Thursday, January 6, 2011

Thought Provoking Thursday: Happy Endings

I've had this running discussion on an Amazon forum, as well as on Facebook after a woman was upset, as well as her son, that the book he had to read for his language arts ended with the main character committing suicide.  They both think the teacher should have warned about the tragic ending of the story and perhaps shouldn't have taught that book at all.

I disagree.

I write about tragedy.    A lot.  Real life tragedy.  Death, eating disorders, kidnapping, school shootings.  Not every story has a happy ending.  This is just a fact, so how can every story we write have a happy ending?  They can't.  In my research about YA literature, I've found that teens want a character they can relate to.  One that shares there own fears, problems, and issues.  These issues include violence, abuse, drugs, even death.

I also take issue with this because of the book in question.  I've not read it, but I ordered it yesterday because it sounds amazing.  It's based on the life of a real person.  A boy who lies about his age so he can join the army during the Civil War.  He's fifteen and he thinks it's going to be a good time.  He's very wrong.  He witnesses death, kills, and probably more.  He gets wounded and goes home, then suffers from post traumatic stress disorder.  This is a historically significant book.  It teaches that the war doesn't end on the battlefield.  Soldiers take it home with them, and some suffer as a result.  It is also relevant to today as our troops continue to come home from Iraq and Afghanistan suffering from PTSD.  I've seen it first hand.

Not to mention the author, Gary Paulsen, has written three Newberry Honors titles, so, you know, he's an award winning author.

A teacher hands out a syllabus at the beginning of each semester.  As a parent, you need to look at it, and here at our schools, you have to sign it and send it back.  Perhaps instead of criticizing the book choices your teachers make, (which I know are very carefully chosen) you look into them yourself first.

But to have the teacher warn you about an unhappy ending, you may as well just be one of those people who read the end of the book before they start.  Also, there has been discussion about hope.  Many novels with sad endings still leave us with a feeling of hope at the end.  I have no idea if the book in question (A Soldier's Heart) does or not, but I'm going to find out.

Okay, I think I ranted enough.  Weigh in.  Let me know what you think.
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John Messina, Personal Injury Attorney

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