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Best-selling author talks to Ogden students about bullying, suicide

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Posted at 4:14 PM, Dec 04, 2014
and last updated 2014-12-04 22:40:25-05

OGDEN, Utah -- Bullying and suicide are sensitive but important subjects to discuss with students.

Today, many schools are using literature to reach struggling teens and get them help.

A best-selling author wrote a novel about the two topics, and it's resonating with students across the nation. He visited Two Rivers High School in Ogden Thursday.

Two Rivers is an alternative school that helps students with academic or personal issues get back on track for graduation.

Two Rivers English teacher Cassie Cox said suicide is an important and relevant issue for teens. “It's a topic that all of my students can relate to, and it's an issue that affects all of us," she said.

Jay Asher is a New York Times bestselling author for his book, Thirteen Reasons Why.

The novel tells the story of a teenage girl who takes her own life, but beforehand makes a cassette tape for each person whom she felt had pushed her to suicide.

Asher said the inspiration for the story has personal roots.

"I had a relative who attempted suicide at the same age as the girl in the book and that was where my understanding of the issue came from and why I thought it was important to talk about,” Asher said.

High schools around the nation began using the book to open discussion about bullying and suicide.

Teachers said more and more students are positively responding.

"I've heard from students over and over, 'I've read Jay Asher's book twice, three times,’” Cox said. “Last year I had a student who read it over a dozen times because she said that that was the book that saved her life."

Penguin Books Publishing Company decided to send Asher on a tour of the country to visit one high school in each of the 50 states. Two Rivers applied and won the bid.

Asher said the book's message is not only for those on the receiving end of bullying.

“There are people who read it and find they've been bullying people but never thought that's exactly what they were doing,” Asher said. “That's what the power of literature is; it lets you see things from a different perspective. You can see yourself from a different perspective."

Many students said the writer's visit has given them courage to help others who may be suffering in silence.

“It gives me the hope that one day I can step up and do something that may be dangerous to my career, something that will affect people drastically, but will have a positive outcome to someone's life,” Two Rivers senior Alyssa Johnson said. “I hope he knows how many lives that he's touched and saved.”

MORE: Click here to join in the conversation about bullying