This was originally going to be another "Recommended Reading" post. Then I finished the book I was reading, and felt like the ending dropped the ball hard enough to leave a crater, and prepared to write an entire entry of literary rage. Then, I took a few moments to consider and realized most of my disappointment with the ending was based on what I thought would happen, not what actually happened.
So now you get the blog equivalent of me sitting here saying, "Well . . . shit."
To make a long story short, the book promised a tragic ending from the beginning, gave me hope it wouldn't turn out that way, then ended with a different type of tragedy than it foreshadowed. It started with a vision that the love between the main characters was doomed before they even met, showed them falling for each other despite everything, and made it so they couldn't stay together and still get what they wanted most in life. No happy ending for them, despite spending nearly four hundred pages earning it.
What bothered me to the point of ranting was that things the characters learned along the way seemed to hint that they would find a way to challenge what was keeping them apart. I thought that was where their story was heading, once their quest was finished. Nope. The story ended with an unnecessary post-victory side quest and the story's beta couple getting together. But when I thought on it more, I realized what I saw as hints were just bits of conversation that amounted to nothing, secrets beyond the story's scope. They weren't what I thought they were.
I felt like I'd somehow cheated myself, by seeing things in the story that weren't really there. It's rare that I think I can see where a story's going as I'm reading it, but damn, this time I wanted to be right.
It's weird to me because I've seen so many people rant online about various forms of media, and I've rolled my eyes and/or laughed, because so many of those rants can be summed up as "What you thought about [insert media here] was wrong and/or not what the creator[s] meant." Being on the other side of that is kind of humbling.
As writers, we can't be held responsible for everything our readers think will happen. Peoples' minds can go all kinds of different places from just a paragraph, a line of text, a single word. But sometimes knowing this makes it hard to be a reader when the hints you think you saw aren't what the writer had in mind. It's way too easy to think of where we would take the story and build up our expectations based on that.
To make things worse for me, the story's main characters were both women; I figured that since I write so much stuff with f/f couples I should actually read some. The beta couple was a man and a woman who got maybe six or seven pages' worth of development. And at the end, the tragic couple says that the beta couple's tale will make such a great story. This is part of why I was so pissed off at the ending. Spend the whole book building up the two women, tear them apart without them making a single effort to stop their separation, then end it saying I should cheer for the gratuitous straight romance? Fuck that bait-and-switch. I suppose I should be glad no one in the main couple died, but still. Not pleased.
Anyway. It's weird to think of this book now; I loved the writing and was ready to read more by this author until I got to the ending. I wonder if I'd see it differently if I hadn't seen things as hints of change that weren't. I know that I should have expected a tragic ending, because the book never actually suggested anything else.
But now it's on my reject pile because now that I know how it ends, I'll never read it again.