6 Gut-Punchers to Read After You Binge-Watch 13 Reasons Why

I got a Netflix subscription just so I could watch the 13 Reasons Why miniseries.13-reasons-why_0

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

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


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.


truth alice

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.


gerald faust

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 lyga

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.



6 thoughts on “6 Gut-Punchers to Read After You Binge-Watch 13 Reasons Why

  1. […] 6 Gut-Punchers to Read After You Binge-Watch 13 Reasons Why | Three Teachers Talk […]


  2. Shana Karnes May 1, 2017 at 5:50 am Reply

    Thanks for this list! I haven’t heard of about half of these!!!


  3. Tracy April 25, 2017 at 2:19 pm Reply

    All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. Deals with a teen and his depression – the can’t get out of the closet or talk to anyone kind of depression. Very dark, but shows how powerless some people feel trying to battle it. Ugly cry kind of book.


  4. Bliss Bednar April 24, 2017 at 11:12 am Reply

    Tunnel Vision by Fran Arrick. I read it in high school in the 80’s, so I think it is out of print now. It begins with Anthony already dead. His family and friends are trying to figure out why he killed himself because he didn’t leave a note. He seemed to have it all–popular, athletic. Very good book if you can find a copy of it. I haven’t read 13 Reasons Why, but it sounds similar to Tunnel Vision.


  5. Smith-Chavira Terri April 24, 2017 at 11:05 am Reply

    Thank you 😊


  6. Amy Rasmussen April 24, 2017 at 10:44 am Reply

    Two titles I can think of that will spur some thinking after watching 13 Reasons, or before:

    The First Time She Drowned — I just finished this one this weekend. Loved it! Beautifully written, intriguing narrator, and a mom I wanted to punch in the face.

    My Heart and Other Black Holes — Two teens meet on a social media site for people who want to commit suicide. They decide to help one another go through with it. Horrible premise, right? The story is one that taught me a lot about the darkness of depression, and I am better able to talk to my students about their issues now.


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