When Books Just…End

I’m sure everyone is doing what I’m doing right now: catching up on all of those Best of 2014 lists that have come out recently. I’m usually pretty excited to find these lists, even though my husband said he has to measure my “to read” pile in terms of feet instead of number of books at this point (he estimated that I have “about two feet of reading” right now). Some of them have been less exciting for me (sorry, I didn’t love Bird Box or Fourth of July Creek).

Last night I stayed up to read Ugly Girls. It’s a compact little book about two teenage girls with a very conflicted relationship. I really liked the varying points of view, the backstory, and the personalities of the girls. I thought the author did a good job showing girls who had experienced some tough circumstances and were not as tough as they wanted to appear- and then it just ended. I won’t spoil it, but it just ended. Not only was there very little resolution, but it ended right as it was getting more interesting. Not. Cool.

There are a lot of books that simply end. I feel like I have been reading more and more of them lately. The best reasoning I’ve heard, so far, is actually from The Fault in our Stars. The main character is obsessed with a book that ends midsentence and hypothesizes that it ended that way because the main character died. She is somewhat desperate to find out what happened to those characters after the narrative ended. As she points out, something had to have happened. As the fictional author of the book countered, however, fictional people cease to exist when he stops writing. Hence, there is no “after” for them. I think that’s a great explanation – if it held up for other books.

I am not a literary student and I haven’t taken more than a creative writing class here and there so I am definitely not an expert on literary devices. It bothers me, however, when things like that are used with no clear reason. I’ll use another recent example: Station Eleven. This book seems to be on everyone’s most popular list and it’s an apocalypse book, so I thought I’d love it. I did like it (once I got past the pretentious names of the characters) but it hinted at interlocking stories and that just didn’t happen. Since I’m not hip to literary devices, I don’t know if that was intentional (i.e., a comment on the randomness of life) or not. That is how I felt with Ugly Girls, as well. It would have been a difficult conflict to resolve. It always makes me wonder if an author had a purpose for their ending or if she couldn’t find a way out of it.

That’s not to say I didn’t like Ugly Girls. I thought the writing was good and the story was interesting. I am just curious about how others react to abrupt endings. What does everyone think?


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