Only positive things can come from teens and adults honestly discussing the serious issues presented in so many teen novels. That's why I'm always so happy to hear about parents reading Thirteen Reasons Why, or teachers working it into their curriculum. So imagine how thrilled it made me to know an entire community had decided to read and discuss my book! My visit to Rome, Georgia this week was only the conclusion to their lengthy discussion of bullying and suicide prevention.
On Thursday, I spoke at three schools. My time at Floyd Education Center, Rome Transitional Academy, and Rome High School were wonderful because almost every student I spoke to had read the book. At one school, students figured out something positive to take away from each cassette tape (in most books, that's what you'd call a chapter), and were reminded of those positive thoughts every time they walked down the hall.
Another school recreated Hannah's map on the wall as they read through the book aloud. But they didn't read the entire book themselves. Their teacher had previously recorded all of Hannah's words onto cassettes (their sides labeled 1 thru 13), and then different students added Clay's words. They also made Found Poetry, taking snippets of text from each cassette to create poems.
At Rome High School, I spoke to all of their freshmen at once.
And then, something I thought was going to be insanely cheesy turned out to be quite inspiring. Each guidance counselor had their respective students stand up and repeat a chant, challenging their group to have the most graduates in 2014. The entire freshman class then stood and sang their alma mater accompanied by members of the school band.
That evening, I attended a reception with the seven winners of a county-wide Thirteen Reasons Why essay contest, which included middle school, high school, and college students.
The reception was followed by a presentation to the community.
It was a very emotional evening from beginning to end. Hanging up in the auditorium were quilts displaying the names and faces of Georgians who took their own lives. The woman who introduced me to the audience said she felt personally connected to Thirteen Reasons Why because her son had once attempted suicide, and I had the pleasure of meeting him when my speech was over.
The speech itself was so much fun. The questions during the Q&A were some of the best I've been asked (and I didn't even have to pull teeth to get them to ask questions!).
Here are some shots of my new friends. Aren't they beautiful!
To check out the newspaper's take on my visit, as well as see some photos and watch some video taken throughout the day, check out the Rome News-Tribune.