Friday, February 29, 2008

Discuss Amongst Yourselves -- Jay

The E.B. White Read Aloud Award was first given in 2004, then divided into two categories a couple years later (one for picture books and one for older readers). Being a rather new award, it’s still building name recognition, and not one I imagined seeing my name attached to…until now.

No, I didn’t win the award. But Thirteen Reasons Why has been nominated for it. Quick! Guess which category!

The nomination got me thinking about an aspect of writing which I never thought about while working on 13RW…or any of my previous (and still unpublished) novels. See, I always wanted lots and lots and lots of readers. Primarily, I wanted to entertain them. And secondarily (if that’s a word, and even if it’s not), I wanted to present opportunities to think about the world from other points of view…and not necessarily my point of view.

But I never considered that amazing D-word: discussion.

Because of 13RW book clubs popping up across the country, schools and bookstores and libraries are bringing teens and adults together to discuss the issues raised in the book. Those discussions allow for even more points of view than what I presented in the book. Which is amazing!

I’ve also heard from parents and children, boyfriends and girlfriends, and best friends who read the book aloud to each other (one person reading as Clay, the other as Hannah). Those discussions led to even deeper understandings among already close readers. Which is amazing!

Why this has me so excited is because it brings me back to my high school days. I remember one teacher, Mr. Miller, who often brought up “contemporary issue” discussions in his classroom. Some of the issues were controversial. But when he raised the issues, he never offered his own opinions. He simply wanted us to hear what other students thought. And I was very opinionated about some of those issues. In response to my opinions, his most common question was, “But why?” And he never accepted, “It’s just how I feel” as a legitimate answer.

After hearing other points of view in that class, my opinions changed quite a bit on quite a few issues…though I rarely admitted that in class!

So whether Thirteen Reasons Why (or future books) are read aloud among close family members and friends, or discussed by large groups in a safe environment, I am beyond thrilled…because discussion is always a good thing. At the very least, even if your opinion isn’t changed, it allows you to know why other people hold differing points of view.

And that, I know, has made me a much better person…and writer.

- Jay


Kim said...

Congratulations! 13 Reasons Why totally deserves this honor!

Although I didn't use the "D" word, I did say, "This is a great book for parents and teens to read together. There will be lots to talk about," when I reviewed this book for my Kansas City Star blog back in November.

SilberBook-Blog said...

What an amazing "gift" you have given people. It must feel good to deeply know that your intentions have been realized in the readers who embark on the journey of "13 Reasons".

Opening dialogues about subjects too raw to the result of hard work and creative truth.

And isn't that what it's all about?


Colorado Writer said...

Still more proof that you a ROCKSTAR!

Yee-Lum said...

Wow. Now that's cool. And 13 Reasons Why completely does deserve it.

It is that sort of book you can't shut up about after finishing it. Which is why the galley group loves it. Because we can talk about it forever.

There are four of our galley people in my lit class, so we'll quote little bits of the book to each other when it seems to fit with what we're talking about.

My God, I love that book.

I hope it wins. It probably will, because this is a extraordinary book to read aloud. Kind of creepy, but in a very, very good way. =]

Disco Mermaids said...

I don't know if you're aware of this, but your comments all sound so amazing when read aloud.

So you all win the E.B. White Read Aloud Award for Blog Comments.

Congratulations!!! And thank you. :-)

- Jay

Anonymous said...

Yay! congrats! and I agree...Discussion is a GREAT thing!

Your book is such a cool intro for parents and teens to talk about so many different issues that affect us in high school - from partying, to sex, to suicide and of course how our actions affect others.

I love your writing! - In fact, I hope you're making headway on another book.


LindaBudz said...

I'm sure you've seen the "discussion" of your book going on over at Verla's ... so interesting to see others' thoughts on the book and its themes.

I hope you win, Jay. You deserve it. And, Charlotte's Web is my favorite MG book of all time, so what a cool award to be nominated for. Congratulations!

Brooke Taylor said...


I wish there had been more books that provoked discussions when I was a teen. The Sweet Valley High series didn't quite cut it.

Joey said...

Hey Jay,

I gave my 13 yo stepdaughter your book for Xmas. She finished it by the next day. She told me, "I just couldn't put it down."

It then ended up in the hands of my wife, who is a voracious reader, she finished it in a few days. She gave it high marks as well.

Being an illustrator, I had to opt for the audio version to keep my hands free. After I finished, we had a chance to discuss some of its topics. It provided a door of opportunity for discussion with a teenager.

Thanks for a great book, a sharp perspective and a reason for teenagers to open up.