I am sort of writing about a genre today, but not really. I've recently read a popular dystopian (kinda like the opposite of Utopian) YA series, which shall remain nameless for the moment, and it started me thinking about the endings of books. When I get done with a work of fiction, I usually want to feel better about life in general than when I first started reading it. I like books that end with a strong sense of hopefulness. There are exceptions to this, I suppose--like if the book didn't leave me with a good happy feeling, but maybe it really made me think, that would be good, too. Some of the best fantasy stories are ones that reveal truth about real life, and sometimes that truth is a sad truth. I like it sometimes when a book ends somewhat (but not completely) sadly, but leaves me thinking about the characters and their philosophies long into the night, perhaps even pervading my dreams.
The dystopian series I recently read (at least the original books for the series) did not end with a good happy feeling. Rather, the author ended the supposed last book with a stark view of humanity. The main idea seemed to be that since humanity messed up their world once, they were inevitably going to mess it up again. I was thrown by this. Up until the last few chapters of the supposed final book, I was thoroughly enjoying the series. Then I realized that things were not going to end happily. I realized that the main character was not going to overcome any of her selfish character flaws, nor did she seem to want to. Instead, she seemed to turn her back on humanity and recede further inside her own self. There was another book added, seemingly as an afterthought, which did give me a better sense of closure, but the whole reading experience shook me. I am thinking about this series late into the night, which I like, but I don't know if I like the reasons I'm thinking about it.
The series was well-written, entertaining, and enjoyable. There were exciting plot twists and the pace was just about perfect. The characters were well-developed, likable, and believable. I choose to believe that's why this series has done so well. But I have to admit there's a dark corner of my mind that entertains the idea that maybe people liked this series so much because they agree with the grim ideas the author seemed to be communicating: that mankind is really screwed up and has no hope.
I agree with the first part of that. Mankind is really screwed up. We are selfish creatures who don't know how to love or be loved. We're hopeless, but that doesn't mean we don't have hope. Our hope isn't in our own efforts or own worth--if it were, then yes, I'd agree with every sentiment the author of that dystopian series seemed to be communicating: that humans would be better off annihilating themselves. But if you've read this blog before or if you know me, then you'll probably guess what I'm going to say next. Our hope isn't in found in anything we can do; it's only in the Lord.
Now, other dystopian series I've read have not been quite so dark at the end. They don't necessarily claim any religious viewpoints, but I tend to read Christ into any view of hope. The Hunger Games series (another hugely popular dystopian series) ended sadly in a lot of ways, but there were tears streaming down when I reached the last few pages and read about the yellow flowers. I love yellow flowers, perhaps for the same reasons Suzanne Collins (author of the Hunger Games books) used them in her book. They are symbols of hope. I am sure she didn't have anything religious in mind when she wrote the ending (or any other part of the books), but I experienced something pretty close to pure Joy while reading it. I felt a sense that no matter what happened, life was worth living, trials were worth trying, and love was worth sharing.
And that's how I like the ending of a book to make me feel.