The Night Jay Asher Came for Dinner

It was a chilly autumn morning, and I slept soundly under a heap of blankets. Little did I know, but Cassie Cox had been up for hours, and she’d left a message on my powered-down cell phone.I always love hearing from Cassie. She constantly finds new and remarkable ways to inspire, enlighten, and make a difference in the lives of her students at Two Rivers High School in Ogden, Utah. Her influence reaches beyond the classroom, and I’m gratefully one of the countless people who’ve been touched by her magic. I couldn’t wait to hear what incredible feat she’d accomplished or arrangement she’d made.

As I listened to Cassie’s animated voice, my ears perked at the mention of Jay Asher. Ever since I devoured his YA novel Thirteen Reasons Why, I’ve been dying to meet the world-renowned author. I loved reading his updates on Facebook and the like, and I admired the way he came across as approachable and down-to-earth, even as his success skyrocketed.

“He’s coming to speak at Two Rivers Friday morning,” Cassie said, and I smiled to myself. If anyone can score a visit by the #1 New York Times bestselling author, it’s Cassie. I was thrilled she thought enough of me (and my stellar taste in literature) to invite me along. I’m going to be in the same room with Jay Asher! Butterflies flitted in my belly as I slapped together lunches for my three sons.

Turns out, Cassie wasn’t calling to invite me to his author presentation. “Jay sent me a specific request,” her message continued. “He wants us to come have dinner with you tomorrow night. You’re the first person he said he wanted to meet in Utah.”

The peanut butter-slathered knife fell out of my hand and onto the tile of my freshly renovated kitchen. All those crazy Utah sayings buzzed through my mind: “Shut the front door!” “Cheese and rice!” “Butter my butt and call me a biscuit!”

Am I dreaming? Is this a prank call? Am I on one of those reality shows where people’s dreams are granted? Oh no! Is a camera crew hiding in the pantry, ready to catch me in my ratty pajamas and glamorous bed-head ‘do?  

I shooed the kids to the bus stop, having no clue what I’d ended up tossing into their lunchboxes, and called Cassie back. Sure enough, Jay was flying in from California and he wanted to come to beautiful Eden, Utah. Tomorrow night, Jay Asher will be right here, in my house.

Sara Zarr, Jay Asher, Wendy Toliver

Sara Zarr, Jay Asher, Wendy Toliver

Funny thing is, getting the kitchen ready, grocery shopping, and cooking was such a whirlwind affair; I didn’t have time to freak out in proper fan girl fashion. Even as I write about the experience two days later, I can’t believe that the one and only Jay Asher—whose poignant, well written, and beloved books have won the biggest awards, topped the most prestigious lists, and earned this voracious reader’s and small-town author’s undying admiration—sat at my table, ate the food I’d prepared, and rode my son’s flowboard down the driveway. (Cassie tried to get video, but it was too dark.)

Cassie Cox (English teacher extraordinaire), Sara Zarr, Jay Asher, Wendy Toliver

Cassie Cox (English teacher extraordinaire), Sara Zarr, Jay Asher, Wendy Toliver

In addition to Jay Asher, the guest list included: Mrs. Cox and Mrs. Foy from Two Rivers High School, Ms. Woodring from Bonneville High School, Mrs. Bulloch from Snowcrest Junior High, celebrated author Sara Zarr and her husband Gordon, and my husband, Matt. We discussed all sorts of interesting topics, from “banned” or “challenged” books (Thirteen Reasons Why holds spot three in a recent list), to polygamy (Disclaimer: this topic was not started by Jay), from what everyone was reading (Jay reads historical nonfiction books in his so-called free time) to what Sara is doing to commensurate her upcoming birthday (Sorry, but we are all sworn to secrecy.)

Of course, the next morning I hightailed it to Jay’s presentation at Two Rivers. Between that and our previous evening in Eden, here are some interesting facts I learned about Jay Asher: 1.) He’s a regular Coke guy. 2.) He overuses commas because they’re cute. 3.) The most suspenseful book ever written is The Monster At the End of the Book, starring Grover from Sesame Street. 4.) He is witty, kind, humble, funny, and an absolute pleasure to hang out with.

To keep up with Jay Asher’s authorly adventures, check out his blog at

Author Jay Asher speaking at Two Rivers High School in Ogden, Utah

Author Jay Asher speaking at Two Rivers High School in Ogden, Utah


One thought on “The Night Jay Asher Came for Dinner

  1. Pingback: The Storm Before the Calm: Countdown to the First Annual Swan Valley Writers’ Retreat | Wendy Toliver

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