One Window, Two Views is an original Reading with ABC feature where we discuss a topic from two different points of view. Feel free to join the discussion in comments!
Arianne: Point of view is such an important aspect of storytelling. It’s not something you think about often – or indeed something you should have to think about at all- but if you look closely at your favourite books, you’ll probably see some kind of pattern in the point of view that you favour. For me, it’s first person narration. It’s one of the most common points of view used in YA, and for good reason. It puts you into the main character’s mindset right away and it’s easy to relate to. I love it. Do you have a favourite or preferred point of view in YA, Liza?
Liza: If we are talking YA, then you’re right that it is very common to use the first person point of view. I think that the author’s selection of the point of view (or combination of them) is crucial to the story and what the author wants the reader to “feel” and “think” while immersing themselves in the story. Maybe YA has so many books from the first point of view because it is easier for the reader (as the expected audience is young adult) to identify with the characters and what is happening to them However, the disadvantage is that you only know what is going on when the character telling the story is present to witness/listen to the action or when the character is told or shown something. As to my favorite? I’m not sure I have one, it depends on the writer and how the POV fits the story.
Arianne: True. Traditional points of view – third person past tense, for example – are popular because they’re tried and tested; they’ve proven to be successful so many times, many authors don’t even question if they’re using the right point of view while writing their books. If it goes wrong, however, readers risk being alienated from the protagonists and feeling disconnected from the novel. I find this happens most often in high fantasy (which I adore) and ‘literary’ fiction (which I don’t), and, as a reviewer, for me it’s an unforgivable mistake. POV is such a fundamental part of writing, you’ve just got to nail it – because if you don’t, there a thousand other authors who can master it waiting to take your place on the shelf.
Liza: I think I like the first POV better when it alternates between the characters. I know this drives a lot of people crazy, but it is a great way to compromise, that way you are a bit more connected to all the characters. I love this in Pushing the Limits series by Katie McGarry. The dual, first person POV works perfect here and I couldn’t imagine the story being told from only one of the characters POV. The third person past tense POV also have its advantages, but you’re right, it might feel disconnected depending on the writing.
Arianne: I love the way Pushing the Limits is written! Of course, there are some really incredible authors who do well no matter what point of view they turn to. The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes features of a mixture of narration – including second person, which is highly unusual – and it’s probably the only time I can say I’ve seen the combination really shine. You have to be so sure of your ability to write like that. It’s high risk, but high reward, too.
Liza: The only book that I’ve remember that has second point of view is Half Bad by Sally Green. Nathan finds himself in such an awful situation, trapped in a cage, that he talks about himself in a detached way. I, as a reader, felt his pain, his need to distance himself from the abuse and the mindless discrimination. It’s really powerful!
“You can’t read, can’t write, but you heal fast, even for a witch.
You get sick if you stay indoors after dark.
You hate White Witches but love Annalise, who is one.
You’ve been kept in a cage since you were fourteen.
All you’ve got to do is escape and find Mercury, the Black Witch who eats boys. And do that before your seventeenth birthday.”
Arianne: I haven’t read Half Bad yet, but using second person to show how Nathan’s sense of self has been shattered is an incredibly brave thing to do. My personal favourite unusual POV comes from a book that’s almost the antithesis of Half Bad; I absolutely adore the third person present tense narration of Jennifer E. Smith’s The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight. It’s such a tricky point of view to pull off and there are so many books that falter under it, but Jennifer E. Smith is such a talented writer, it just works. I can’t imagine Hadley and Oliver’s story being told any other way.
Liza: One of my favorite series, Daughter of Smoke and Bones by Laini Taylor, is an awesome example of the third person point of view (it has both past and present narration). The narrator is kind of omniscient, he knows all and is everywhere, even if the individual characters do not. I just love how we know so much more than the main characters and how it all makes sense at the end. Love it!
“The two of them were stoic and stone-faced and ten feet apart, currently not even looking at each other, but Zuzana had the impression of a pair of magnets pretending not to be magnets. Which, you know, only works until it doesn’t.”
How about you? Do you have a favorite POV style? Have you ever read a book which uses the second person? How to you feel about alternating oints of view? How important is for you the POV in the story?
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