One YA Reader’s Desperate Plea

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I have a bone to pick with Young Adult authors. This has been burning a hole in my brain for quite some time, so I apologize in advance if I get a little persnickety. Here it goes …

WHY DO YOU FEEL THE NEED TO CHANGE THE POINT OF VIEW IN THE LAST BOOK OF A SERIES??????

Shouty capitals may seem rude and  uncalled for, but I’m down to my last nerve on this irritating literary trend. For the record, I’m not just asking this question as a reader, but also as a writer of YA Fantasy. Personally, I would never pull this trick on my readers as most of the time it isn’t necessary.

I should point out that the device of changing the point of view has always bothered me no matter the genre, but I’ve reached a new of level aggravation due to its use in several Young Adult series.  I don’t mind small instances of shifting points of view in a prologue  or epilogue, but my brain explodes when the concluding book in a series breaks a previously established point of view.  Why write an entire series from one point of view and then suddenly switch it up at the end? It makes no sense!

I’m a long time reader of multiple book series, mainly in the paranormal and fantasy divisions. Even though I’m an adult, I’m still a teenager at heart and I love YA books. The authors of these books deserve huge snaps for vivid and creative storytelling, but I’m finding myself more and more leery of picking up a new series because I fear what will happen with the last book of the series.  From some untold reason, this is when authors decide to rob me of my favorite characters!

My frustration apexed when my phobia of changing points of view kicked into gear twice over the last month. First, with Veronica Roth’s Divergent series and second with Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl’s Beautiful Creatures series. Before I go on my rant, I do want to point out that these are very talented writers, I just happened to disagree with their tactics.

There are a number of reasons why Roth’s Divergent series is on my poop list, but my heart sank when I read the inside flap and found out Allegiant was written with a dual point of view. I decided to stick it out because I loved the first two books, but the sudden change in format really irked me for two reasons:

1. I loved the main character and didn’t like being pulled from her head.

2. A little critical thought on why Roth chose a dual point of view format gave away a major plot point. Before I was done reading the first chapter, I knew who was going to die. Cue my broken heart.

When I picked up the last book in my most recent favorite series, Beautiful Creatures, I was devastated to find it was divided into a dual perspective. What? Are you kidding me? I spend three books entrenched in the charming Ethan Wate’s head and you’re going to make me leave him? Not cool. Lena Duchannes might be one awesome chick, but she is more intriguing through Ethan’s eyes.

Even my favorite series of all time contains the dreaded change in point of view. Imagine my horror when I opened Twilight: Breaking Dawn and realized I was stuck in Jacob’s head instead of Bella’s. It was torture and I’m still mad I had to spend so much time with a character I detested. Stephenie Meyer, I love you, but why spend three books developing Bella’s point of view only to rip it away from your readers?

There are many more guilty series, but it all comes down to the same thing: Why change a good thing? When a series progresses with each book written in one point of view, it’s only logical to retain the same point of view through the last book. After two or three books with one character, readers stick around because of love for the character and a relationship of trust with that character’s perspective. When the last book shifts into someone else’s head it fractures the reader/character dynamic.

While fiction writing is all about trying new things and shaking up reality, there is something to be said for maintaining a sense of order within a series. Let me walk through the story by the side of a character I’ve come to know and love. Please don’t force me to wonder what she’s thinking as her story comes to a close. Readers deserve to complete the journey in the same way it began. Anything less feels like betrayal.

- – -

c.b.w. 2014

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29 thoughts on “One YA Reader’s Desperate Plea

  1. Let me be the first to agree with you. I read a fair number of YA series myself, and this is something that pops up a lot and drives me completely foolish. I don’t mind a change of POV if it has an immediate purpose (say, if the main character has been knocked unconscious and it’s really important to the story that the reader knows what’s going on while he/she is out), but I hate when it’s done JUST BECAUSE, you know? One of the worst offenders of this, I’ve found, has been the House of Night books. You spend the first umpteen books lodged firmly in the main character’s head, and then all of a sudden you’re all over the place, seeing the story from about ten different peoples’ minds. It’s extremely disconcerting and has greatly reduced my enjoyment of the series.

