A couple of days ago, my friend posted a status on Facebook:
“You can’t just go from a sad book to a happy book.”
“Sure you can, you just start reading.”
“No! There’s a grieving period, you don’t understand!”
The exchange was between herself and her husband. My friend is an avid reader. Truly, she puts me to shame. Her husband isn’t really book-y, so it’s understandable that he doesn’t quite grasp the severity of her dilemma. She experiences this conflict often and refers to it, as many do, as a ‘book hangover’. She speaks often of needing a period of emotional recovery between books if an ending is particularly brutal, whether the ending be happy or sad.
The same is true for me, but I experience it far less often. Sometimes it even gets me in trouble, or I’m at least a little less trusted by certain friends. I remember when The Hunger Games books were at the peak of their popularity and, not only did I make the mistake of admitting I wasn’t a huge fan, but I revealed my lukewarm response to the end of Mockingjay. My sanity (and humanity) were questioned.
It takes a particular kind of story to drag me in so far that I have to crawl slowly from a deep and terrible hole by the end. It can’t just be sad, it has to be tragic. It can’t just be happy, it has to be frickin’ joyous. I have to have been experiencing the kind of emotional investment typically reserved for reading obituaries. Of course, I would have you believe some of the books that have done this to me are completely unpredictable, but I’m probably horribly mistaken.
In my defense, I have compiled a list of books whose endings caused me great emotional upheaval.
Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck
If this didn’t hurt you, you require medical attention.
The Green Mile, Stephen King
You thought the movie was a killer? Well, okay, the movie definitely rubbed salt in the wound, but The Green Mile beat out Hearts in Atlantis in terms of hurt, as far as I’m concerned.
Lucas, Kevin Brooks
I don’t know anyone else who knows this book, and it is deeply unfortunate. Lucas is one of those rare YA love stories that feels both real and purely fantastical at the same time, and doesn’t cheat itself out of its depth by trying to be “just so romantic!” I wanna read it again now… maybe until just before the end…
White Oleander, Janet Fitch
The ending wasn’t sad, but it was heavy in a sort of spacious, empty way. Everything was wide open and whistling like a wind was passing through it, but those last words are just fraught with feels and potential. After everything the main character goes through, there isn’t a better ending than a somewhat unwritten one.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, JK Rowling
If you’re a fellow member of the Hogwarts Generation, I don’t have to explain this. After having pretty literally grown up with Harry, Hermione, Ron, and Hogwarts, to have it all finally come to an end is a hangover from which I STILL have not recovered. I don’t know if I’ll ever stop feeling. I think it’s why we reread the series so often. How else can we cope?
The Fault in Our Stars, John Green
Aside from the obvious spoilers, this ending was just perfect for me. No silly verboseness, no esoteric inner monologue — just the end. The succinct, beautiful end. And I died a little inside.
Dracula in Love, Karen Essex
I save this one for last because I want to remind myself how much I’ve already said so that I don’t go on a rant I can’t take back. Let’s just say it’s one thing to disagree with an ending and quite another to have something end with such opposition to your desires that you feel betrayed. I slammed this book shut and zipped it up in my bag like I was putting it in Time Out. Yes, I know, we already know how the story of Dracula ends, but such is the way of Essex’s take on Mina’s side of the story that I really thought we would end up somewhere else. And I was pissed.
Tell me about the books that have left you with a hangover severe enough to warrant a period of adjustment before moving on to the next story. Recommendations welcome.
SEPTEMBER continues to drift through the great chasms of space. Have you reclaimed the space station? Come out of sleepy-tosis to find you’re the only one left? Or have you emerged from a fog to realize you’ve been caught in a completely different state of rest?