I got a Netflix subscription just so I could watch the 13 Reasons Why miniseries.
The series is graphic and unsettling and leaves a lot to be talked about. I haven’t even finished the series yet, but I bet my Scholastic Bonus Points that I have a few students who watched it over spring break and now are itching to read this book and others like it.
Here are a few books to steer readers to now…
Friends for Life by Andrew Norriss
This book covers similar topics to 13 Reasons Why, but the plotting, pacing, and development of the topics is catered towards a younger teen audience. Francis and Jessica become close friends quickly, but there’s a problem: Jessica’s a ghost, and Francis can somehow see her. As readers learn how Francis can see Jessica, readers are also invited to consider the importance of friendship and reaching out to loved ones in times of need.
Backlash by Sarah Darer Littman
I find myself returning to recommend this book over and over again because it hits so many teen sweet spots. Once upon a time, Lara and Bree were best friends. Then Bree started to cyberbully Lara, pushing her to attempt suicide in a highly publicized manner. Readers watch characters recover from trauma and hear the voices of others who were affected by the ongoing cyberbullying.
Optimists Die First by Susin Nielsen
Relevant information for adult readers: Susin Nielsen wrote for Degrassi. If that’s not enough to pique your interest in her books, I don’t know what is! (Unless, that is, you’ve never seen an episode of Degrassi. Fix that!) Nielsen’s book follows Petula, who feels burdened by guilt over a sibling’s death. Her healing process involves Jacob, a boy who just moved to town who is keeping some secrets of his own.
The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu
Have you heard about Alice and what she did at that party? With not one guy, but two? This fast-paced, multilayered story makes readers think more about empowered female sexuality and the pernicious power of the school rumor mill.
Reality Boy by A.S. King
From the files of deliciously messed up A.S. King comes a book about Gerald Faust, a boy better known to his high school classmates for his early-childhood antics on a reality TV show. Gerald can’t escape his well-publicized past, and his parents might as well live in a fictional universe. A.S. King’s talent as an author is developing some of the cruelest family dynamics known to contemporary literature, and this book ranks right up there for unkind parents.
Bang by Barry Lyga
Sebastian, at age four, shot his baby sister Lola by accident. Now, Sebastian is immersed in homicidal/suicidal ideation. When a new girl, Aneesa, joins the neighborhood and is unaware of Sebastian’s burning guilt, Sebastian has a chance to remake himself.
What books would you recommend to students who enjoyed watching 13 Reasons Why?
Amy Estersohn is a middle school English teacher in New York. She is a 2016 recipient of the NCTE/ALAN Gallo Grant. She laments the loss of the cassette tape.