Thursday, October 17, 2013

On The Open Ending In Fault Line

I originally wrote this post for Novel Thoughts and wanted to re-post it here so that it lived in this place too. 

I did not set out to write a rape book. Frankly, I didn’t think I ever would. I always thought it was too close, too personal, that I carried too many stories around from survivors to be able to do justice to one.

And then one day Ben crawled into my head and wouldn’t leave until I laid everything out on the page. When people ask if this is based on a true story, I always say, “This is no one’s story and everyone’s.” Because there is truth in that. It is a work of fiction. There’s no Ben or Ani in real life. There’s just every survivor I’ve ever met, every one I worked with in hospital ERs, every one who I’ve heard tell their stories.

And there is this deep in my bones knowledge that you never really shake rape. You heal, you move on, you survive, but there is never a time when you forget and there is never a time when this isn’t a part of who you are.

Ellen Hopkins asked me on a panel at ALA if I was prepared for the flack I was going to get about my open ending. It was such an interesting question because this ending had proven polarizing for agents and editors alike. As a matter of fact, I added more to the ending in the final version so the ARC isn’t exactly right (Take note people who read ARCs, things can change quite a bit still). Although I still leave the ending open. Leave it as this final moment where we teeter on the precipice of “I don’t know if it’s going to be okay.” I just make it more obvious I’m doing that intentionally.

I ended this book on that precipice because I think sometimes we forget that teenagers live in a constant state of it. Every day they stand on that edge. We as human beings are works in progress, there are no happy endings, just happy for nows. Why would we think it’s any different for teens? Why would we want it to be? This is the best time in their life to be a work in progress. Try new things, figure out who they are and what they want.

But specifically, in the case of Ani and Ben, I did want to say something with my open ending. I did want to add a question into the cannon of YA literature dealing with rape. I did want to add a wrinkle to the immediate assumption that survivors heal and the bad guys get it in the end.

That is not the reality of rape as I’ve seen it. Rape is largely unreported and largely underprosecuted. Bad guys getting it in the end happened less than a dozen times in the 100+ rape cases I saw in hospital ERs over a decade. But further, the assumption of rape survivors moving on and healing was one I wanted to explore. Not because I don’t believe it, it has been proven to me over and over again by the army of survivors standing beside me in this work. But I wanted to explore it because of a survivor I met named Sarah.

Sarah participated in a survivor testimonial writing workshop with me in 2011. She is an amazing woman with a harrowing story of being sexually assaulted on the Appalachian Trail with 3 other friends the summer of their junior year. During a break in the workshop, I asked her what had happened to her friends who were also raped. She told me that one is still one of her closest friends, one doesn’t really like to talk about it, and one disappeared. I asked about the one who disappeared and Sarah said, “I don’t know what happened. She could be dealing drugs, she could be homeless, she could be dead. We lost her.”

We lost her. Those words echoed through me and would not leave my head as I wrote Fault Line. Not because that’s the ending I wanted for Ani, or even expected, but because it could be. The reality is that we lose survivors sometimes. And sadly, this year with two sexual assault-related suicides prominently in the press, this has become achingly obvious to me.

So I left my ending open. I asked a question and didn’t give an answer. But I hope I started a conversation that will lead to every single person doing their absolute best to make sure that we never lose a survivor again. 

1 comment:

Matthew MacNish said...

I cracked my copy open last night, and took a look at the end. I noticed it was a little different, but I didn't know exactly how until I looked at my ARC this morning.

I don't exactly "like" the ending, if you know what I mean, but I definitely think it works. The message is clear to me.