Friday, November 1, 2013

Don't You Dare Read This!

Back in middle school I went to my first book club meeting. I won't name the book here for fear of spoilers. At the end of our discussion, the librarian asked us to show by raise of hand how many didn't like the book. About half the hands shot up. When she asked them why they all gave the same reason: the end was too sad. Because the main character's pet died. In the epilogue.
I felt like they were betraying the book. It wasn't as if her death was unexpected or threw the plot off course. We'd known she was sick for a while. It wasn't as if we had to watch the main character mope around for another fifty pages. The story ends a few pages after. It wasn't as if her death killed the possibility of a sequel. This was definitely a stand alone. If they loved this pet enough to mourn her death couldn't they love the book?
I've heard so many of my friends say, "The Hunger Games is great. Read the first one. Call me when you finish and I'll bring the sequel. But whatever you do, don't read Mockingjay. It's too depressing at the end."
Yes, it was. I've heard Suzanne Collins' editor called her and said, "Don't do it!" She, like millions of other readers, fell in love with this character. But they kept the death.
Mockingjay is about war. Our book club novel was about animal cruelty. A death is exactly what the plots needed to drive their points home. These deaths were supposed to pack an emotional wallop, and did they deliver.
I believe that a good book is one that can make you laugh and cry. And after spending so much time on book review sites like goodreads, I believe a good reviewer is one who recognizes that. You need to recognize a book as more than just a bundle of emotions. If the an author can make you invested in a character, if a death scene is hauntingly beautiful, then it's not a bad book. Even if it makes you feel bad.

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