By ELISE McKEOWN SKOLNICK
While writing for his high school newspaper, Jay Asher learned that words have power. That’s what the author of “Thirteen Reasons Why” told a group of teens Oct. 15 when he spoke at the Austintown library. And he knew he wanted to continue writing.
“I wanted to write funny books for kids,” he said.
He wrote several, including “Stop, Easter Bunny, You Forgot Something.” He nearly sold a couple, but publication eluded him.
An audio tour of a Las Vegas exhibit gave him the idea of using cassette tapes to structure a book. The suicide attempt of a young female relative gave him a plot idea.
“Nothing I had ever written was serious,” he said. “But I thought it was important to write about it.”
Asher spent three years writing “Thirteen Reasons Why.”
The book details – through a set of cassette tapes she leaves behind – the thirteen reasons the main character commits suicide. Classmate Clay Jensen finds the package and discovers he’s one of the reasons. Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah’s pain.
Asher wanted the book to be suspenseful, to keep readers reading, so he modeled it after what he called the perfect suspenseful book – “The Monster at the End of this Book” by Jon Stone, which features Grover from Sesame Street.
“I thought [Thirteen Reasons Why] was the best thing I had ever written,” he said. “I would be crushed if it didn’t sell.”
It didn’t sell – at first. It was rejected 12 times. But unlucky number 13 was lucky for Asher.
Students from Austintown Fitch, Austintown Middle School and South Range High School attended the author event.
EvaEnid Rivera, a student at AMS, said she wants to read the book, now that she’s heard Asher speak.
Lauren Novak, also a student at AMS, read Asher’s second book, “The Future of Us,” which he co-authored with Carolyn Mackler.
“It was a really good book,” she said.