So I've wanted to be a writer since ever, but I haven't always wanted to be a writer of young adult fiction. Not until I started heavily reading YA books as an adult did I experience the attraction one feels when she meets her soulmate--in art form.
These days most of the books I read are YA fiction, but occasionally grown-up fiction (Adult fiction sounds creepy.) slips into my reading list. Reading an adult book always makes me meditate on the difference between adult and YA fiction. Last night I pondered endings.
See, YA novels sort of have to end positively. It's kind of a rule. In her Wall Street Journal article on YA fiction, Katie Roiphe explained that writers of the dreariest YA fiction "are careful to infuse the final scenes of these bleak explorations with an element of hope."
I love that hope. I wondered how Ellen Hopkins would create it in Tricks, if Laurie Halse Anderson would be able to do it in Wintergirls. They did, and with a style that seemed to my outside eyes effortless (which means it took TONS of effort).
After I read most novels intended for adults, I dwell on the endings for days. I ask myself: What really happened? Anything? The character changed, so I suppose that's something, but I just can't say exactly...
So, are endings of adult books supposed to be more complex than endings of YA books? Not so easily understood? More thought-provoking for our gigantic, well-aged brains?
Sometimes I read an ending a second time and I still don't get it. Sometimes I think a book is remarkable despite its ending. And it's not because adult fiction depresses whereas YA fiction brightens. Endings in most YA novels are just clearer in my opinion.
Let me be unmistakable about what I love about most YA fiction endings: The main character's catharsis happens in such a way that I can explain it to someone else without sounding like a dumbass. I believe there is something in the average YA reader that will not accept ambiguous finales, and that YA fiction writers respect that.
Here's one of my all-time favorite quotes about YA fiction:
"Teen books are like adult books, without all the bullshit."
New York City librarian Jack Martin said that during a panel that explored where exactly YA belongs in my mind, in bookstores, on library shelves, etc. But are cloudy endings bullshit? Or something beyond my ability to comprehend? Or just not my taste?
My meditation on endings breeds new questions:
Do YA novels need to end hopefully, positively? What are the requisites for endings in general?
I'd love to hear how the rest of you approach your endings, be they YA or adult or anything else. And am I the only one who doesn't "get" some endings?
What makes a great ending?