Monday, December 30, 2013

Let's Discuss The Series End

I used to look forward to series ends. 

I loved the feeling of getting to know characters over the course of several books, becoming emotionally invested in their struggles and triumphs and then letting them go at the end of their journey and in a place that is better off than when I met them. Usually the world is a little safer place and they've found friends, family and a love that will carry into the future. 

Now anticipating series conclusions just give me an anxiety attack. 


I'm going to stop a minute before I continue and tell you something about myself.

1) I am an unequivocal fan of the HEA. Or rather the realists version of the HEA, which sometimes just means the characters finally get a little peace. To me this also includes the girl getting her guy. I'm pretty unapologetic about that for a series. After several books of watching a couple struggle, get torn apart, fight for survival etc, I want them to be happy. I don't care if that's unliterary or uncool of me. However, I don't like magical solitons that fix problems without taking into account the reality of the world in which the MC is living or the situations s/he's encountered. I'm also not a fan of generously handing out immortality, unless it makes sense for the characters, or one in the couple is already immortal (this is a larger discussion for another day).

Examples: Two controversial series ends that I liked: I actually consider the very end of Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins to fit into the Good End category (most often, I don't mind epilogues), I also liked the end of Forever by Maggie Stiefvater, even though it's a lot more open ended. In both, I felt like I left the characters in a safe place, with enough hope to let them go. I thought the end of Boundless by Cynthia Hand fell into the Magical Solution category, and I was not a fan of that epilogue (sorry! - I also have lots and lots to say about this book, but will refrain here).

2) A series is nothing without its end.  I know not everyone will feel this way  - maybe I'm the only one - but how a series ends clouds the entire experience for me. If a book ends in a way that is disappointing or depressing, I have a hard time seeing the entire series in a positive light. In other words, how I send characters off into the future means a great deal to me. Especially after feeling emotionally attached to them throughout several books where they inevitably suffered.

Example: I wasn't a big fan of the end of Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle series, and that has affected my feelings about the whole experience. To be fair, this series petered out for me a bit as it continued. On the other hand, I love the end of Jeri Smith-Ready's Shade series, which has made me see the whole trilogy in a much more positive light, even though book two is a love triangle disliker's nightmare (think love-pentagram). The books mentioned in the next section also fit this example.

This year the excitement and faith I've always had in the end of series has been shaken with some disappointing conclusions. (I'm all about numbering things today:)

1) I still don't understand what happened. I've read a few endings this year where my vision for the series all of a sudden seemed to sharply veer away from the author's, so much so that I've questioned my original love for the series. These are books that have left me feeling sadder than when I started the series, as well as upset at myself for getting so emotionally attached to a story that left me feeling depressed. Main characters died, the wrong guy got the girl, the series had no real conclusion or it seemed like the characters entered a mind warp and weren't who I remembered they were in the beginning. I will fully admit that several of these had to do with the dreaded love triangle, which is why I have upped my efforts to avoid them. 

Examples: Books that fit into this category are Boundless by Cynthia Hand (because of the way the triangle was handled) and Allegiant by Veronica Roth. Not just because of the ultimate conclusion, which did hurt. But for the slow pacing, lack of direction and info dumping. I completely avoided reading Requiem by Lauren Oliver, but I'm confident that I wouldn't have liked it either.  

2) It's not you, it's me. Or, maybe it is you after all. For a few series I read this year, I finally got to the third book and just didn't care anymore. This inevitably has to do with series that I've read spread out over a few years. I'm not a big rereader so some of this is my fault. After investing in so many series at the same time, some naturally have gone by the wayside, but it's sad to pick up a final book in a series that I had previously loved and feel a lackluster connection to the characters and conclusion. I'm not sure how to fix this except to wait to read series until several books are out, but that's not always realistic.  Even so, I do feel like if I was that invested in the beginning of the series, I should like it in the end. If I'm not anymore, than maybe it's not me, it's you? 

Examples: Infinityglass* by Myra McEntire and Goddess by Josephine Angelini. I'm not sure whether I'd like them better as a whole if I'd read them in full this year, or if my reaction would be the same? These ends were both positive, I just didn't care as much as I'd hoped once I got there. 

*I liked Infinityglass, but the series as a whole lost its momentum in the last book.