    • I’ve heard House of Night does major changes in points of view. And because of that I haven’t picked up a single volume. From what I’ve heard, the bulk of the series is fantastic, but I don’t think I can deal with the frustration of seeing things from so many perspectives. Why they did that I will never understand!

      • It really is a GREAT annoyance. I picked up the first in the series knowing absolutely nothing about it…I just thought it looked interesting…and though it has it’s issues (I can’t stand the “teen speak”) I rather love the story. And of course the fact that I love the story makes it that much more frustrating that the authors decided to take such an annoying turn in the telling of it.
        *sigh* :P

  2. I remember thinking the same thing when I read Twilight. By then I just wanted the author to get on with it and it didn’t seem necessary to have Jacob’s misery played out in great detail!

  3. Yes, drastically changing the point of view can drive the reader to distraction. If my writing students did this, we’ d have a serious discussion about it and the change would have to be defended to the death. I find it insulting to the reader, and professional writers better have a good reason for their tactics.

    • I don’t see it happen very often in other genres, which makes it even more confusing as to why its taking over Young Adult. As a teacher who also spends time teaching writing styles and formats, I can’t help but wonder if my students are influenced by this trend.

      • I hope they are not influenced. Unfortunately, the current trend of texting is taking its toll on correct spelling and the curtailing of a more extensive vocabulary. One student wrote his college essay application using text language and thought it was all right. Time to either scream,faint, or both.

      • Just recently I received an e-mail from a student in “text” language. Even worse, he had the nerve to start it with “hey.” I had to sit down and have a discussion with him about how to properly address a teacher in an e-mail and why it is inappropriate to use b/c and btw in a formal e-mail. Yikes.

  4. Everything you said and more CB! Especially with Beautiful Creatures, this was a big thorn in my side not hearing Ethans thoughts. I think i will be 80 and still reading YA fiction, sounds weird writing that but I do love the genre.

  5. While a part of me loves the Jacob ‘brain’ POV, I think at the time I was a bit disjointed as well. Sometimes I think it comes from getting stuck as you write and not knowing how to continue in the one POV. Having written in 1st person with some things, because I can’t play ‘God’ and write out what other characters are doing, I end up switching POV’s. It isn’t easy to stay in one head when there is so much else you want to add. It takes work. I say, if you can’t continue in 1st person, don’t even write the series that way. Go to 3rd. Because, like you said, it’s jarring. If you are going to have a series of books written with several POV’s, that’s fine, but if all but one are written with one frame, switching is a really bad idea. Especially if you have fallen in love with one POV. So, I totally agree.

    • Totally agree! As a reader, I am much more forgiving about changing points of view if 3rd person is used.

      That being said, I can’t forgive when an entire series is told through one person and then suddenly shifts in the end. Grrrrr!

  6. Changing point-of-view is a literary device that transcends genres and has been around for quite some time, in fact so long that you’d have thought we would be entirely used to it. Two well-known novels in which it happens spring to mind – Wilkie Collins’ ‘The Moonstone’ (1868) and Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’ (1897). Granted neither is a series, but both have been generally read widely by younger readers.

    In my fiction I tend to write in the first person. Advantage – the reader experiences the immediate (unmediated) thoughts and emotions of the protagonist/narrator. Disadvantage – there is no insight into the thoughts and emotions of other characters. An author will switch from one first-person entity to another if there is a need for it, to convey something that the reader needs to know to complete the experience of reading. The narrative necessity of it in the two examples I cite above is fairly obvious. Maybe switching suddenly towards the end of a book or a series does entail hitting the reader in the comfort-zone, but again afflicting the comfort of the reader has plenty of literary precedent. If something jars in a work by a good writer, then you can usually bet your bippy there’s a good reason for it.

