Trites (2000:117) argues that death is a biological imperative that possibly operates even
more powerfully on the human mind than sexuality. In this article it will be suggested
that coming to terms with the inevitability of mortality is a key maturational task, but that
popular young adult fantasies dealing with immortal vampires or decaying zombies usually
offer little or no support to adolescents struggling to deal with this issue. By contrast, it
will be suggested that novels such as those in Terry Pratchett’s Johnny Maxwell series,
JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series, Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea series and Philip Pullman’s
His dark materials trilogy provide adolescent readers with safe spaces in which to explore
not only the threat of death, but a range of social and religious approaches to the problem.
In this way, young readers may be encouraged to accept themselves, in Heidegger’s (1962
:304–307) terms, as ‘Being-towards-death’ and eventually even be empowered by
such an acknowledgement.