3) Good Endings. I don't want to make it sound like I disliked every series conclusion I read this year. I have read some ends that I've loved. It's just that my previous mental surety that I'm guaranteed to love them always has been completely shaken. 

Examples: A few of my favorite series ends this year were Eternally Yours by Cate Tiernan and The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson (I read both series close together too, btw.) I also just finished Champion by Marie Lu, and I'm going to throw it into this category, even though I was hesitant about it right when I finished it. 

Looking ahead, I just finished two early 2014 series ends that I liked a lot. Infinite by Jodi Meadows and Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi. 

Where is the lesson here? 

I don't know if there's anything that I can do to combat Bad Ending in the year 2014, unless I try to remain emotionally detached from books, which is virtually impossible for me. I have a lot of favorite series coming to an end next year, and I'm nervous. But I'm going to read them anyway, obviously. Waiting for others' reactions generally psychs me out, so I'm just going to read them right as they release. As for new series coming out, I'm trying my best to avoid anything that might even hint at a triangle, because that's where most of my disappointment about endings has been located. I'm also trying to be more selective about starting first books until sequels are out, because I usually feel better connected when I can read thru a series at once. Even so, it's not always realistic for me wait. I think it's more fun to read series when a rush of friends is reading it at the same time, because my favorite is discussing books I love. Basically, I'm going to start anticipating the worst and hoping for the best. 

 Some of the series ending this year that I'm excited/nervous about reading. 
What series ends are you anticipating?

Tell me about your own experience with the series end. 

Does it give you anxiety or make you excited? 

How do you face a conclusion?


  1. YES TO THIS LAUREN! I'm finding I'm the exact same way! I would even go so far as to say I'm this way with sequels in general, not just the final book in a series. I tend to gravitate toward first books in a series and even though I'm DYING to find out what happens in a second, third, fourth book etc., I get so nervous because I just want that happy ending but I know it's going to be a rough road to get there. If I have the choice between a middle or final book in a series or the first book of a new series, I'll choose the first book every time. I've definitely run across a couple endings where I just didn't care either despite being riveted by the earlier books, and also endings that just left me confused or off-kilter, so I'm with you on all the anxiety!

  2. I bought Allegiant and Boundless on their release dates and still haven't read them. If that tells you anything. Having read Fracture Me I feel the Shatter Me series can only end one we shall see. I am a tad nervous. I want my HEA but do not mind open endings. I have no problem imagining my own version. Wonderful post :)

  3. I swear we're like brain twins. I feel exactly the same way. I will *always* want a happy ending for my characters, and that includes the romance. It doesn't have to be (in fact, it shouldn't be) cheesy, but I like knowing that they are together at the end and they've made it through everything. I won't read Allegiant now because I feel like it would just be a waste of time for me and only make me upset. :/ Actually, I hadn't even read Insurgent because I was waiting for Allegiant to come out. I'm not a huge fan of open-endings either, unless the hope outweighs the vagueness. So, like you, the ending of a series can definitely make or break the entire thing for me.

    I get soooo scared starting new series that have only the first book published, because you never know if a love triangle will be introduced in the next book. I think I hate love triangles more than you do. :P There were quite a few books I put off reading this year - The Bone Season, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, All Our Yesterdays, Angelfall, The Raven Boys, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, The 5th Wave, etc - until their sequels come out for fear a LT will be introduced or the ending will make me sad (like Allegiant). I hate feeling out of the loop, but I would hate it even more if I invested myself in the first book only to have to abandon the characters because of what happens in the sequel(s).

    Series endings I'm anticipating are Into the Still Blue, Opposition, Mortal Heart, The Warrior, Rebel, Sunrise, and The Retribution of Mara Dyer.

    Great post, Lauren!

