Which makes it really kind of strange that three of the books I’ve read (and loved) recently (or, in the case of one, am in the middle of reading) have either started with a character’s death (Before I Fall) or a couple of weeks after her death (Thirteen Reasons Why). Codename Verity, which I’m part of the way through, starts with the mc in a Nazi prison, facing death. And I’m pretty sure the ending doesn’t involve her building a ladder from pencils and effecting a daring escape.
So, these books are kind of strange because they really start at the end of the story (Thirteen Reasons Why really does start at the end) and then backtrack to explain how we got there. I must admit, I’d expected to dislike them. I sat and looked at them for ages before reading them, wondering if I could face the misery. A story where the character dies right at the start (or finds herself in a position where she’s clearly going to) does not, by definition, have any hope.
Or, well. No hope that the character is going to survive.
But the books are still gripping and involving and I didn’t find them too grim to read. They reminded me of two of my favourites from a few years ago, The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, which starts with the main character, Susie, being raped and murdered, and Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler which starts with Rubashov in a Soviet gaol.
So, what’s different, I suppose, is the source of hope is about something other than life or death. Rubashov needs to come to terms with his past as a fervent believer in the Bolshevik system, and deal with all the things that have changed; Susie needs to let go of her life (which is similar to what Samantha has to do in Before I Fall, though their lives and way it happens are quite different); Hannah in Thirteen Reasons Why is really dead — she’s not a revenant; she’s gone — so the focus of the story is really on Clay understanding what happened and starting to get on with his life.
Codename Verity. Well, I haven’t finished it — I’m not even halfway through (totally bizarrely, compared to Thirteen Reasons Why, which I read in a day, I’m finding Codename Verity a denser, slower read) — so this is a guess. I have a feeling the mc is up to more than she seems to be, though I haven’t yet worked out what exactly.