“Did you finish the book? How was it?” My husband asked after finding me lying down on the futon, a closed book beside me.
“The guy that the girl had a crush on turned out to be a witch and they unearthed the remains of his ancestor, triggering the apocalypse. Then the guy turned into a leopard and left the girl on top of a frozen mountain and she sold her soul to a fire demon to protect her people.”
To which my husband responded with a slow, skeptical “…Okay.”
“And that was all in the last chapter.” I added helpfully.
I love the YA genre, I really do. But I miss the days when you could finish a book, close the cover, and bask in the glow of completion, of satisfaction, of the knowledge that the story was at a close and all was well.
I don’t get to feel that a lot anymore. A typical story has an intro, a disaster, rising action, a climax, and then a brief denouement. But YA fiction that I’ve been reading lately has altered the structure, pushing the climax until the very last page and then bringing the curtain down with no resolution. Why? Because they want you to read the next book in the trilogy (and it’s always a trilogy).
It seems that our notions of story structure have changed. Not just in pushing back the climax either, but in our apparent inability to tell just one story. YA authors can no longer write just one book, now it has to be a trilogy, and the fate of the world has to be at stake. I suffer from this too – every time I start to think about a new story idea, I picture it in three installments. I don’t know why.
We need to think smaller, work harder on writing good stories instead of epic ones. The Thief is my favorite book of all time. When I finished it, I could barely wait to get my hands on the sequel, not because of some dramatic cliffhanger that the author created to sucker me into reading more, but because I genuinely enjoyed the story and loved the characters. I couldn’t wait to go on more adventures with them. That’s how you sell more books – not by using emotional blackmail, but simply by being a good writer.
For the record, I have nothing against the book I was reading (Even the Darkest Stars) or any of the things in it. I’m frustrated at the genre as a whole, that it’s becoming so rote and formulaic and over-the-top. We need to think smaller and go back to the basics of what we love about stories – not the drama or the extended action, but the characters and the twists and the simple love of story.