SPOILER ALERT: IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THE MAZE RUNNER TRILOGY OR THE DIVERGENT TRILOGY, YOU MIGHT WANT TO SKIP THIS.
Betrayal as a thematic element in YA post-apocalyptic novels has an important place. Your hero has to fight his or her way through the ridiculous battles and obstacles that are placed in their path because us readers need to cheer them on until the glorious end where the obstacles are vanquished and our hero wins. The betrayal of one or more of those who are closest to the hero is one of those obstacles.
If you’re an author like James Dashner, author of The Maze Runner trilogy, then you understand how to use the element of betrayal to great effect. Currently, as I am zipping through The Maze Runner books, I am heartily enjoying the use of the betrayal element in the story. It is up front and center, in your face, and carries the second book, The Scorch Trials. The characters themselves became aware of a betrayal that was coming, but that did not make the effect any less potent. Dashner uses the betrayal theme to great effect.
And then you have authors like Veronica Roth, author of the Divergent series. Roth is one of those authors that also uses betrayal as an important element of the story. However, the betrayal is not between the characters.
The first two books were told from Tris’ point of view, while the third book flopped between Tris’ and Tobias’ point of view. The change in perspectives annoyed me. Why did she decide to change the perspective for this last book? As the end neared and it became cleared that Tris’ would not live to the end of the series, I realized this and only this was the reason for the change. How can a story continue if your main character is dead? The answer is you cannot.
I had been very much into Tris’ perspective and felt disconnected from the story with the perspective change. Something outside the story itself was now grabbing and diverting my attention from the story. My suspension of disbelief abruptly ended. I kept feeling discomfited and wnodered why the change occurred. When I realized what was going to happen, I felt cheated and betrayed by the author.
And this, my friends, is how you should not employ the use of betrayal in your story. I was an am still highly annoyed at this. I can no longer trust Veronica Roth as an author, and I am not sure that I will be reading any more of her stories because I cannot be sure she won’t try to pull a dirty trick like this again.
Let your characters trick each other all they want. It makes a story more interesting. But never, ever trick your readers.