A Rant of My Own – Lame Ass Endings

So, I’m following in the footstomps of the Insatiable Booksluts and I’m going to vent some vitriol in a Reading Rage of my own. I’m not gonna call it that, but call this little nod to the righteous readerly indignation that we all feel from time to time when we pick up a book and have only one possible reaction:

you know you've made this face....

This one is about lame ass endings. I’m talking the endings that make you flip through the obligatory notes at the back of a book, the thanks-to-the-people-who-didn’t-kill-me-and-should-have-while-I-was-a-complete-and-reclusive-asshole, the author bio, and all the miscellaneous pages to round out the print, just to see if there is more to the story you missed. Endings that make you think the writer is playing a trick on you, or is just being mean. Endings that make you scowl at the cover, then at the blurb, then rush to the internet to find out when the next one is coming out, not because you are dying to read it, but because the end pissed you off and you want to know how much time you have to rant and rave over it before you pointedly avoid buying the next installment.

I just had a moment of this caliber and I’m so annoyed, I had to put it in words.

First, though, a little backstory.

Even though people around me salivated over the HBO series “True Blood,” I didn’t immediately hop on the bandwagon. I didn’t really avoid it, but I wasn’t so awed by the premise that I felt the urge to watch it like some visual crack addict. When it first started, I didn’t have cable, and then I wasn’t interested enough to Netflix it or find it elsewhere on the internet in order to catch up on what I’d missed when I finally did have over a hundred channels of “nothing’s on.” The books that inspired the TV series got a good friend of mine into junkie reading mode, so I figured I’d avoid them – not because I don’t trust her taste, but I know my own personal issues with popular books. I didn’t want to read them, get disappointed with the series and have to have that conversation with her and dent her love of reading by giving a less than comparable glowing opinion.

In the end, the same friend wore down my resistance and I caught up on “True Blood” and started watching it around season3. I enjoyed it enough to get psyched about season 4, and around that time (roughly), I started my Audible.com addiction and decided I’d listen to the Sookie books. (We’re not going to talk about season 5, nor are we going to discuss the divergent path of the show. That’s a rant for another day, and another blog.)

In defense of the Southern Vampire Mysteries series, they’re not bad. They’re fun, lighthearted and colorful. They aren’t high literature, of course, but they’re a good time that doesn’t require a whole lot of thought to draw your interest. You get used to Sookie’s…well, Sookie-ness, and after a bit, it even becomes charming. Charlaine Harris knew what she was doing when she developed Sookie’s voice and personality. It’s strong and it’s an integral part of the entire series. There are elements of distinct southern-ness about it and it helps bring the story into striking contrast when compared to other popular vampire books. *ahem* Around book 8, the cliches, some of the catchphrases, repetition, and pop-culture name-dropping started to grate on my nerves, but not enough to abandon the series. I enjoyed the chemistry between Sookie and her vamps and the others in her life and I wanted to know what else was going to happen.

And then I got to book 11, Dead Reckoning.

It wasn’t a terribly unique book, and there wasn’t anything I felt particularly distinguished it from the others around it. It was an enjoyable (albeit a little predictable) story replete with those moments that made me smirk and chuckle. Until I got to the end.

I finished listening to it while doing some mindless little task and was starting to get annoyed with Sookie’s introspective and repetitive “I wonder…maybe…” monologue when the words “The End” rang in my ear. I waited for the voice to tell me “you have reached the end of a part,” and to have them tell me that the “download had been broken up into multiple parts to make the download faster” but instead, I heard the familiar “Audible hopes you have enjoyed this program.”

Confused, I poked at the audiobook app until I realized that yes, the ending of the book had been that lame. Sookie sitting on her couch watching Jeopardy.

I played it again. It didn’t get any longer, and it didn’t change.

Wait. What?

How in the hell did Harris get away with this kind of ending? Even my least discerning beta reader would tell me that an ending like that was complete bullshit, that it provided no closure and no sense of it continuing into another book. Sure, there was foreshadowing for the next book in the previous chapters, but it was so broad that there is no real embedded hook to draw me into the next one. There’s nothing to compel me to pick up the final volume other than the fact that it exists and that is, in my opinion, laziness. It smacks of a lack of planning, a lack of interest in the story arc from book to book and of rushing to wind it up within page count and on deadline for the next book. I get cliffhanger endings and while they annoy me, I respect them and the passionate interest they create for the next book. I get intentionally unsatisfying or ambiguous endings; they let the story live on in my head long after I put the book down. I don’t expect a book to have a happy ending, and I actually prefer the ones that don’t have a happy ending where everything gets all tied up in a neat, unrealistic package. When I know it’s a series, I want the author to make me a junkie for the story and make me yearn for the next release date, or at the very least, crave it like a chocoholic on a diet. The unspoken power of the pen is to compel the blood to boil at the author’s whim and such power should be used responsibly. Here, it was not.

My interest in a series I’ve enjoyed has turned on one book and now, I’m annoyed. This ending didn’t feel as though it were created to be intentionally ambiguous or unsatisfying, nor did it feel like it was an integral part of a series. To me, this kind of ending closes the cover on the series, not just the penultimate book. If I hadn’t already downloaded Deadlocked, I probably wouldn’t just based on the ending of Dead Reckoning. It hasn’t ruined the entire series for me, which I have enjoyed, but it certainly has changed my opinion of these remaining books, the last before I’ve even started it. Had this been a dead tree version, it would have sailed across the room to collide with the wall. THAT would have been satisfying in a way the last paragraph was not.

I know I’m not alone in my frustration with lame ass endings. Let’s hear what endings you’d love to force the author to re-write, or that you’d rewrite in a more satisfying way.

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