we cannot ignore it by saying people shouldn’t write about it. It’s like saying let’s not write YA novels about love. As much as I would love to say that teens don’t think about and/or commit suicide it happens. I still shake my head at a comment I read about Thirteen Reasons Why which essentially said Hannah could have handled her suicide better. First of all Hannah is a fictional character. Second of all suicide is a tragedy and it doesn’t matter how we handle it because for someone to get so sick of life that they wish to end theirs is just awful. I don’t care how they do it what matters is that they feel life is no longer worth living.
I’m reminded of the scene in the book Thirteen Reasons Why when Hannah wrote the word suicide on a slip of paper and the remarks her fellow students made. Lots of people say those things because we don’t want to talk about suicide. We hope that by saying “it is a selfish decision”, “why would you want to kill yourself” and “think of those you are leaving behind” that somehow it will make everything better. Actually being there for people and listening to them when they are hurting is going to help more than just making blanket statements about suicide.
What about those of us left behind wondering what went so horribly wrong? Emily Beam, a fictional character, is left wondering that as well. She made a hard life choice to abort her child and then she lost the only other person she could turn to. She turned to Emily Dickinson to help her and this is why literature that talks about death and suicide is so important. Sometimes the only place hurting people can turn is to stories that mirror their own life. I am an introvert and as I explore the world of introverts I find that I am not alone and that when I want to be I can be an extrovert. I read an amazing book called FanGirl by Rainbow Rowell and it was the first time I found myself staring into a mirror as I read the story of Cath the introvert. I had never before read a book that so perfectly described my life and it makes me sad to think that it took me 20 years to find a book that described me.
Thirteen Reasons Why and And We Stay are those books for people who are reeling from a suicide of someone they know. We need to be able to talk about the “tough” subjects because if we simply ignore them those students/people who are hurting and need to talk about suicide, depression, anxiety, or whatever else you are dealing with they are not going to get the help they need.
After by Amy Efaw
The Hate List by Jennifer Brown
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher