October is an exciting month for any YA lit fan, because it includes Teen Read Week! In honor of this annual celebration of young adult literature, YALSA invited book-loving teens all over the world to apply to share their enthusiasm for reading in a guest post for The Hub. Thirty-one talented young writers were chosen, and we’ll be featuring posts from these unique voices all month long. Here’s Zeinab Hussen from Minnesota.
You pick up a book, then read the book. Spend hours upon hours flipping through pages and finishing chapters, while divulging yourself into the story. You end up getting emotionally invested and attached to a character…only to find out that the author kills them off.
Paired along with your shocking discovery, an intense emotion of despair soon follows.
You may look like this:
Or like this:
Or even this:
Don’t worry, all of those reactions are normal. But, I’ll be the first to admit that it can be hard to move on and come to terms with the actuality of the event.
So, here are five tips to getting over a fictional death:
Tip #1: Dealing with Denial
Sometimes death in young adult literature can come out of nowhere*cough cough* The Fault in Our Stars. As you begin to reread the paragraphs that ensued to their death, you skip a few pages ahead convinced that the author has played some cruel trick on you.
Then, it hits you like a wrecking ball. They’re not coming back. Well, at least it’s not half dressed.
Realistically, if a character dies they tend to not magically be revived. And I say, good. Why? Because it allows you the chance to reflect upon the meaning of their role. You get the opportunity to see how significant that character was by witnessing them mold the other characters in the book as the story continues to enfold. But, their not the only ones that are molded. Their existence is amplified due to the emotional conflict they create and leaves a huge impact on the reader as well. Often times, fans reminisce about the character, by paying homage to them, making them memorable in pop culture.
Tip #2: It’s Okay to Cry and be Angry
By this time, your initial disbelief has solidified into an immense amount of grief. After the first Hunger Games book, I stopped midway to full out sob. And after finishing the third, well, let’s just say that I was ready to chuck the book in a bonfire. I shed endless tears and was absolutely furious over the fact that not one, or two, but countless of my favorite characters were gone.
However, this just means that the author is so exceptionally talented that they have the power to move a 16, going on 17, teenage girl to tears. Okay, maybe not an admirable feat, but my teacher, a grown 200 pound man, tears up every time his favorite character in Harry Potter is mentioned. He recites this nearly every day:
â€œIt’s such a beautiful place. . . to be with friends. Dobby is happy to be with his friends. . . Harry Potter.â€
Remember, that it is okay to cry and shout and be angry. Death is a key literary device that writers use to effectively connect with their audience. Books are supposed to make you feel emotions and by encountering loss with a realistic and well-developed character, they can make you experience loss. This will make you sad and upset, but it’s definitely a lesson well taught.
Tip #3: Acceptance
There comes a time when you simply need to face the facts. The character died. And it’s time to move on with your life. Because, guess what, you’ll find new stories to immerse yourself in, new characters to adore, and new fictional deaths to mourn over. So, take a deep breath and come to terms with your grief.
Sometimes taking a breather from the story to take time and reflect is needed to calm yourself down.
Moving on doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to forget the character. Reminisce about the character through drawings and fanfiction, rereads of happy moments, and talking about it with others to let out your frustration.
Understand that it’s not real. That it is a piece of fiction and do not allow it to drastically interfere with your livelihood.
In all honesty, if the character that you are currently agonizing over didn’t pass away, then the story could have potentially played out in an entirely different way.
For my fellow TIFOS admirers and lovers, refer to the picture on the left. Enough said.
Death in young adult literature can come from all kinds of places. It can range from vehicle related accidents to diseases, from old to young age, and even deaths of non-human creatures. And it will make you sad. But, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
In an August 2014 Guardian article, young adult author Rupert Wallis discusses death in books and states, â€œI think YA readers are all the richer for it, because the characters in these stories are forced to consider how death shapes life; not only in the philosophical sense of grappling with the nature of existence but also practically, in terms of how to live, how to be.â€
So, prepare the tissues, take a deep breath, and allow those fictional deaths to move you.
On a final note, I would like to pay tribute to one of the most realistic characters amongst us, that portrayed the most believable and beloved fictional characters that will always remain in our lives. Thank you for all the laughs, tears, and happy memories you brought. In memory of Robin Williams, R.I.P.
For more reading on recovering from a fictional death, try the following:
Why We Tolerate Many Deaths in Literature (Huffington Post)
How to Cope with the Death of a Fictional Character (Honorslounge)
Zeinab Hussen is a 16 year old resident of Minnesota. When she’s not reading a book, she enjoys being involved in school activities, spending time with family and friends, and marathons of old school movies.