It’s all about the journey… or is it?
Villains vs. Journeys
There are two types of books in YA; there are books about the journey, about a character thrown in a situation and experiencing personal growth until some sort of conclusion (Jellicoe Road). Then there are books where the heroes battle the villains (Harry Potter). Of course, there are always the books in the middle with bad guys disguising a book about personal growth (Blood Red Road), and personal growth disguising the good vs. evil battle (The Iron King).
Well, that’s how I would categorize things (as in super simplified).
And so I’ve been thinking... if you had to choose, which one do you prefer? Books about the personal journey of the character, or the epic battle against the villainous antagonist?
First, yes, you can say that the best books have the best of both worlds, and I would agree with you. But I'm just saying if you stripped it down and had to choose one or the other...
Perhaps the greatest work of YA fiction, Harry Potter (girl, don’t judge me) is a good versus evil battle. It’s the battle between love and hate, between the good guys, death eaters, and the people residing in the gray zones. It’s the experience of supporting Harry and his attempts to defeat the darkest wizard alive, thus creating a tense, thrilling and fantastic adventure spanning seven glorious books.
A thing I love about these battle books is the final showdown. I’ll call your bluff if you said your heart wasn’t racing and your palms weren’t sweaty when Harry walked into the Forbidden Forest and I’d be lying if I said my heart didn’t lurch every few pages when another scene broke my heart.
I find books with a central theme of good guys vs. bad guys are “large scale,” as in “go big or go home.” Just think of Vampire Academy, it’s the Guardians vs. the Strigoi. It has an epic, action movie feel to it as Rose and her friends fight tooth and nail to be victorious. It’s the adrenaline rush you feel with these types of reads and the ones where after the final page is over, you slump back and think “Wow”. Divergent? Tris vs. the big bad faction (-ish. I think Veronica Roth hates me for what I just wrote.)
So obviously there’s a lot, and I mean a lot, to love about these exhilarating battles, but what about the journey books?
I notice in reviews of books I love, I stress about the journey. I stress about how it’s the journey of the character that breathed life into the book, and it’s about the experiences and hardships that shapes the character and changes him or her from the first page to the last.
I also realize that these ‘journey’ books are much more common in contemporary YA (my favourite genre).. coincidence? I think not. Where She Went. The Piper's Son, Like Mandarin. books by Sarah Dessen, John Green... they're all books about characters.
Because for me, it’s the characters that give meaning to a book, it’s the characters that can redeem a bad plot and the voice that can push me past boring scenes. Between the pages, character growth is vital to a book and it occurs because of experiences that don’t necessarily have to do with a ‘bad guy’. So for me, I don’t need the villain— the antagonist— to be a person or cooperation. I’m happy with reading the internal struggles, motivations, and heart of a teenager just trying to figure out what the heck life is throwing at her.
I’ll always remember this quote and pretty much my inspiration for this post.
I remember asking, “What’s the difference between a trip and a journey?” and my father said, “Narnie, my love, when we get there, you’ll understand.” - On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
I’m a journey kind of gal. What about you?