The Question of Hope

Scholastic editor Cheryl Klein has come up with a very thoughtful definition of YA Lit over at her blog.  I’m particularly interested in one point she makes, “… a YA novel should end with hope, that there must be some thread of a ghost of a promise of a happy ending or more growth, that there is indeed meaning to the events enclosed.”  I agree wholeheartedly and think a sense of hope important for children’s stories as well.

I realize that the phrase, “a sense of hope” can be seen as trite, but I do think however dire a story, young people want some reassurance that there is light at the end of the tunnel (to use another over-worked phrase).  However, not all agree say J. Bell in  “Hunting for That Crucial Sense of Hope” and other blog posts.

This year I witnessed the suicide of a seventeen year-old student at my school.  Many outside our community have asked me  just what might have caused him to do this and I answer that we have no idea.  I can only guess that he saw no more hope.  And a few weeks ago I had breakfast with Mariatu Kamara who wrote Bite of the Mango about her horrific experiences during the conflict in Sierra Leone.  Mariatu had her arms chopped off, was raped at age twelve, lost her child, starved, and suffered more horrors than I can even begin to list.  Yet she is a young woman of determination, far-thinking, and — yes — she is hopeful.

Hope, that thing that Pandora also let out of the box, is a concept often used simplistically. But that doesn’t mean it is simple.  Indeed it is as important to me in my middle-age as I think it is for young people today.  In their books and in their lives.



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4 responses to “The Question of Hope

  1. Katherine Paterson, understandably, is often questioned about her lack of “happy” endings. She wrote an essay (an acceptance speech, originally) entitled “Hope and Happy Endings.” It’s included in The Spying Heart and speaks to this idea.

    “So the hope of my books is the hope of yearning. It is always incomplete, as all true hopemust be. It is always a tension, rooted in this fallen earth but growing, yearning, stretching toward the new creations….When I write realistic novels, I will be true as best I am able to what is. But I am, as Zechariah says, a prisoner of hope. My stories will lean toward hope as a sunflower toward the sun.”

    She talks, also, about how stories with purely happy endings are necessary, too, but she can only write the stories she can write. The whole essay is one of my favorites.


  2. Pingback: To Have and to Hold — Here in the Bonny Glen

  3. I would agree about hope in YA. I think that’s why the Diary of Anne Frank is sometimes considered a kids’ book.

    I recently discovered Cheryl’s blog, so it’s fun to see you take an idea from one of her posts and go even further with it!


  4. Yes and amen to all that. The book of mine that’s coming out this October, called Invisible Lines, took me six years to write because I couldn’t find the hope. I knew that the book wouldn’t work without it, and yet I couldn’t find any hope in my character’s life. When I discovered how hope could enter into my character’s life, I was able to finish the book and send it off.


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