Sunday, May 2, 2010

an annoying trend

I hope this isn't going to be a real trend; I hope it's just the luck of the draw, but three books I've read recently have had open endings. Two -- The Amanda Project: Invisible I, by Melissa Kantor and Skeleton Creek, by Patrick Carman -- are Young Adult novels, and one -- The Dreamer: The Consequence of Nathan Hale, by Lora Innes -- is a graphic novel) It's not that these books end with an ambiguous twist, which would be annoying but valid, but rather, the plots simply stop in the middle. When I put in the time to read a whole book, I want, well, a whole story. There's an unspoken expectation in a book-length text that the reader will feel some sense of closure at the end.

Yes, comics (if I may use a taboo colloquialism) often have cliffhanging endings. That's why the graphic novel format usually contains about four to six issues bound together. That way it can contain the entire story -- climax, denouement, and all.

Yes, a series may have a grand plot that spans all of its volumes, but each volume usually has a fully-resolved subplot or secondary plot. Or perhaps the ending will bring the conclusion of one story and the beginning of a new one. If two mysteries are presented, as in Invisible I, the reader expects one to be solved by the end of the book, even as the other continues through the series.

The one of these three that bothered me least was Skeleton Creek, which ends with the main characters in mortal danger. In other words, it's a classic cliffhanger. It's still a bit of a dirty trick on this scale, though. Cliffhanging chapters come to a conclusion with a flick of a few more pages. The serial movies and comics of my youth were made bearable by the fact that the next installment would come in a week, or at most, a month. But the wait for the next book to be published is awfully long.

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