*WARNING: Spoilers for various books like Mockingjay, Forever, the Iron King, and Death Note*
I’ve always had a certain disbelief whenever I read a characters death in a book. Almost half of the time, it was just a close call and the character is suddenly back, arriving right at the height of a big moment. It adds suspense, but books (and movies) have done it so much that it’s ruined my ability to take a death seriously. I’m almost always convinced it was a trick or misunderstanding. In the book Forever (from the Mercy Falls series), I went a full chapter believing with full certainty that Cole St. Clair was not dead. I finally admitted that it could be possible when they went looking for his body; kind of a strange reaction since them not being able to find his body should reinforce the belief that he’s not dead. But I should have held on to my belief; Cole was revealed to be alive. I responded with relief AND excitement; perhaps a weird reaction for someone who’d known it all along.
The same happened in The Iron King; the Winter Prince Ash sacrificed himself for his love, Meghan. Except no one sees him die, since he tells Meghan to run while he fights back their enemies. Sure enough, Ash ends up being a prisoner to the enemy but fully alive. You can see why it’s hard to take any death seriously anymore. Which is a big problem, since now it hurts so much more when it isn’t a ploy. Instead of feeling the pain and grieving with the main character immediately after, we fill ourselves with disbelief and float through the next few chapters waiting to see when they will reveal themselves to be fine. When we slowly realize they’re actually dead, we have to cope with it during a random part of the story, after the other characters have already moved on.
A prime example of this is in Mockingjay, when Prim dies. That was more believable but still, there’s always a hope that she wasn’t caught in the bomb blast. We had to slowly realize that she was gone. And death note? I was COMPLETELY convinced that L was alive, he was just pulling a move on Light. I mean L, the greatest detective in the world, killed just like that? I had to ask my friend “Wait, he’s not really dead, right?” before I could even begin to believe it.
This just goes to show that “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” is right; authors have used this manipulative writing technique too many times for me.