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And Then There Was One...

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No, this isn't a post about Agatha Christie.

So, I'm reading this book and sorta peaked at the ending (I never do that) and realized that almost everyone dies.  I feel... Violated.  I have no urge to finish that book now, and I only have less than 100 pages to go.  I got involved with these people just to find out that most of them will be killed off.  It seems pointless.

In another book, I have a similar issue in that two sides of a love triangle (in a series, for Pete's sake!) get killed off at the end of book one, leaving the heroine with no serious prospects.  I won't be wasting time wondering who she's going to end up with in book two because it seems obvious since everyone else is dead. It makes me not care to read the next book. 

Do you think authors go too far in killing off characters? 

B
#1 - February 21, 2013, 03:40 PM

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I think people read for different things in books. I have heard people comment before that Americans in general like happy endings because the American Dream is that you work hard and get a happy ending as a result. (I realize that is not necessarily always true--but it's a strong concept in our culture.) So we want our books that way. Other countries have had much sadder histories, so they are more comfortable with other kinds of endings.

Yes, I fully realize that individuals may feel differently and that I am perhaps oversimplifying things! But compare American and other movies sometime for storytelling redux...

That said, I confess that when I was  teen and read that particular book, I felt the same way. Like, who am I supposed to sympathize with, then? I don't know what I would have thought if I'd encountered it first as an adult. Maybe I would have read for something else? I suspect my gut reaction will always want to be to love the main character, though...and to want a happy or at least hopeful outcome for the resolution of the main plotlines. But hey--that's my personal taste! Opinions may vary, of course... :)
#2 - February 21, 2013, 03:48 PM

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I agree with olmue's comments regarding different cultures accepting things to different degrees in their literature. I recently had a similar reaction to you, though, Bunnynut. I read the first two or three chapters of a book that focused on one character, who was then killed. Suddenly another character popped up to investigate the first guy's murder. I felt like I had invested so much energy getting to know the first character that I wasn't prepared to start all over again getting to know someone new as a MC. I tried for a little while, but in the end I put the book down and have not returned to it.
I feel there is too much out there to read to spend much time on something that is irritating me.
Just my two cents' worth.
#3 - February 21, 2013, 04:24 PM
I've Got a Tail! - Amicus Ink 2020

www.juliemurphybooks.com

Julie... I know!  I used to feel guilty for not getting into a book and finishing it, like it was a commitment and reflected badly upon me for not being able to finish a book that was driving me crazy.  Now, I'm like, give me one good reason to finish this book!!!  :)

Olmue... I get you.  I'm the person in the family who remembers the bad stuff.  I guess if you start a story with romance, I have certain expectations, and it's disappointing. 
#4 - February 21, 2013, 05:49 PM

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I had a similar issue where I felt let down with a book because the main character was just too fraught with dumb actions, poor choices and needy, self-absorbed, behavior. I had to push myself to get 1/3 of the way into the book but finally gave up on it because I really just didn't like the main character anymore.

I've read several other books from this author that were really good so I had a tough time figuring out how she came up with this one. And I had to wonder if she had not already done so well with the other books whether this one would have made it to print.
#5 - February 21, 2013, 06:58 PM
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Bobi...  I know what you mean about success of prior books.  As a reader, it appears to me that an author who has had several successes can get away with stuff newbies can't.  They get to break rules.  Like, in some books by one author I read, the plot is almost missing with very little action.  There's a lot of posing and flexing, and maybe a few swift kicks in the next to last chapter with a whole lotta conversation.  However, the author's writing has improved so much since the first book, and there are almost no typos now.  Fans just want to see another installment of their favorite characters.  I'll let her slide, but the next book usually brings out the big guns.  It's like the book was a character-developing filler while working on the real deal. 

B
#6 - February 21, 2013, 10:38 PM

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Bobi, maybe the later, lesser book published by the author you mentioned was written much earlier in his/her career and dragged out from under the bed because of pressure by the publisher to put out something else right away to ride the wave of a national award, book club selection, etc.

Not that I'm thinking of any book in particular :whistle

And I'd probably do the same thing if the publisher asked.

Edited to correct noun/verb incompatibility.
#7 - February 22, 2013, 05:10 AM
« Last Edit: February 22, 2013, 12:40 PM by AnneB »

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First of all, Bunnynut, shame on you for skipping to the back  :uhuh That being said, I totally agree with you. I know not all stories have happy endings, but . . . I made a decision long ago not to end any of my middle grade's on a sad note. I still hold a grudge agaisnt Nicholas Sparks for ending one of his stories by allowing the love interest to  :drowning: right at the very end. Now, bittersweet, that's okay sometimes, packs a real punch. But if I did skip to the end (which I'd never do, of course) and saw that everyone was going to be killed off, I wouldn't finish the book either. Now, I'll end on a happy note  :broccoli
#8 - February 22, 2013, 07:20 AM
A Smidgen of Sky (Harcourt 2012)
A Sliver of Sun (book #2)
 A Million Ways Home (Scholastic 2014)
Just Left of Lucky (2018)
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Anne, that is a possibility, because I've read two more of her books since then and both were up to the standards of the title that first caught my interest.
#9 - February 22, 2013, 10:26 PM
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Reader, reader, reader...
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I'll admit that I almost always read the ending first (unless I *know* the author won't give me any nasty surprises).  I recently started the last book in a trilogy where I enjoyed the first two...but when I skipped to the end (as I always do), I discovered that one of the MCs was killed off.  I think.  It appears to be that way.  And I didn't read the rest of the book -- I'm curious, and I think I *will* read it eventually, but I need to let the impending death sink in and be sure I can spend more time with that character, knowing it's the end.
#10 - February 23, 2013, 11:09 AM
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Unspun: A Collection of Tattered Fairy Tales: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07BSR6CPJ/
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Dianne, I would say it's my first time to peek, but I really can't promise.  I think if I'm getting a bad feeling about something, I will take a super-fast peek to make sure I see the person's name near the end and feel assured that nobody dies.  :) Ninety-nine percent of the time, it turns out okay, and I can breathe easier while I finish the book.  I felt a little like Emma in Alex & Emma in that she always read the ending first.  It's funny, really.  I'm so analytical and often cynical, but, I guess, deep down I still want my happy ending.  :)
#11 - March 03, 2013, 04:10 PM

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This has turned into an interesting discussion. I NEVER skip ahead and read the ending because I want to experience the story as it unfolds; the way the main character experiences it. But if a story has something really upsetting that happens or the ending is way off kilter from how I wanted things to turn out, then I don't want to re-read that book again.
#12 - March 03, 2013, 09:24 PM
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I rarely reread, but since I'm getting older and more forgetful, I may have to experience a few books again for the first time.   :grin

B
#13 - March 05, 2013, 05:42 PM

One of my friends ALWAYS skips to the end if it is a dog or animal story. She can't bear for them to die. She must have been traumatized by Sounder. One the other hand, I never skip ahead. Ever.
#14 - March 06, 2013, 08:29 AM

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