Monday, November 29, 2010

"Only the Good Die Young"*

One thing I like about young adult books is that the authors aren't afraid to kill off main characters. It's not that I like it when fictional characters die (although I've gotta admit, I did give a little cheer when Renee Walker from 24 kicked the bucket...she was pretty freakin' annoying!), I think it makes YA books more authentic, more unpredictable, and more suspenseful.

Let's face it, in real life people die, and not just the ancillary ones (one of my pet peeves about movies is how dispensable the ancillary characters are...who cares when a character dies when you had absolutely no emotional attachment to him?). At some point in your life, someone you care about, and sometimes even love, will die. And really, any of us could die pretty much anytime. That's life, and books should reflect that.

I get that fiction--whether it be books or movies or whatever--is supposed to be an escape, but I subscribe to the thought that a piece of work that stirs my emotions and surprises me is better than one where all things turn up roses. I'll never forget when I first read the part in Little Women when Beth dies. It was terrible and heart-wrenching, but it was so good too because it's real. It's one of the things that keeps that book on the top of my favorite list.

Here's the book trailers for three books I've read over the last year that deal with the possibility of the main character dying (don't worry, I promise no spoilers below!).

If I Stay by Gayle Forman deals with the most fundamental question of all: Do I choose to live or die today? In a way, we all deal with this question each and every day of our lives, maybe not on the scale that Mia does or with the same stakes or while facing a tragedy, but it is still the most basic choice we face day in and day out.

In Before I Die by Jenny Downham, Tessa doesn't have the choice to live or die; she's terminal. Imagine having to complete your bucket list by the age of 16? The end of this book had me silently sobbing (and it takes a lot to make me cry) so hard that I scared my husband when he looked up from his laptop and saw my face. I had so many tears in my eyes, I couldn't even read the words on the page.

Samantha dies right at the beginning of Before I Fall (yeah, pretty similar title to the previous book...there is theme going on here) by Lauren Oliver and gets seven chances to live her last day. An interesting thing about Samantha--and I found this to be true of Tessa too--is that she isn't always likable. She was even cruel at times, but that made her all the more real.

I would definitely recommend all three of these books...just make sure you have a box of tissues nearby. What books or movies do you like where there's a real chance the main character dies?

*Billy Joel