Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Leave Me Wanting More--but Don't Leave Me Hanging and About to Die

As I'm sure I've mentioned here before I am not a fan of the cliffhanger ending. I like to close a book feeling as though the story and characters I've invested my time (and money) into have come to a satisfying close. 

When I first began reading YA, I was coming from a phase where I read a lot of adult literary fiction and British chick-lit. The majority of the books I read in these genres tended to be standalone stories. As I began reading YA, I suddenly found myself, unknowingly in the middle of more series that I could keep track of. I also ended more books by throwing them against the wall in frustration. ...Unless I was reading on my Kindle, in which case I just shut it off in a huff! 

As my phase in YA has turned into a permanent addiction, I've learned to accept that books come in series, and that means learning to live with (and even in some cases, love) a well-crafted cliffhanger ending.

What I want to talk about today however is the difference between "Book 1 of 3" and "Book-sized Part 1 of 3". 

"Book 1 of 3" is the first in a series, it clearly states on the cover that this is a book that will have books that follow it. It's a book that sets up a larger series arc, while telling a story all its own. The key to a successful "Book 1 of 3" is that even though it is the beginning of a series arc, it completes it's own standalone story arc within its pages. You close the book, satisfied that THIS story has ended, but still wanting to know what happens to the characters as the series continues in the next book. It leaves you happy to have spent time reading and deliciously excited about the next book coming out!

"Part 1 of 3" is the trickster of novels. It looks like it might be a standalone book, sounds like it is a story complete in itself, but it IS NOT. It's a book that is a very long first third of ONE story. It's a book that you close and think WHERE THE HECK IS THE REST OF THE BOOK? It leaves you feeling ripped off, all the time and money you spent on this book and its story has no resolution at all, no feeling of satisfaction once you reach the end. The worst part is that many times you don't realize that you've picked a book like this until you notice there are only a few pages left and you are no where near the climax of the story. 

I'm not naming any names here, but if you read YA you can probably think of a number of titles that fall into one category or another. And to all the authors out there who create stories that strive to give resolution at the end of each book in their series, THANK YOU. You make books worth buying and reading.

How do you feel about cliffhanger endings? Is it important to you in your own reading/writing to have a complete story arc in each book of a series?  Have you read anything amazing lately that you would recommend?

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