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Dear Friend,

On Wednesday, I read “By The Time You Read This, I’ll Be Dead” by Julie Anne Peters. Like Jay Asher’s “13 Reasons Why” This book deals with the ever serious topic of suicide. In 13 Reasons Why, Hannah has already committed suicide and we hear her story as she tells it though a set of tapes to Clay, with his own commentary, thoughts, and actions complementing her tale. In Julie Anne Peter’s tale, Daelyn is on the other side… we follow her as she plans her suicide, again, hoping that this time she won’t fail. As she blogs about her life and answers questions prompted by a website for “completers,” Daelyn must also deal with budding relationships and reconcile them with her desire for death. I haven’t made up my mind about this book, to a large extent, I couldn’t help but compare it to 13 Reasons Why (as, I am sure you’ve noticed) but I also felt that it had to stand alone. Daelyn’s story can’t be understood through Clay’s eyes, but must be read through Daelyn’s.

You see, I don’t think that reading 13 Reasons Why will provide insight or clarity when reading Daelyn’s story, however I do think that Daelyn’s story gives another dimension to Hannah’s side of 13 Reasons Why. To understand Daelyn’s pain and frustration with life one needs only to listen, but to understand Hannah’s reasoning, one must bring with them an awareness about how bullying can pull an individual towards the belief that death is the only answer. Unlike 13 Reasons Why, I don’t think that I would ever teach this book. The main reasoning for this is that, in some ways, it’s too open and honest… I don’t think that all students would be prepared to deal with the contents.

On Friday, I read “The Girl Death Left Behind” by Lurlene McDaniel. I didn’t realize it as I chose books and read them, but I spent a lot of time reading about death this week. This story is about a girl, Beth, whose entire family is killed in a car accident and then must move to live with her aunt, uncle, and cousin. I read a lot of Lurlene McDaniel as a Late Elementary/Early Middle school student, but I hadn’t read this one before. Her books are all short little stories that revolve around really serious topics: losing important people (obviously), having a chronic illness, etc. All serious issues that are completely unavoidable, but then she throws in a relationship component with sometimes a friendship, but more often a romantic relationship growing between the person with the illness or painful background and another person who is just starting to understand what it means to live with death or illness. I cannot tell you how many times I have read one of her books only to have one of the main characters die. For instance, in one book (I don’t remember the title) the main character needs a heart transplant but has been on the waiting list for years and she falls in love with this guy who lives in a part of town where there is a lot of gang activity. In the middle of the night her family gets the call that there is a heart for her, and after the surgery you find out that he went to tell some dude (I think it was his brother) that he couldn’t be in his gang because he wanted to be with her, gets shot in the leg, and dies. The only redeeming thing is that he has secretly been carrying a card around that says his heart is to go to her if something happens to him and they are a blood match, which, of course, he is.

Anywhoo, I’m getting really off track here. I’m not sure why her books appealed to me so much as a young reader, especially with the serious themes. Although I do tend to gravitate toward more serious themes (something I’m realizing more by the minute.) One important aspect to her books is that rather than being driven by plot, they are theme-driven… that is to say, sometimes the climax of the story-line is really early with the majority of the book being resolution, and sometimes the climax is just really subtle. For this reason, these books are a stretch for those who read for the plot alone and need to feel “pulled” into the story.

The third book (but the 4th of the week) I read since I last posted was “if you come softly” by Jacqueline Woodson. This book is a wonderful Newbery Honor winner, and has several awards, so I wasn’t surprised that I enjoyed this book. One thing that I noticed about this book is its length, at 181 pages, it felt very short. So short that is feels almost like a short snapshot into the lives of these two young people, Miah and Ellie. While the length of the book kept the details of their relationship from being pulled out, stretched, and explored, I felt that it also allowed Woodson to focus on a single aspect of their relationship in a way that isn’t often done. I would highly recommend this book, and, given the opportunity, would teach it in the classroom.