Hope and Happy Endings in YA Fiction: a Guest Post by I’ll See You Again Author CJ Bedell

Today we’re excited to welcome Chris Bedell to the site to discuss his YA contemporary novel, I’ll See You Again, out now from Deep Hearts! Here’s a little more about the book:

It’s the start of his senior year, and Cyrus should be worried about college applications, procrastinating on homework, and staying up past his bedtime. And he does, until his mother’s cancer returns.

To make matters worse, Nico Valentine—the person Cyrus hates most—insists on being his friend. Carefree, flirtatious, and spontaneous, Nico is everything Cyrus’s childhood never allowed him to be. When their English teacher offers Cyrus extra credit to tutor Nico, Cyrus knows he shouldn’t accept. He could use the distraction, though.

A fling soon ensues, and Cyrus realizes they have more in common than he thought. What is more, Nico is the first person who seems to get him and who is there no matter what. But, if Cyrus wants his romance with Nico to turn into something real, he’ll have to do something he’s never done before—be vulnerable with another person.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N

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And here’s the guest post!

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(Warning: The following blog post contains spoilers from the YA Contemporary novel I’LL SEE YOU AGAIN)

Hope is a controversial issue in YA literature (and even pop culture in general). On the one hand, people argue YA literature is fiction. So, there’s no harm in having a happy ending. On the other hand, some will argue a YA book might seem unrealistic if an ending is too happy. And the issue of happy endings is something I debated while writing my YA Contemporary novel I’LL SEE YOU AGAIN.

My main character, Cyrus, goes through a lot in the book. His mother has a cancer relapse, and ultimately dies. Cyrus also has his relationship with Nico, which becomes tumultuous towards the end of the book.

Chapter 23 (the book’s second to last chapter) takes place on graduation. Cyrus skips graduation, and reconciles with Nico for that one night. Cyrus wakes up the next morning to find Nico didn’t stay the night. Nico ended things with him on a Post-it note. Some people might argue the book could’ve concluded with that. Cyrus and Nico reconnected very briefly, yet their second breakup reinforces how some relationships don’t always last.

I couldn’t let the book end with the morning after graduation when Cyrus discovers the Post-it note, though. Doing so would’ve been cruel. The arc of Cyrus and Nico’s begins with the book’s first chapter. So, readers deserve a payoff. Cyrus also deserves happiness beyond his writing ambitions, friends, and family. Nico is the one person who understands Cyrus the most despite their opposite personalities. Nico and Cyrus both like to write, had fathers who abandoned them, and had mothers who died of cancer.

Chapter 24 (the book’s last chapter) therefore pushes the novel’s plot forward about nine months. It’s the following March after graduation. Nico and Cyrus are both back in town for Spring Break, and they eventually reconcile.

To me, offering hope is important in YA literature. Something cathartic exists from seeing Cyrus get a happy ending after struggling so much. A general overlap exists with real life—some readers might be grappling with serious problems. And they deserve to know life gets better no matter how trite the sentiment sounds. People are more than their romantic relationship, but being Nico makes Cyrus happy. It’s only human, after all. Most people wanna feel loved and accepted.

Also, I offer realism in a less jarring way. If I wanted to make the book unbelievably happy, then I would’ve had Chapter 24 also mention Cyrus getting a career break with his writing. But I didn’t. Not because that’ll never happen for Cyrus—it will. But because readers don’t need the entirety of Cyrus’s life story to know he’ll be happy. Cyrus is just like most people. Taking life one day at a time. And that’s enough. If Cyrus survived his mother’s death and reconciled with Nico, then he can handle anything.

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Chris Bedell’s previous publishing credits include Thought Catalog, Entropy Magazine, Chicago Literati, and Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, among others. His debut YA Fantasy novel IN THE NAME OF MAGIC was published by NineStar Press in 2018. Chris’s 2019 novels include his NA Thriller BURNING BRIDGES (BLKDOG Publishing), YA Paranormal Romance DEATHLY DESIRES (DEEP HEARTS YA), and YA Thriller COUSIN DEAREST (BLKDOG Publishing). His other 2020 novels include his YA Thriller I KNOW WHERE THE BODIES ARE BURIED (BLKDOG Publishing), YA Thriller BETWEEN THE LOVE AND MURDER (Between The Lines Publishing), and YA Sci-fi DYING BEFORE LIVING (Deep Hearts YA). Chris also graduated with a BA in Creative Writing from Fairleigh Dickinson University in 2016.

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