Life and Death in YA Literature

I’m a pretty big fan of young adult literature. I’m not an extreme fanatic or anything, but I’ve hit on the most popular works. One aspect I’ve noticed during my reading of YA lit is that–if it’s not dystopian fiction–it at least has the characters facing several life and death situations. This kind of plot leaves a big decision for the author to make, one that could greatly impact the attitude of readers: Who lives and who dies?

Here’s my opinion: Let everyone live! This would keep me happy for sure. 🙂 But on the other hand, everyone living can be a bit unbelievable. I mean, if there are several life and death situations, the probability is that at least one person will die (and hopefully not a person we like). –Side note: I used math vocabulary in that last sentence, in case you didn’t notice. I’m pretty proud of myself.

Now let’s compare three popular YA authors and decide which one has best solved the problem of figuring out who lives and who dies.

*WARNING: There are some extreme spoilers beyond this point.


Stephenie Meyer

First, since everyone knows she’s not going to win, let’s start with Stephenie Meyer. Wait, don’t leave! I know that the Twilight series isn’t a popular subject, but I just want to remind you all that it used to be pretty popular before all the movies came out. But, sadly, with bad acting and a rapidly declining story line, more people make fun of the series than enjoy it. And the worst part is Breaking Dawn, especially the ending “battle” scene. I would say that Renesmee is the worst decision, but she’ll play in later on.

Stephenie Meyer answers the big question of YA literature by letting everyone live. To do this, she has to completely leave out the battle scene, which is a horrible decision. She sacrifices the climax so no one will die. To take it beyond simply living or dying, she also wants all of the characters to be happy (aka “in a relationship”)…forever. This is where Renesmee comes in. This little creepy girl (who reminds me of Pearl from The Scarlet Letter, by the way) is necessary so that Jacob will not be alone. A little much? I think so.

Another note about Stephenie Meyer: I watched The Host, and she–again!–goes to unbelievable lengths so that all of the characters will end up with their loves.


Veronica Roth

Now let’s move on to another subject…how about Veronica Roth and Allegiant. If you’ve read the book, then you know what I’m talking about. If Breaking Dawn is at one end of the spectrum, then Allegiant is at the other end. First of all, for any of you authors writing novels out there, please don’t kill off the main character, especially if it’s a series from the first person point-of-view. When Allegiant began, many people enjoyed hearing Four’s side of the story. Little did they know that this was just a tool making it possible for Veronica Roth to kill off the main character!

I understand that Veronica Roth is using Tris’ death to emphasize the theme of sacrifice, but couldn’t that be done in some other way? Another reason for Tris’ death might be to show that Four is able to live without her, that he doesn’t need her for his own survival. Another difference from Breaking Dawn.

The worst part about the series is that, when I recommend it to someone, I’m not sure if–by the end of it–that person will love or hate me for recommending it. So, needless to say, Veronica Roth is not the winner of the “live or die” solution.


Suzanne Collins

Now I know some people cannot stand Mockingjay. It sure is different from the first two books, but it does have some great parts, and I actually enjoyed it more during the second read. But I’m not trying to convince anyone to like Mockingjay. I’m just saying that Suzanne Collins has done a pretty good job of answering the life and death question. First of all, the main character doesn’t die. Second, the main character’s love doesn’t die. Third, sacrifices are made, even though others are left unhappy.

One change I would make is letting Finnick live. Actually, can we please have Suzanne Collins rewrite that part? Because Finnick really needs to live. Oh, and there’s Prim. Why does she die? She isn’t fighting in a battle or anything. And she is also the reason Katniss volunteers in the first place.


The Winner

So, after analyzing three works of YA literature, we must decide which one has best handled the big question concerning life and death. And the winner is…

Harry Potter.

Of course.

I should have seen it coming.

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s