Tuesday, October 23, 2012

And then they lived happily ever after

A month ago I finished reading John Marsdens' "Tomorrow" series of young adult books. The series has 7 books in it and is about Ellie Linton, an Australian teenager, who is forced into becoming a freedom fighter with her friends when Australia is invaded and occupied by an enemy army.

As an Australian I was fascinated and horrified by this series of books and forced to ask myself the question "What if this really happened?" The idea of someone invading my home country is alien and shocking and frightening to me. It made me question a lot of things and realize just how sheltered and naive I am to think that it could never happen.

In the last book Ellie is separated from her friends and is told by the enemy that they were all killed in combat. Ellie is forced to ride out the rest of the war alone and find her parents herself. I was horrified when I got to this point in the books. "How could the rest of them be dead?!" I began searching the internet for spoilers to find out if it was true or not. I found out it wasn't.

Sure enough, the last book ends happily, Ellie is told her friends are alive and were just imprisoned. She is reunited with them and the whole book ends on a high note.

And it was a terrible ending. Yeah, sure, it was what I wanted. But it wasn't realistic and it was a cop out. It was giving the reader what they wanted. And that is not always the best thing for a writer to do. It would have been more realistic for her friends to remain dead and for Ellie to have to find the strength to go on by herself in life.

The "Tomorrow" series was a dark, gritty, fast-paced read. It was shocking, gripping, and was an honest reflection of the horrors of war. John Marsden did not hold back. I liked that. Which makes the ending all the more odd. It didn't fit with the style of the rest of the series. It was too...perfect. Too fitting. Unrealistic. Too nice.

Do we always need a happily ever after ending? Can readers handle a "And then they picked up the shattered pieces of their lives and tried to move on" ending?

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