Wednesday, November 14, 2012

It Gets Better

I don't know if you have seen any of the public service ads titled "It Gets Better", they are aimed at youth contemplating suicide. I think they are primarily targeting gay youth, but the idea that "it gets better" is a positive one for all kids to be told.

I just finished reading the book, The Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.

This book is hot right now. It has been translated into more than thirty languages, and will soon be a film put out by Disney. It will only become more popular.

It is the story of a boy who receives a set of cassette tapes from a girl who recently committed suicide, and the tapes chronicle her thirteen reasons why she killed herself.  The story itself is interesting, albeit quite sad. I started reading the book and ending up reading it in one evening, I was quite captivated by the story and it is well written, and quite compelling. Kids love this book, teachers love it too, and recommend it to their kids. The kids easily read it because it is a 3rd grade reading level, containing extremely graphic content. (I so easily want to go off on a diatribe right now, but I will refrain myself).

Here is the thing about this story, and I bring this up so that you know what kind of things are "hot" books for kids - no one ever tells this girl in the book that "it gets better". The problem is that she doesn't really have a good reason out of the thirteen. Not there is ever a good reason, but hers are mostly incidents of kids being unkind, or other things, some of which she only witnesses happening to other people. The problem I have is that at the end of the book, the boy who listened to the tapes goes out of his way to be kind to a student at school who is on the fringe. Great. No problem with that, but there isn't anyone shouting at the child reading the book that this girl is DEAD and isn't coming back. I feel as though it has quite a romanticized view of suicide. The girl in the story retaliates against certain people in the story by killing herself. At no time does anyone again yell at the child reading that this is horrific, and that the person retaliated against is still alive, and the girl is DEAD. No coming back from that one.
I don't know if you spend much time with the average teen, but let me tell you that they are stupid, they make poor decisions, they look at things in the moment and rarely consider the future. This really is part of being a teenager. My concern is that someone would be angry and want to "get someone back" and not think about how all this works. I'd hate to see this story influence someone in a romanticized way about suicide. Plus it really does get better.

I know that some will look at it is a good platform for discussion and prevention of suicide, however I think these discussions can happen without the romanticized versions and graphic content.

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