Several months back, I blogged about happy endings. The romantic in me loves them. I've read two rather dark books recently, both with major unresolved problems at the end. In an interesting turn of events (at least to me), I liked them both.
I'll be honest. When I was younger, I despised books with dark endings. If real life problems weren't always neatly and justly resolved, then fictional problems should be. That was my attitude. I haven't been a starry-eyed teenager for a long time. I still don't like nihilistic endings or "gotcha" endings in which the author seems to revel in kicking the reader in the teeth, but I have matured both as a person and in my reading tastes.
THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins is an absolutely gripping book. I've read positive reviews all over the Internet for the last year, but I just now got around to reading it. It's one of those crossover young adult books that appeals to readers of all ages. It contains political and social commentary, and it's action-packed. I lent it to my friend, Linda, and she had her husband go out and buy her the sequel as soon as it was available on Tuesday.
In the world of the story, North America has become one big country called Panem with a totalitarian seat of government in the Rockies. As punishment for previous attempts at rebellion, each of Panem's 12 districts must hold a lottery in which two teenagers are selected to participate in the hunger games. Poverty and starvation are rampant in the districts, and the poor may enter their children's names multiple times for extra food rations. The hunger games are a nationally televised last-kid-standing, fight-to-the-death reality show. The book follows Katniss through her ordeal as one of District 12's "tributes." District 12 includes Appalachia, and it's people are sneered at by the other districts. Being a Kentucky girl, this made me root for Katniss even more. The writing is superb, the action is brutal, and every person I know who has picked it up can't put it down. The ending isn't neat and pretty, and I'm eagerly awaiting my turn at Linda's copy of the sequel, CATCHING FIRE.
Last night I finished Karen Marie Moning's FAEFEVER. Holy cow! The end of that book stayed with me a long time. It's dark and frightening, and I didn't want to turn off the lights when I was finished. FAEFEVER is the third in a series that follows MacKayla, a transplanted southern belle, through a dark version of Dublin, Ireland. She tracks her sister's murderer through all three books and discovers that faeries live among us. Not sparkly Disney faeries, but the scary ones about whom the Irish have passed stories for generations. Moning creates scenes of such tension and foreboding that you feel like you're right there in the dark with Mac. It has an "Oh shit!" ending that wraps back around to mirror the beginning. The storytelling is masterful, and I can only hope that someday will I leave readers with that same tingly feeling of horror and admiration I felt when I reached the end. I waited for this one until it was in paperback, but I won't be able to wait that long when DREAMFEVER is released later this month. I'll be adding another hardcover to my collection.
Although I loved both of these books, I think I'm going to dig down in my TBR pile for something light and happy, something that reinforces my core belief in happy endings, something that doesn't remind me the world can be a dark and scary place. Or maybe I won't. Maybe I'll take this dark, foreboding vibe with me into my own story.