I have a confession to make.
As of right now, I have an entire shelf full of books I haven’t read. More specifically, series conclusions that I haven’t read. You’ve seen it with Allegiant. Forever. Beautiful Chaos (although I didn’t know until after that it was not in fact the last in the series.) Dreams of Gods and Monsters. Mockingjay. Isla and the Happily Ever After.
I get so emotionally distraught over series finales that I can rarely get myself to read them. I tell myself that an open ending is better than an ending at all. There’s something so final about the last page, the last sentence. Nothing makes me cry harder than a happy ending for characters that I’ve grown up with, that I’ve empathized with and obsessed over.
I can’t bring myself to read finales, but I buy them out of motivation. I tell myself, if I get the book then I have to read it. There’s something so immensely satisfying about seeing the books lined up together on my shelves in neat little trilogies.
But I can’t actually read them.
I’ve tried. I’ve forced myself to read a few.
I read because of the stories and the feelings, the sense of being alive and living other lives when I only ever have my own. So I feel like when I read the finale, I’m giving that up. I can’t imagine how it’s going to end because it’s already ended. I can’t deviate, nor see the storyline as continuing in a parallel fashion to my own.
Part of it is that I’m so unbearably picky about finishing them on the right note. I can’t be thirsty, or exhausted, or unhappy. I have to be in the right mental state to finish a series so I don’t let go of the plotline or feel that uncomfortable disconnect of not sinking straight into the book.
Part of it is that many of these books, I read in 2011 or 2012, back when books could overwhelm me more easily. I’ll admit that becoming a blogger and even more of a critical reader has made me much more selective about what constitutes a good plot device, or what’s cliche. I don’t want to see those in a final book. I’m poetic about that in the sense that I have to give each book the distinct opportunity to wow me, to give me the same sense of awe I had when I read the first in the series.
Dystopian books especially kill me, because any possible ending either includes death or a new beginning, and both are equally heartbreaking to see the characters go through. It’s about renewal, and change, and sometimes my favorite series are the only constant. It’s a comfort, to know that they’re in the same spots that I’m in and it’s much easier to never read the endings than to go through the sense of closure.
The amount of books that I haven’t read simply because I’m avoiding the endings is truly shameful. Y’all would be shocked, in all seriousness. Sometimes I’ll decide rather masochistically that I need to put myself through that, but other times, I let the books collect dust on my shelves for years. I have all these gorgeous, wonderfully packaged hardcovers that I’ve never read because I can’t handle it.
I’m guilty over doing that with sophomore novels too. I’ll Give You The Sun? I can’t read it because The Sky is Everywhere affected me so tremendously. Jandy Nelson is so idolized in my head that the thought of a book by her being remotely different or less affecting than The Sky is Everywhere would absolutely destroy me. It’s easier to let it just sit there and have my mind work up all these imagined thoughts about it rather than actually facing a tangible reaction to it.
I’m an emotional wimp when it comes to endings. I cry much more over happiness than sadness, and I cry when I read beautiful lines or moments. I’m a crier: I’ve admitted it. But books are art, and the idea that something can move me so powerfully is something that I’ve never wanted to give up. I don’t want to give the stories I love that closure that seals them up so readily. I can still imagine characters ten years later, together or not, fighting the world or settled in it. But the other part of me wants me to see them forever seventeen, forever in love for the first time or going through something hard or overturning society thanks to the storyline.
It’s weird, I know. But I’m trying to get better about giving series the endings that they deserve, finally recognizing it enough to understand that no matter what happens in the book, the characters will always be the same as I imagine them. That the author will keep writing or not, and soon I’ll have another series I’m so head-over-heels in love with that it’ll all be okay in the end.
I have a suspicion that the shelf will stay for a while, but there’s not much I can do about that. It’ll take me a while to read them, but right now I’ll just have to go back and reread a few favorite series and hope I get to the finale. It’s starting to line up so eerily with my normal life that seventeen-year-old characters I read about three years ago are going through the exact same things I’m going through now. And that’ll be truly rewarding/terrifying/wonderful to read.