  4. I used to love series endings as well, now I'm so scared and hesitant to finish them. For me, HEA doesn't have to be a white chocolate cake, wedding dress and pregnancy. No! It can be as it was with Mockingjay and Forever. I agree, they weren't over the top, but they left us with a hint of happiness (I hope that Sinner will be a bit more concluded than Forever was though) and that's enough. The fact that there CAN be happiness after all that--that's what I need. We'll see how I'll feel about Boundless. It was shipped last week and I hope to read Hallowed and Boundless soon :) We can discuss!!! Me iz not probably going to read Allegiant. I still haven't read Insurgent, plus I just lended my paperbacks to a friend of mine so.. yeah. I don't know if I'll ever get around finishing that one. I'm sorry you didn't like it :( I hope I'll be okay with Goddess. I remember you being all "this isn't a love triangle, not really" so I'm actually looking forward to that in Dreamless. I'm pretty sure that Lucas is still the endgame. I ought to start Rae Carson's books, plus INTO THE STILL BLUE!!! Please let them send pre-orders out early. I need to complete my collection =) Oh oh oh and I can finally start Incarnate. Christina got me a copy so, yay! I can't wait to try that one. I'm glad that you liked these endings, gives me hope I'll enjoy them too:) Agreed on being selective. That's why I'm holding back on The Iron Fey spin-off, The Immortal Rules and The Grisha (is that right? The Leigh Bardugo's series..) etc. I just need them all out! I can't handel cliff hangers, lol. Plus, I need some well-deserved answers from Michelle Hodkin and Laini Taylor. Bring it, ladies! Lovely discussion, sweets! :)

  5. You're right, Lauren - I really used to look forward to the ending of a series and now I'm usually just very apprehensive. Unlike you, I don't require a HEA, which is why I suspect I may enjoy Allegiant's ending (though I can't be sure since I haven't felt like picking it up). As you know, I loved the ending to the Gemma Doyle Trilogy and Carson's Fire and Thorns Trilogy as well, but CP2 really shook me up since it didn't align with my expectations. I don't think there's a specific pattern to series conclusions, in my eyes. It either makes a statement and delivers a satisfying conclusion with hope or it just loses me as a reader. I haven't had as bad an experience with them as you, it seems, but I prefer my stand-alone books, which is likely why. I hope next years conclusions are satisfactory - especially Ruin & Rising! I'm not too worried about DoG&M because Laini Taylor can do no wrong, but I'm increasingly anxious about all the potential love interests running around in R&R. We'll see...

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    1. Oops--I commented but wasn't logged in and so it signed with my husbands gmail acct! Lol. That's a first:)

  7. I'm totally with you on the HEA--as you know. I know that real life is not all HEA's, but when I'm reading I like for the story and characters to end up in a good place-- if I want heartbreaking and depressing then I can just turn on the evening news, you know? So yeah--like you I am unapologetic on that front.

    And YES to how bad it sucks when you are loving a series only to have it end the wrong way and then cloud how you feel about the entire series as a whole. And double YES to be crazy about a series and then for whatever reason you read the final installment and it's completely "meh", I actually think I hate that more than anything--losing interest in a story and characters after being so wrapped up in that world is the worse feeling--what a let down.

    I feel the same as you about The Bitter Kingdom, Champion, Into the Still Blue and Eternally Yours. I would put CP2 in that category too--(Sorry Keertana!) but I also felt the same about Infinityglass unfortunately. And like you I am also very anxious for the last book in Mafi, Taylor and Bardugo's series--but we will just have to link arms (figuratively, not literally) and brave those waters together, chica! It may indeed be a bumpy ride:)

    By the way, I knew of your feelings on this topic before but I love how you put it all down here in this thoughtful post--nice job:) I think many, many others share your sentiments:)

  8. I totally love this discussion post. I feel mostly the same way. If I can get a HEA that makes sense to the story that's what I want. You've finished a lot more series than I have or at least different series than I did. Although I think Allegiant wasn't really a HEA ending it made sense to me. I understood why it ended the way that it did but I ended that series thinking, "Well what's the point?". I wasn't in love with it and I didn't hate it, but I understood it -- at least partially.

    I really liked ITSB, it wasn't exactly what I wanted or how I envisioned, but it was what I needed and it definitely felt true to story and the characters.

  9. You're right on target with ALL OF THIS!! I feel like, after going through hell with the characters, that we all deserve an HEA. ALL OF US. With so many fantastic series wrapping up in 2014, I'm a little worried, too. Maybe this is why I've gotten so terrible about sticking with series until the bitter end (especially YA series). I don't want to be disappointed and I usually like the first book in the series the best (ex: Divergent and Hunger Games).

