Jo Talks Books: On Whether The Ending of A Book Changes The Way You Feel About It

Hi everyone! I’m back with my second discussion post of March, and this time, I’m going to be discussing book endings, specifically whether or not the ending of a book changes the way that you feel about a book. There’s no denying it, endings are an important part of any book, in fact for me, I’d say that endings of books are more important for me than beginnings. I can get over a bad start, books often take a while to get started and I can end up liking a book even if I didn’t initially like it, but I feel like a bad ending can be hard to get back from, because when you finish a book, the ending is freshest in your mind and it can tarnish your opinion of what might otherwise have been a good book. However books are very subjective things, everyone has a different opinion on them, so what may be a bad ending for one person, might be the perfect ending for another. I’m going to use the ending of My Sister’s Keeper as an example, as it’s a pretty controversial one that seems to polarise people. For me, I loved the ending, I thought it was the way that the story had to end and ending it any other way would not have been true to the story or the characters, but lots of people on Goodreads have said the ending totally ruined the book for them. Same for Allegiant, you get people who love the ending and people who absolutely loathe it and say that it ruined the book for them. It’s a case of personal taste, so it’s quite hard for an author to get an ending that appeals to everyone, particularly when you acknowledge the role of ships in many YA books nowadays, because so many of them have love triangles, different readers have different ships and so when the love triangle comes to a conclusion, there are bound to be readers who are happy with the outcome, as their ship ended up together and readers who are not because their ship didn’t.

Is it fair for people to judge a book on the quality of it’s ending? Not really, because the book could be really good otherwise, but because the ending is the final impression you get of a book, it’s hard to not be left with a bitter taste in your mouth if the ending is not what you expected. I’ve usually made up my mind about what rating I’m going to give a book long before the ending, by about 60-70% of the way through a book, sometimes even earlier than that, so it takes something really special to change my mind about the rating I’m going to give. Usually if a book is 3 star at the 60-70% mark, it will stay there, but a really good ending can often bump my rating up from a 3 to a 4 star (or at least to a 3.5, which I have done before, for example Queen of Shadows would have been a 3 star rather than a 3.5 star if not for the last 30% or so of the book & Close My Eyes, a Sophie McKenzie book would have been a 3 star rather than a 4, were it not for the gripping end) or in really special cases, I could bump up a 4 star rating to a 5 star, but that has never actually happened for me just based on an ending before, the only example I have of a book I’ve reviewed on this blog where my rating changed to a 5 star, was Heir of Fire, where the first half of the book was a little lagging, 3-4 stars, but the second half was so good, I couldn’t not give it 5. In cases of a not so satisfactory ending, it may change the way I feel about the book, but if I’m not feeling satisfied by a book at the end, I usually think back over the rest of the book and find that there were issues that I had throughout, so my lukewarm rating will not entirely hinge on the fact that I wasn’t keen on the ending. For instance, I wasn’t a fan of the way that the last Heroes of Olympus book ended as the ending was too open for me, I prefer more closed endings for a last book in a series, so I’m not left with millions of unanswered questions that make me want another book when I know I’m not going to get one, but I’m not sure that even if the conclusion had been more satisfactory that it would have affected my rating as there were other problems that I had with the book aside from the ending.

I have to admit that I actually don’t have much experience with loving a book and then changing my mind about it based on the ending. I might lower my rating if I didn’t like the ending, felt it was undeserved, too many loose ends or unanswered questions, sometimes even if the conclusion is too simplistic (all complaints that I’ve had about endings in books that I’ve reviewed) but I’ve never done a complete 180 and changed my mind about a book I’ve loved just because I wasn’t keen on the end. It will obviously affect my rating a little, but I’ve never rated what would have otherwise been a 5 star book a 2 just because I didn’t like the end, the way a book ends doesn’t take away from all the good things about it. Even the ending of Gone Girl, which I outright stated in my review ruined the story for me, and that’s not something I say often, didn’t make me drop my rating from a 4 star down to a one or a two, because it was still a great book and the fact that it ended badly didn’t change the fact that I felt Amy was a very complex and brilliant character and that the story was cleverly done and insightful, a poor choice of ending on Flynn’s part wasn’t going to change the good work that she had done up until then.

I feel that I’m often more harsh if I dislike the end of a series, than if I dislike the end of a standalone, simply because there is so much more time investment in a series. If you don’t like the end of a standalone, then okay, it’s not great, but it’s not as bad as when you’ve invested several years into a series and then are disappointed in the ending, because when you’ve invested that much time into one world and one set of characters, you expect a good payoff at the end. It’s even worse if it’s a series that you really love because your taste of that series will forever be soured by the fact that you didn’t like the end. For example, I love the Heroes of Olympus series, I do, but I will forever feel sour about the last book, because after having read that series for so many years, I felt like I deserved a more satisfying final book. I still love the series, but there will always be a tiny (or not so tiny, I rant about the last book an awful lot with my best friend, who is also a big Percy Jackson fan) bit of bitterness that the last book wasn’t as epic as I’d been hoping it would be and the series for me, kind of went out with a fizzle, rather than a bang. However, this doesn’t always have to be the case, I wasn’t that keen on the ending of the last Skulduggery Pleasant book either, there were too many unanswered questions and it didn’t end quite the way I pictured, but it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the series as a whole and I’m not bitter about it, in the same way that I’m bitter about the last Heroes of Olympus book.