    Just thinking about my own longer fiction – I haven’t written a series as yet, but I have written the first and part of the second book of a trilogy, and I’ll return to that later. I didn’t set out to be a YA writer. I fell into it by chance, firstly because my first novel, ‘Lupa’ http://mairibheag.com/lupa-2/ , was marketed as such because it was fairly short, full of action, and written in a tight and economic style; secondly because my second novel. ‘The Everywhen Angels’ http://mairibheag.com/the-everywhen-angels/ , was written as a response to friends’ chafing me that I should write something set in a school at least as good as one of JKR’s books or stop bitching about her; thirdly, because having published those two, I was asked to write a teen-vampire novel. In all of these, point-of-view is deliberately switched. In ‘Lupa’ there are two separate stories seemingly running in parallel but in fact diverging. Point-of-view alternates by chapter, which is not an uncommon device in literature but is one in which a writer deliberately upsets the reader’s concentration on one thread and switches to another. It’s actually a rather effective device. In ‘The Everywhen Angels’ the novel is divided into three parts. In each, a different main character tells what is in effect the same story. Not only is the point-of-view switched, but details are different. This is deliberate, and it does many things: it brings the readers up short, they think “Huh? What’s going on here?”; it points out that whole episodes can be remembered totally differently by different people; it allows for the point-of-view of someone different to reveal more of what is going on, and more of the back-story.

    In my as-yet-incomplete series, point-of-view will change with each book, mainly because of the passing of time and the handing of the baton to another runner.

    “…I had to spend so much time with a character I detested…” – Wow! EXACTLY!! My own teen-vampire work is deliberately different from Meyers, but I take my hat off to her for doing that. Absolutely on target, hitting readers right in the comfort zone, and making addicted fans snap out of role play and character-identification and into seeing things from the point of view of someone they detest. You may be complaining now, but you have been led right there by a writer who knows precisely what she’s doing. Rock back and enjoy. :)

    M

    Postscript: Actually there is plenty of point-of-view swapping in third-person narration. Take for example Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy. That’s a series, if you like. Point-of-view is swapped by the process of focalization, through, for example, free indirect discourse.

    • I don’t have as much an issue with changing points of view within a single book. I don’t like it, but if it’s done artfully and serves the story well, I’ll stick with it. Your book, Lupa, for example is a great example of how changing points of view works very well! I agree the device has merit, but IMHO it takes a lot of panache to pull off in a non-annoying way.

      In the case of your WIP series, changing the point of view with each book in the series wouldn’t bother me, because that’s how you’re establishing the series.

      My point is aimed mostly at series that change pov only in the last book. While you’ve given some wonderful arguments to support the use of the device, I still can’t buy into the idea of changing an established series pov when there’s seemingly no other reason to do it other than the author wanted to try something different or was bored. In some cases, I know why they did it and the reason usually gives away a major plot point. Ooooo, that bugs me!

      Perhaps, some readers enjoy being jarred or pulled out of their comfort zone, but I am not one of those people. Shockingly, I almost stopped reading Breaking Dawn because I was so put off by the shift in pod (and for such a long time). It backfired for me, though I know it was a godsend to those on Team Jacob. ;-)

      As for 1st vs 3rd, I think changing points of view works better in 3rd for the simple fact that it helps the reader remember who’s speaking. In Allegiant, the entire book is written in 1st person with switching points of view. Sometimes I got lost trying to figure out who was “speaking” to the reader. I don’t know if that’s due to weak character development or poor editing. Either way, it ruined the book for me.

      As always, your insight makes for a good debate! Thanks for joining in the discussion! :-)

  7. I agree…it’s one thing if the pov is changing throughout the series, but to get to the end and be thrown into the head of someone new is a mean trick. I know what you are NOT going to do with your series!

  8. That’s definitely a strange trend. I could understand if it’s something that’s happened throughout the entire series, but such an abrupt change and only in the final book and the same choice has been made in several different series in a single genre in recent years… I hope the infection doesn’t spread any further.

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