Pursuant to an article coming up next year in the Magazine, we were having an old discussion today: how do teen readers feel about downer endings? Conventional professional wisdom has long been that teens themselves and open-minded adults applaud (where appropriate) an “uncompromising” conclusion to a book, and only conservative, rigid adults who don’t like to read insist upon endings in which the good guys win and there is Hope. So we were thinking through some of the recent Apocalypsos (thank you Motels) to remember how they ended, but realized that with the series imperative and all, they frequently don’t! Katie Bircher, who reads a lot of these books for the Horn Book, said that the endings she could recall were varied in the amount of hope they presented but usually there was at least a glimmer. (Katie had just finished Ilsa Bick’s Shadows, second in the Ashes trilogy, and estimated that the third book had an awful lot of work to do if it wanted to come to a ‘triumphant” conclusion.)
My next question is about young readers: are they as sanguine about we’re-all-fucked conclusions as we assume they are? People talk about Radical Change and all, and how kids lead hard lives and hate phony intimations of justice prevailing, etc. etc., but most people like happy endings to their entertainments. Why do we assume teens are different? Sometimes I think we ascribe to teen reading more seriousness than we do our own.