For me, the ending has to feel authentic to the book, and it has to feel earned. If a conclusion is too simplistic, too easy, I won’t like it (like the conclusion to A Court of Thorns and Roses, I felt everything was too neatly tied up) or if it just doesn’t feel like it fits with the book I won’t like it, or if it feels anti-climactic (which is a common complaint of mine), I won’t like it or if I feel like the ending is too open and leaves me with too many questions. Basically, I’m hard to please and very particular about my endings! Having said that, I don’t mind reading ending types that I wouldn’t usually like if it works with the story (for instance, the ending to Undivided wasn’t completely closed, there were still some questions, but it worked well and pretty much everything was tied up pretty well, so I didn’t mind that there was some openness. Dangerous Boys by Abigail Haas also had an open ending, but it worked well for the book, so I didn’t mind), it’s when the ending completely clashes with the story that the author is trying to tell that I get angry. I also don’t mind twist endings, in fact I often quite enjoy twist endings, as long as there is a point to the twist and it makes sense with the story that the author is trying to tell and not just deliberately trying to shock us (Dangerous Girls has the best twist ending ever! I never saw it coming, but it completely makes sense). Also, much as I hate cliffhangers, because it means I have to wait a year for another book and the cliffhanger to be resolved, I also love cliffhangers, because they make for damn exciting endings.

So overall, I can definitely say that endings are important to me, they can often be the difference between ratings, especially when I’m leaning between two ratings, but they are not the be all and end all, if the book overall is good, then the ending won’t completely change the way that I feel about it, unless the ending is really, really terrible, like it completely changes the point of the story. A bad story with a bad ending, the ending won’t bother me that much, I’ll just be annoyed that I wasted my time. A lukewarm story with a lukewarm ending won’t bother me too much either, because if I felt the story was lukewarm then that means I’m not invested enough to care about the ending. Sometimes I even like it when I’m angry at a book’s ending, because if I’m angry then it means I’m invested in the story and the characters. I would rather that than feeling lukewarm! The most important thing about a story for me is that it makes me feel something, whether that be anger or happiness, or sadness, the worst thing is being left feeling lukewarm after finishing a book. Luckily for me, when it comes to endings, I have far more experience of adjusting my rating up because of an ending, than down & more often than not, endings don’t usually change the way I feel about a book, most of the time, if it was a good book for me, it will still be a good book, even if I wasn’t crazy about the end. If I don’t like a book, then it will be due to more factors than just the end, which I like, because I don’t feel my enjoyment of a book should hinge entirely on one part of it.

So over to you! Does the way a book ends change the way you feel about it? Does it change the way you rate it? Are endings important to you? Any really big book ending disappointments that you want to share? How do you like your books to end? Any endings that really irritate you? Let’s discuss, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!

I will have a new discussion post for you all, my first discussion post of April (okay, so technically it’s after midnight as I’m writing this, but that’s a minor detail!), at some point next week, on why classic books just don’t appeal to me, but in the meantime, I will have my March update for the #RockMyTBR Challenge up later today hopefully, so make sure to check that out.

 

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4 thoughts on “Jo Talks Books: On Whether The Ending of A Book Changes The Way You Feel About It

  1. Nish April 1, 2016 / 7:10 am

    Loved this write-up. And so agree with you on your thoughts on Heir of Fire and Queen of Shadows, both of which started slowly and unevenly, and then just went boom!

    I rarely reduce a rating on a book because of the ending. I don’t know, I feel the author knows the story best, and I am pretty much ok most of the time with how they choose to end it.

    One ending though I remember really annoying me was Gone Girl. I just found that ending unacceptable. The whole first half was such an intense psychological he-said, she-said mindgame and in the end, things just went in all sorts of random directions. Still, on the whole, I loved the book, and I don’t remember docking off too many points because of the ending.

    • iloveheartlandx April 1, 2016 / 10:38 am

      Thanks! Yeah they were borh initially lower rated, but after the way they both ended it felt unfair to give them the same rating I would have given them in the beginning. Me either, it’s one part of the book and if I liked the rest of it, then it won’t matter to me too much (most of the time) that I didn’t like the ending, after all like you say, it’s their story and they probably know better than we do, how it should end. Oh I hated the ending of Gone Girl! It was so stupid! But like you I loved the rest of the book and I still gave it the 4 stars I was going to give it (though I did waver on knocking it down half a star for the ending before deciding it didn’t matter, it was still a book worthy of 4 stars even if the ending was a two!

  2. Rain @ Ivyclad Ideas April 1, 2016 / 8:11 pm

    This seems to be THE QUESTION with Half Lost – people either think it couldn’t have ended any other way or are absolutely furious (I’m in the first camp). Usually, I rate books based on my gut reaction the moment I’ve finished, so I guess the ending does have a massive effect on my rating. 😉

    • iloveheartlandx April 1, 2016 / 9:54 pm

      I have to admit I haven’t actually read that series, but I definitely know of books where the ending is polarizing like that (Allegiant springs to mind!). It’s interesting how we all rate books differently, I usually have an idea around halfway through the book what I’m going to rate it, but if I’m struggling between two different ratings, the ending can swing my decision as to whether I’ll rate it higher or lower.

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