Anyone who looks at my Goodreads on the sidebar can see what I finished reading this weekend. That’s right. Divergent. The series. All three books.
I don’t want to give anything away (no spoilers). So I’ll just try to be unspecific and dance around the idea more than any of the details, but still if you’re worried I might ruin something for you then you might want to stay away from this post.
My roommate had warned me. I suppose I should have known what was coming. She’d tried to be careful about it, but as she said “let me know your reaction when you get to the end” I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Because that meant the ending had to be worth reacting to.
And that scared me.
And it was. It kind of left me in one of those book hazes, where I just sat there staring at the wall for a while trying to process. I had to give up doing any homework and just watch a movie instead. It was that baffling. I certainly couldn’t just go to bed. The truth is that I found the conclusion of this series riveting. I’d been warned by others that I’d hate it like I hated Mockingjay. But it wasn’t the same kind of feeling in the least. Mockingjay I hated because I lost interest. It became a blur of action that didn’t appeal to me in the least. Allegiant I couldn’t stop reading. And for good reason.
It’s certainly not a high work of literature. The writing is fairly poor. However, I found the storyline interesting and found that unlike some trilogies, I didn’t lose interest by the end. With Mockingjay, or with Inheritance (the Eragon cycle’s last book) I found myself skimming to merely find out what happened at the very end simply to know, not because it really interested me all that much. But Allegiant was different. At least for me.
But I think there was confusion in the fact that I was left with such a shocking finish. It made me confused about my overall feelings for the book. But at the same time questioned my own writing skills with ending books. Made me wonder what realy is best in terms of how one wraps up a novel.
If my question on endings wasn’t enough I came to my first literature class to be greeted with the question on the board “Were you satisfied with the ending?” referring to the book we’d just finished for class Jane Eyre. I found myself saying yes, though some classmates seemed less pleased. Again, no spoilers don’t worry.
But it continues to make me ponder how a writer goes about ending a novel, or even worse a trilogy/series. It’s a challenging business. On the one hand, ending tragically might make it seem more complex and worthy of study (as many books in the cannon are), but at the same time may anger or upset readers. A happy ending can be nice, but also may seem a bit too cliche and, of course, predicable.
My roommate hit the nail on the head in some ways in my opinion. A good ending is worth reacting to. That can be in either a positive or negative manner. But books that I’ve read in the past where it’s just been a skim for the facts aren’t worth it at all. Books like Jane where I put it down feeling thoroughly satisfied, or books like Allegiant that leave me pondering, those are the worthy endings in my mind. And while both are very different, I think they both managed to maintain an element of unpredictability and surprise in how events came together.
But it’s a challenge that any author knows. Loose ends should probably be tied up. Feelings have to be dealt with. Even if going for tragic, authors might like to pull in a small bit of hope (or not depending). As readers and viewers we witness all too often the fault of stories that can’t quite seem to figure out where to end. While I love Lord of the Rings, can we all agree the movie had five different parts that seemed like the end and weren’t?
It’s perhaps the greatest struggle of a writer, the greatest woe of a reader, and the dread we both share in common. Putting characters to rest, saying goodbye to old familiar places, moving on, wrapping up, ensuring that there is no suspicion for further books (because don’t we all hate books that end that seem like they should have sequels or epilogues or something more!). And finally and most importantly figuring out what exactly the book is going to leave us with.
Feedback time: What do you like in your endings? Are you a happy ending book lover? Do you prefer books that make you think? Is there an ideal combination of both? What other elements do you think are important? List a few favorite book endings (add spoiler warnings if need be!). I always am glad to hear from my readers.