13 Reasons Why

If you enjoyed the novel or the Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why, you will want to read Julie Butler’s debut novel entitled Paper Girl. Butler’s novel exposes the perfect storm of cruelty, misunderstanding, and manipulation that contributes to a young girl’s unspoken raw pain. The music of Kurt Cobain is central to the book’s story line.

Butler is a long-time fan of Kurt Cobain, the front man of the group Nirvana. She, like millions of others, understands what it’s like to feel “stupid and contagious” (lyrics from Nirvana’s teen anthem, “Smells Like Teen Spirit”). Although the author understands all too well the debilitating power of “The Bully,” as she refers to depression in the novel, she has spent many hours combing articles and Cobain biographies in an attempt to understand his specific pain and where it may have begun. How did Cobain’s illness and addiction develop and ultimately cause him to end his own life?

Paper Girl will make you feel Nikki’s pain. You will cheer for her on every page. You will understand how cruelty and the inability to fully be yourself in the world contributes to unbearable pain for those who are paying attention. In a way, the author is a bit envious of those who don’t notice the homeless or the elderly. At times she has wished to be unfeeling and oblivious to the ways in which people cause harm to one another. Below is a quote from Michael Stipe during Nirvana’s induction to the Hall of Fame.

“It is the highest calling for an artist…to expose our struggles, our aspirations, our desires…Cobain, Novoselic, and Grohl were Nirvana…Nirvana defined a moment, a movement for outsiders: for the fags; for the fat girls for the broken toys; the shy nerds; the Goth kids from Tennessee and Kentucky; for the rockers and the awkward; for the fed-up; the too-smart kids and the bullied.” (Michael Stipe)

Advertisements

Do you include others?

Regardless of your religion (or the choice to have no religion), it is important to be inclusive in your daily life. You can increase the light and goodness in the world by widening the various “safe” circles in your day. I always try to include others any chance I get. Have you ever been on the other end of this scenario? Have you ever been the new student at school? Have you ever walked past a group of students who are laughing and joining together in a non-inclusive manner? It feels lonely.

Are you a student? When you walk the halls of your middle school or you eat lunch in your high school cafeteria, there are many opportunities to spread goodness. Be brave! Speak to someone who looks lonely or who looks like they might be struggling. Did a student drop their books? Be brave! Help them pick up the books. Share your smile with them. Is a new student looking lost in the cafeteria? Is someone sitting alone at the lunch table? Be brave! Say, “Hi, I’m ______! What’s your name?”

Find a way to connect with people who might not be part of the popular group. If you start practicing this inclusion each and every day, you will become more comfortable doing so. There are so many hurting and lonely people in the world. All kinds of clubs and groups are established for the purpose of grouping us together with people who are the same as us: country clubs, sororities, political groups, unofficial groups of cliches who don’t welcome others. The list goes on and on. Personally, I am uncomfortable associating in these types of groups. I always want to include others who might not have the money to join the country club or purchase the “right” clothing.

As human beings, we must support one another in brave ways. I live in a part of the United States we call The Bible Belt. I don’t typically see Christians behaving in ways of inclusiveness. This hurts me deeply. It’s as if we, as Christians, want to build walls to “keep out the bad people,” or “protect our clean selves from those who are dirty.” You might not be a Christian, but you may know something about Christ. Christ hung out with “unclean” people. The message of the gospel is “the good news.” The good news is that God loves us and accepts us and wants us to treat each other with respect and kindness. When Christ walked this earth, he welcomed people of all class status. That’s the whole point! Are you Buddhist? Muslim? Jewish? Agnostic? It makes no difference what belief system you hold — be brave! Include others you encounter throughout your day. Be on the lookout for opportunities to give away your smile or your assistance and kindness.

Paper Girl

I just received the most amazing complement on my recently-released novel, “Paper Girl.” A teacher from Tennessee tells me that the story has changed the way she looks at her students! First, let me say I am both flattered and honored by this statement. I wrote the story from a place of love and empathy for teenagers.  Secondly, I want to say how grateful I am to teachers. These human angels pour their hearts and minds into teaching and encouraging the young people of the world to reach for their dreams. I am grateful for these wonderful people who do so much for the young, thereby investing in the world’s future.

You’ve probably heard the saying, “Treat others with kindness. Everyone you meet is fighting some type of battle.” The protagonist in my novel, “Paper Girl” is 15, and she fights against clinical depression and perfection every day of her life. She also has other tough battles to fight at school and at home.

The power of kindness is stronger than darkness. You just never know how far a little kindness in the form of inclusiveness can go. See someone at school sitting by himself? Why not say, “Hi,” or invite him to join you for lunch. Like his shirt? Tell him!

Kindness goes a very long way in boosting an otherwise-lonely person’s day. You don’t have to solve all of the person’s problems, but you can at least be kind and realize that they are probably fighting some type of battle. These battles could be big or small, but they are still battles. Things like: feeling misunderstood; loneliness; perhaps being bullied by another student or even a sibling; stresses at home with parents’ divorce or financial problems; concerns over a grandparent’s health; sadness over the loss of a family pet. There are any number of battles we fight on a daily basis. Be purposeful and notice a person who needs kindness today.