  10. I agree with you on this post. I read to be entertained, to escape, and I really want the HEA for these characters. I read a lot of paranormal and dystopian and you're right, to see them struggle and have all of these horrible things happen to them and not get the HEA (peace, the girl and guy finally together, etc) makes me unhappy. I would put Clockwork Princess into the good endings category, although there were people who didn't like it. And I'm so glad to hear Into the Still Blue and Infinite have good endings. I have a bit of anxiety about Ignite Me and The Retribution of Mara Dyer. I really need to sit down and figure out all of the series I'm currently reading that will be ending this year. Great post! ~Pam

  11. Before this year, I might have disagreed with you, but I've grown rather apprehensive of series endings, too. I know that authors can't make *everyone* happy, and it's not really their job to do so, but I need a resolution that just doesn't gut me and leave me in pieces. Or leave me frustrated with just *how* perfectly it ended, for everyone but who I was rooting for. But it's not just because of those pesky triangles that I'm less than excited about series endings. It's how realistically they end to begin with. I like HEAs as much as the next person, but if it doesn't fit the situation, if it doesn't feel right, I'd much rather see things end differently, as long as I don't feel punished for it in the end, ya know?

    It's weird, but after all of the series that ended this year, I almost feel like I'm growing numb to them. I used to see every series to completion, but that's happening less and less as time goes on. I just don't want to waste time on books that are going to leave me feeling gutted and hopeless -- unless I knew it was an issues book going into it.

    Fantastic discussion, Lauren. I, too, am very anxious for many of those same series endings in 2014.

  12. I used to love almost anything an author threw at me. I could take it but Mockingjay changed all that for me. It felt so disconnected from the previous two books and wasn't at all what I was expecting. Since then I regard all new series with deep suspicion lol

    I didn't love Allegiant either but I had sort of prepared myself for that (see MJ above). It wasn't the ending but the overall writing and the sudden change in the characters personalities that bugged me.

    Ditto with Infinityglass. I didn't hate it or anything, but as you said, it went out with a whimper instead of bang which made me sad because I really loved that series. Girl of Nightmares was the same thing.

    For 2014 I'm waiting on Dreams of Gods and Monsters. That book terrifies me. I am praying to whatever book Gods are out there for a HEA.

    I hate investing 3+ years of my life for a sad or rushed ending. Why wouldn't I want them to be happy. If they aren't or if they're going to die then just do that right away - end of story lol Sometimes it feels right but a few felt forced just to have a *powerful* ending.

    I'm not even going to get started on love triangles which I almost 100% avoided this year.

  13. I raise my fist in the air in agreement! PREACH. IT. So for the HEA, I wondered if I was "unliterary or uncool" as well, but then I realized that it makes sense. I want it to be realistic. I do NOT want a magic "let's wave a wand and it's all quickly fixed" solution that doesn't feel like a solution. But I want my HEA. If I went through all that TRAUMA, I want a good ending, dangnabbit.

    I also agree about how a series ends. If it has a sloooow beginning, my negative feelings may still show in a review, but it might be wiped clean (IF I decide to keep going and read it). For the end, it's like residue and will stick with me for a long time.

    Info dumping and boredom...killer of beloved series. I found myself skimming books that I thought I would LOVE because I loved the previous one in the series. It's a disappointment. I'm thrilled that you loved Bitter Kingdom though because I'll be finishing that series soon. Like you, I think I'm starting to set some sort of emotional wall so I don't get my hopes up too high. We've been reading because we have an emotional attachment. If we didn't, we wouldn't keep reading it. So I honestly hope authors truly understand that.

  14. Glad you liked the ending of Infinite and Into the Still Blue. I am a little nervous going into those books after reading many disappointing endings.
    The best ending to a series in my opinion has to be Horde (The Razorland Series) by Ann Aguirre. It gave the reader complete closure, which is important for me.

  15. Love seeing The Bitter Kingdom on your list of good endings-I thought it ended up being the best of the trilogy and certainly one of the best conclusions I've read for a YA trilogy in a while. I feel like it renewed my faith in third books! I'm also a happy ending fan especially when the romance ends just the way I want it to.

  16. Oh my goodness! I'm trying to start a blog (no entries yet...), and one of the things I wanted to write eventually was about this!

    Frankly, I hate the end of a series. If I like a series, I get to emotionally attached, and when it ends, I just can't bring myself to finish it off. Because when I do finish it, that's it.

    No more series.

    I won't get to think about the plot. I won't be able to come up with storylines in my head and make predictions for future sequels, because that's it. The author has ended the series, never to challenge my predictions or do anything about them.

    Because it's ended. And I'll be left wondering what could have been.


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