Last night on Twitter, we were talking about ending readers again—those folks who read the end of a book before flipping to chapter one. Which is fine. Really. This is not about anybody doing anything wrong. There is no wrong way to read. People can read any way they want. I only read magazines from the back cover to the front cover. My youngest son is watching the Star Wars saga in reverse order this week, from Return of the Jedi to The Phantom Menace.
But it hit me last night why readers sneaking peeks at the ending makes me a little sad. It’s because, as a writer, the ending is the thing I obsess over the most. It’s the part of the book I lose sleep over. I spend the whole book looking for that…thing. That elusive thing that ties the book together and emotionally resonates with the reader because it’s perfect for this couple. And when it comes to me, it’s a high like no other.
Of all of my books, I have to say the “I love you…I love you, too scene from No Surrender is my favorite. It’s funny and emotional and uniquely Gallagher and Carmen’s. And it calls back to an early scene in the book, bringing the romantic arc full circle in a way that resonates with readers who went along for the ride. Now, if you read that scene first, it doesn’t have the same impact because the call back doesn’t resonate with you. And after you start reading from the beginning of the book, you’ll come across the earlier scene and see where the call back originates and think to yourself, “Okay, that’s where that came from”. And then, when you get to the ending again, the impact of that call back is lost because you already read it.
Imagine I spend weeks or months trying to find a Christmas gift for you. I want it to be perfect. I want it to be you. And when I find it, I’m so excited for Christmas to come because you’re going to love it. But you peek. You still want that gift. You’re still going to enjoy that gift. And I’m still going to be happy I gave it to you. But, on Christmas morning, those few ohmigod seconds of emotional kick are lost. (As a reformed Christmas present peeker, I know this to be true.) I want you to read my books however you’ll enjoy them the most. If that means reading the ending first, then absolutely go for it. Just know that, by peeling back a little corner of the wrapping paper, some of the emotional kick I wanted so badly to give you is lost.
So, are you an ending reader? (And, no, I’m not going to tell you you’re wrong or try to reform you, I promise.) I know there are a lot of you out there! Are you more apt to sneak a peek at the ending of a book by an author you’ve never read?