Endings & Expectations

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Today, I read an incredibly enlightening blog post by Gayle Forman, where she shared her thoughts about endings. I really do encourage everyone to go give it a read because Gayle’s insights were amazingly eloquent. It also inspired me to explore this topic even more and that’s why this post exists right now.

Those in the bookish community are very much aware that the reactions for series enders such as Mockingjay, Allegiant and Just One Year have not been pretty. I don’t know if you guys noticed but these books have garnered the lowest ratings in their respective series. (I checked Goodreads.) Many people were obviously so disappointed and some of them absolutely hated the inconclusive/tragic endings that these books had.

I have yet to read Allegiant and Just One Year despite these books sitting at my shelf right now, just a stretch away. My excitement for both books was so crazy that you’d think I’d read them right away as soon as I held them. However, after seeing everyone’s comments and some small spoilers, I was truly, absolutely scared. I didn’t want to be disappointed with these books because I wanted to love them as much as I loved their predecessors. And that right there is the root of my expectations.

It takes a real integrity, a writer’s insistence on letting the story, not the reader, be the guide, to finish a series this way. It can be a hard thing to do, to know you’re doing right by your story, your characters, but possibly alienating your readers. But the opposite road is simply untenable.

– Gayle Forman (x)

As I pondered on Gayle’s blog post, I realized just how heavy expectations are, especially to series enders. Authors are expected to give a finale book that serves the series right. However, I think we miss the fact that we all have a different definition of  what is right for the ending. We shouldn’t expect authors to give us what we want or what we think makes for a good conclusion. As readers, all we should do is let these authors tell the story and how it ends because it is theirs to tell.

Another realization of mine- I like not knowing to expect. I like it when authors take risks. I have read Mockingjay and you know what? I loved it. I loved it because it was a real ending and because it left me hopeful. Same goes with Requiem, another series ender some disliked but I loved. I really appreciated the message that the ending contained.

After all this, I’ve decided to finally read Allegiant and Just One Year as soon as I finish what I’m reading now. I’ll ignore all my expectations and fears and just dive in. As I will with all of the books I read from now on. (That maybe my new reading manifesto right there.)  I’ll still prepare my tissues though. That said, I leave you with Gayle’s words:

Endings, like life, can sometimes  be messy. Some books are meant to be a salve to that messiness (those books with the neatly tied up, happily ever afters that just make you feel all warm and fuzzy and safe). And some books are meant to reflect life’s messiness. Others are meant to challenge it. There is room for all of these books.

– Gayle Forman (x)

Have you read any of the books mentioned? How did you feel about them? Do you think having expectations onto how a series ender should go is justified? Do you like it when authors give us unconventional endings? Why or why not? Talk to me!

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18 Responses

  1. Great post! I think some people forget the purpose that an author has – to tell their story. It’s not to make us happy. I, like you, loved the endings to Mockingjay & Requiem. I have had Allegiant on my shelf since the day it cam out but I’ve been neevous. You (and Gayle) have inspired me to pick it up next. Forget how others have felt about it, stop being scared. It’s not about others… it’s about me and the story. ;)

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you, Brandy! Glad to hear I’m not alone in my opinion. Mockingjay and Requiem were really good books weren’t they? I got Allegiant the day it came out too but was super anxious about it because a) Everyone else’s reaction was super scary b) I didn’t think I was ready for the story to end there. It makes me happy that my post encouraged you to pick it up next! Let’s be dauntless and face our fears, yes? ;)

  2. I haven’t read Allegiant yet because I still haven’t picked up Insurgent (going to binge read the series next week!), and I haven’t even started Just One Day, but I did read Mockingjay. I personally loved it…yes, the one part SUCKED, and I bawled, and it was awful, but like Gayle said – it was realistic. And the very ending, like you said, gives hope despite all the awful things that happened.
    Sure, HEAs are great, but I’m the kind of person that wants some sort of sacrifice. Take Kinslayer, for example. (If you haven’t read it, YOU NEED TO.) Jay Kristoff pulls no punches. That book ripped my heart out and gave me emotional trauma. There’s a part in it that I want to cry just thinking about! But because of that, it scored the position of my favorite book of the year.
    Sadly, HEAs are unrealistic.
    I still need to read Requiem too! *sigh* So behind on series…

  3. I just finished Allegiant and even though I got spoiled, that didn’t change my reaction toward the book. I did have some issues, but unlike most people I know, I surprisingly love the ending because it shows a great character development and it fits the tone of the series well. I also liked the ending of Requiem and I just felt pleased with the ambiguity and the openness — if you know what I mean xD it gives a feeling that certain struggles aren’t meant to end, continuous..

    I think it’s normal to have a high expectations for a series conclusion — especially for our favorite series! :D you can’t help but to hope — to feel so sureeee — that you’ll love the book.

    To me, an ending has to reflect the book. If it’s a dystopia or post apocalyptic, it won’t make sense to have a fairytale-like ending right? I used to hate Mockingjay because my favorite characters died…but after a lot of thinking, it’s the most realistic conclusion to the series. I did have a major boredom with it though, so I still dislike it…

    I hope you still can red Allegiant with an open mind :)

  4. I didn’t give Mockingjay a lower rating because of the ending: I was disappointed by the whole story and how everything went. I hated Requiem because I felt like the ending wasn’t done yet.. I don’t mind tragic endings and I don’t think there is a right or a wrong way to end a book, but I need answers and a conclusion.

