After the success of my royalties series, I took a little break to get going on some of my work. I had a great time doing it, but I don’t want to completely ignore you guys, so I thought I would write a little bit about some of my reading experiences in the meantime. Please be aware that there are MASSIVE spoilers in this blog post!
Since I last wrote, I have read the Divergent series. I have also watched the first Divergent film. In fact, I watched the film first, and absolutely loved it. For those of you who have not read or watched it, the love story between the two main characters, Tris and Four, is really beautiful and quite unique. The way that Veronica Roth, the author, slowly introduces them to us the readers and to each other is really wonderful, and I really invested a huge amount of myself in their relationship.
Once I had finished the first book, I couldn’t help myself. I read the second book. And it was just as good. The love story became more complicated, as real life, lies, and divided loyalties threatened to tear them apart. I loved the way that this reflected the problems that many real life relationships go through, and I watched as Tris and Four lost their parents, and many of their friends. But their passion for life and their love for each other kept them safe, and kept them going. I was totally hooked.
Hooked, that is, until the last book. BEWARE: SPOILERS! As you’ll know if you have read the books, after gambling everything to ensure that their families, friends, and society can become truly free, Tris tragically dies, leaving Four alone. Forever.
I’m not ashamed to admit it. I cried.
And then I got angry. Angry in particular at Veronica Roth. How could she let one of the main characters, a beloved character, die so needlessly? Why did she drag Tris and Four apart, and leave him to grieve for the rest of his life? It just did not seem fair.
And so I hit the internet, looking for my answers. And I found this from an interview with Veronica Roth:
“At the end of the first book, she almost experiences death. She’s in that water tank. She gets saved at the last second by her mother. At the end of the book, she kind of plays with the idea of self-sacrifice by letting Tobias almost kill her. Like, ‘I’m going to sacrifice myself for him or whatever,’ and that’s not quite right, so she lives. In the second book, the same things happens. She goes to her execution in this act of bravado and self-sacrifice, and it’s not quite right, so she survives. In the third book, she learns what it actually means to sacrifice herself,” Roth continued. “It has to be necessary. It has to be about love. She says all those things. And to me, it felt like it was her finally understanding what her parents were trying to teach her in Abnegation and finally understanding what it means to be an adult and make a grown-up decision because you have to, not because you particularly want to. So, to me, I was proud of her. I was so proud. It was like she finally became a grown-up.”
In fact, even the actress that plays Tris in the film loved it:
“I was stoked. I thought that it was such a badass decision of Veronica Roth, and so incredibly powerful. I love that she didn’t sort of buy into the breakdown of what most young adult books, like, the outline of what’s happened in previous young adult books. Men die all the time in films – heroes do. But a lot of sweet heroines don’t. And so I thought it was a very powerful, profound decision on her part. And I really love that she had the courage and the bravery to do that.”
But me? I am still heartbroken. Which made me wonder: should an author disappoint their readers? After all, Veronica Roth is not the first author in the world to kill off a beloved character. J R R Tolkein kills people off; George R R Martin looks like he will end up killing everyone; even J K Rowling had to lose a couple of beloved characters on the way.
The way I see it, unless the reader really believes that the characters that they are falling in love with are in real danger, then they really can’t care about them. If they is no danger, then there is no hope. Without putting characters within the potential of death, you will not keep turning the pages, hoping that they will stay alive for another chapter.
So, should an author disappoint their readers? Maybe. I’m certainly killing off a character or two in my next new series, and I think it will make the other characters even dearer to my readers. Have I forgiven Veronica Roth for killing off Tris? Not on your life.