Monday, July 10, 2006

Dead Yet?

Chasing Ray was discussing the issue of Harry Potter's possible death, and we began wondering in the comments:

What children's / young adult book has the main character die?

See, aside from anything else, I think that JKR would be one of the first to take this step. Now, being first doesn't mean she cannot do it; however, being first (or one of the first) does mean that I cannot understand why people would be critical of her for not doing it. Of course, as with many things in the blogosphere, when people rant about X, they are really using X as an excuse to rant about what they really want to talk about. JKR happens to be the X to get people talking about fiction, messages, meaning, children, morality, etc.

Anyway, back to main character being dead question. Little Willow then said she does know of main characters not surviving to the last page, but didn't want to spoil anyone.

I have been known to read the last chapter first. Except for a handful of situations, I not only don't mind being spoiled; I find it makes a richer reading experience.

Here's the deal: post away on the comments about books written for children/young adults where the main character dies. If you don't want to be spoiled, stay away from the comments.

  • Must have been originally published for children or young adults; so no Romeo and Juliet.
  • Must be the main character. Beth is not the main character in Little Women.
  • Only one title by Lurlene McDaniel per comment.
  • A character dying of natural causes at the end of his or her natural life span? Doesn't count.
  • A book told from the point of view of an already dead/ dies in first chapter main character? Doesn't count.
  • Only one picture book as bibliotherapy book per comment.


Anonymous said...

O.K. this doesn't exactly mesh with what your asking, but I've always wondered why Disney movies, which are loosely based on books and classic tales, seem to deal with a lot of dead parent issues:

Lion King
Snow White
Brother Bear

There's always a dead/missing parent in these tales. Also stories like Hansel and Gretel deal with a dead parent and an evil stepparent

fusenumber8 said...

I have it.
The Magic Circle by Donna Jo Napoli.

Much harder is finding one with a child protagonist.

Brian Farrey said...

Most recently, what about the Bartimaeus Trilogy?

Saints and Spinners said...

Wings of a Falcon, by Cynthia Voigt, is another one.

Anonymous said...

I suppose Charlotte's Web doesn't count, because Wilbur is the protagonist, not Charlotte. Still, I think it is rather shocking for the unwary child reader (mine knew that Charlotte died before we began reading it). Which is not to say that's wrong, only that you have to know your reader to know whether that'll be OK for him/her (I knew that mine would need to know it in advance).

But following a character through many books seems different - you don't expect him to die after surviving through six books.

Anonymous said...

Does "Bridge to Terabithia" count? It always creeped me out, the image of Leslie laying dead in the water.

mapletree7 said...

Lois Lowry's The Giver ends with the protagonist dying.

Gail Gauthier said...

Regarding dead parents: I've read that it's more of a plot device than some meaningful archetype about life or growing up. If you can get rid of a parent--particularly a mom--the kids are freer to have adventures. Parents aren't there to make them behave themselves or to protect them.

Nowadays it's much easier to get rid of parents. Both parents can work, go to business meetings in other cities, etc. I once sent a mom to jury duty to get rid of her for a chapter.

Anonymous said...

mapletree7 said...
Lois Lowry's The Giver ends with the protagonist dying.

Do you think so? Lowry just posted about that yesterday!

There was a discussion of this issue on child-lit last summer - the consensus seemed to be that with the exception of Bridge to Terebithia, most children's/YA books that involve the death of a main character are very clear about this from the get-go (via cover blurbs, titles, etc - think of A Summer to Die). Bridge is a surprise though.

The only book I know of where the main-main-main character dies is Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, but that's nonfiction (even though it's a narrative).

Rowling can't kill Harry (I hope)...

Anonymous said...

Oh, and Messenger, I forgot about that one...

Anonymous said...

Rather old, probably mid-to-late seventies, but May I Cross Your Golden River by Paige Dixon had the main character Jordan die of ALS at the end of the book.

I loved this book and my sister and I used to take turns reading it aloud to each other, thoroughly enjoying sobbing hysterically at the end.

(Published in paperback under the title A Time to Love, a Time to Mourn.)

Melinda R. Cordell said...

And "The Sight" by David Clements-Davies has the MC get killed in the second chapter from the end.

Anonymous said...

Aren't all the Pevensie children "dead" at the end of Narnia's "The Last Battle" (does it not count if they are alive in an afterlife?)

Chris said...

I have been thinking about "Tuck Everlasting" a lot lately, and I need to reread it, because it has been a while, but I do remember thinking that it offers a really interesting take on death. It's sort of the opposite of what you asked - the main character DOESN'T die, but that has all sorts of ramifications.

Liz B said...

Reading The Giver as a stand alone, I thought the main character died. Based on the sequels, nope; but then the MC did die in The Messenger. But if Lowry writes another sequel, that may be wrong!

I haven't read The Sight.

Maria, yes, everyone dies at the end of Narnia. I forgot about that.

To be picky, I'd see Jesse, not Leslie, as the MC of Terabithia; and while I could argue that Charlotte is the MC of Charlotte's Web, I think the general consensus is it's Wilbur.

(Yes, I'm being a bit picky, viewing a book as having ONE mc.)

I'll be adding the other titles to my to be read pile.

Little Willow said...

Another one - The Midnight Club by Christopher Pike.

Anonymous said...

Hay! in The Sight by David Clements-Davies, Larka dies! and in Gregor and the Code of Claw, there's a fortelling of Gregors death!