  5. I haven’t read Allegiant yet either, for the same reasons. But I really do like that second quote – “Life is messy, and sometimes books are meant to be a salve to that, but other times it’s meant to explore or challenge it.” It kind of reminds me of that movie Letters to Juliette, where the grandma says, “Life is the messy bits.”

    I think the reason people don’t like messy endings is because it’s too much like real life, and if someone is reading a book to escape, they don’t want to be reminded of reality. In their escape world, everything is perfect, and nothing ends up messy. A messy ending is just a reminder that they can’t control the book’s reality, or even their own. We’re made to face our lack of control.

  6. Wow, I love this! I think I’m going through with this on some level. But for me, it’s not just about the series enders. I’ve yet to read Insurgent, Just One Year, Blood Promise (but this one’s really because book hangover!), Crash Into You and Everbound. It’s a war between I-like-not-knowing-what’ll-happen and I-dread-reading-the=book-anyway.

    Sometimes, I do read series back to back like I did The Hunger Games and I ended up loving Mockingjay. I was confused as to why so many people don’t and I researched. I understand their point of view; they wanted more closure. But I liked the way it ended, I liked everything about it actually. Mockingjay is one of those books that are ‘are meant to reflect life’s messiness’ like Gayle said. So yes, I love unconventional endings.

  7. I also read (more like skimmed) the article and I’m still a little iffy in my own opinion. I think that readers are justified in having their opinions on how a book should end but if they get disappointed, they shouldn’t attack the author or be disrespectful about it. I haven’t read Allegiant yet but I know what the big spoiler is and even though it’s not the ending I wanted/thought would happen, I respect Veronica Roth for creating an unpredictable ending. It creates suspense and sometimes those endings are more realistic than not. Great post! :)

  8. I didn’t like Mockingjay as much as the other Hunger Games books not because of the ending (which I don’t even remember) but because I just wasn’t interested in most of what was going on — and that started way before the ending.

    I haven’t read Allegiant yet for the same reason you haven’t, but earlier today I read a big spoiler (on purpose – I’m tired of avoiding the book) and I realized I don’t care. I think it’s because I was very disappointed in Insurgent and with the awful casting of the movie, I’m kind of over the entire series and the characters. I bought into the hype for Allegiant, but I really don’t know why.

    In general, I do prefer endings that give closure. I like to think of my favorite characters living out their lives even though I’m not following them anymore and I want them to be happy.

  9. This is a great post! I almost waited to read Allegiant, too, because I was so inundated with everybody talking/complaining about it and it was making me really apprehensive to read it. But I’d already scheduled it into my TBR for that month, so I just decided to go ahead and do it anyway and try to block other people’s opinions out as much as possible (not reading reviews, etc.).

    I just read Requiem this week and I was honestly give of disappointed in it. I know that a lot of people HATED it, which wasn’t my feeling, but while I liked that she took the risk and did an open-ending, I wish that there had been just a bit more resolution in some areas. It was just a little too open for my personal tastes, I think.

  10. I agree about Allegiant! The ending wasn’t disappointing – I’m talking about the book in general. So slow, so long and so little happened. I couldn’t believe this was written by the same author who wrote Divergent. I started Just One Year in October and I’m still trying to go through it. I’m not that interested in Willem, to be honest. He’s cool and all, but reading a whole book about him doing stuff? I’m not into that. It’s not nearly as captivating as Allyson’s journey in Just One Day.

    I’ve been scared of final books for a while now. I don’t understand why they’re so disappointing. I know it’s not because the series are ending and I have to say goodbye to the characters. It’s just… I don’t know, I can’t put my finger on it. I really hope that feeling will go away soon.

  11. Oh great thoughts Hazel! :) I myself used to get really scared of reading books, series finales especially, that a lot of people say didn’t quite live up to their expectations. But lately, when this happens, I just hold onto the hope that I’m going to love the book more than they do, and you know what? Most of the time, I do :D I haven’t read any of the books you mentioned except for Mockingjay (Which I LOVED), even if most are on my TBR pile. I have every intention of doing so, though :)

  12. The last book in a series will always be the most nerve-wracking to me, because it’s the end. Nothing else will come after it, so whatever happens is final. Lately it seems like more and more authors are getting fond of sad, tragic (yet heroic) endings. I don’t think there’s necessarily anything wrong with those, but if I hear that’s how a series ends I’ll generally put it off (like Requiem for example). However, I can also respect a writer’s decision to end their story that way because they know a lot of people aren’t going to like it but they do it anyway. And I guess that’s how it should be because it’s their story, and they’re sharing it with us. I hope I made sense, lol. Nice post!

  13. Mockingjay is the only of your examples that I’ve read. I know I’m not alone in that it was my least favorite book in the series, but for me it had nothing to do with the WAY it ended and everything to do with HOW it got there. To me, it just got rushed and awkward as it approached the end, and I thought it could have used an extra chapter or two. But I didn’t have a problem with the events themselves, and the epilogue captured just the right tone. (Of course, that’s just my opinion…)

    As a reader, I’m much more interested in getting a strong book that does justice to everything that came before it than one that ends exactly the way I want it to.

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