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.