Have you ever noticed that in many YA novels and even in some middle grade, characters have to deal with loss? Whether it is a dead parent, relative, or even friend, characters have to face the reality of moving forward without someone they love.
So why? Why kill off characters? Is it just a cheap way to place the main character on their own to solve problems? Is it an easy way to get the reader's tears? I don't think so.
Every human being deals with death, even at a young age. My earliest memories surround the passing of my great-grandmother and maternal grandfather. My children, ages 6 and 8, have already lost a dog, a cousin, a fish, a class pet, and today, a great-grandfather. With each loss they had to learn how to let go, move forward, and remember. Some of those losses were easy to handle. It was just "their time." But some seem senseless and those deaths reach beyond out capacity to understand.
My cousin died one of those senseless deaths last year. As hard as it was for me to accept, it was even harder to imagine what his sister was feeling. Then about a week after he died I read The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson. The book gave me a framework, a schema, to wrap my head around what she might be going through. Even though I was reading a book, understanding how the character dealt with her grief was helpful and comforting in a time of pain.
Death and loss in books can help us deal with it in our own lives. They are ways to recognize that it is a shared experience, one that we will have to live through again and again. I am thankful that there are books that touch upon experiences of loss in different ways. Hopefully everyone can find a story that speaks to them in their time of need.
Has reading or writing helped you make sense of a loss?