When a Book Disappoints

Hello, Katy Lee here. I am blessed to have children who love to read. However, this past week, my daughter read a bestselling book that left her in full blown tears. When I asked her if the story was sad or if it hit a nerve, she said no. She was upset because the story didn’t go the way she thought it should. Things were left undone and confusing, and she was angry and hurt that it ended the way it had.

Now, it’s not too often that this has happened to me, but I can recall a few books flying across my room when their content upset me or left me disappointed. However, this was back before I sat down and actually learned what it took to write a book. Back before I understood authors were just ordinary, everyday people with nothing more than a desire to get the story bouncing around in their heads down on paper. And, just because they got it down didn’t mean that was the only way to write it.

So, I told my daughter this week to remember that authors are ordinary people doing an extraordinary thing, but still, are limited to what they know and have experienced. They also might not have their facts straight or might not have thought the plot through enough. Perhaps, they didn’t do enough research, or they had a time constraint to get the book out and therefore, the book lacks a finished quality, leaving readers disappointed and even distraught.

I once read a story where the heroine died on the last page. That was hard enough to handle, but what really upset me was the epilogue showed the hero meeting another woman. I was still in mourning from the page before and could not handle that. I know now, as a writer, the author might have only been trying to show the hero moved on with his life, but didn’t take into account that the readers wouldn’t be able to accept that so soon. I don’t think the author had thought that through far enough.

To take this one step further, I also told my daughter to question everything. Be the skeptic, always looking for the truth of why something is said or done. Sometimes, it is as simple as the author had an ax to grind or an agenda to push. And, just because a book is a bestseller doesn’t mean you have to follow the pack and like it. It’s okay to be a reader who is a leader.

The Unlocked Secret: My daughter has calmed down, but has yet to decide if she will read the next book in the series, so I gave her one more piece of advice. I told her if she really didn’t like the ending, she could rewrite it the way she wanted to. Many famous authors will admit that’s how they got their start as a writer. And they were just ordinary, everyday people too.

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30 thoughts on “When a Book Disappoints”

  1. You are a teriffic mom, Katy. In case you haven’t heard that lately. That’s how fan fiction started. Readers and writers determined to rewrite their favorite stories and characters their own way. What a great exercise.

  2. Katy, you are so right, as always! I’d love to see what your daughter comes up with. This isn’t just a school lesson — this is a life lesson. To question everything, to form your own opinions regardless what the crowd is thinking, and to make, by intent and action, your life the way you want it to be. Very powerful message on this Sunday morning.

  3. Oh I hate it when this happens. It feels sort of like getting socked in the gut. Excellent advice for your daughter, I’m going to put it in my pocket and bring it out when needed. :)

    1. It is exactly like that. We take it so personal because the characters mean something to us. Which means the author did a great job where POV is concerned.

      File away!

  4. Beautiful post, Katy! You handled your daughter’s disappointment perfectly – and, as has already been mentioned, many of us could take the same advice in all areas of life. My stomach rebels every time I hear something like this, and I pray, “God, please don’t let me write a book that leaves a reader with this kind of reaction!”

    1. Oh, I now, right?! That would just kill me!

      And also one reason why I do “What if “sketches when I right. I make diagrams of all the reactions to a certain action. I want to know how everything will play out if I go a certain direction.

  5. Hi Katy,
    Why not have your daughter go to the author’s website and contact the author? Express her feelings of deep disappointment and ask the author why she ended the book the way she did? You are right in telling your daughter just because it’s a best seller doesn’t mean you have to have liked it. I have read MANY best sellers I end up not liking. I will usually give the author another chance, but if I am not happy with the second book, chances are I will not pick up another by that particular author. I too would be interested to see how your daughter would re-write the ending. Growing future writers are you?

    1. I am growing future writers! :) And their creativity amazes me!

      Gerri, I will tell her what you suggested. If for no other reason that it might allow her to put it to rest. Plus, I can make it a lesson in letter writing. These days they don’t have many opportunities for that! ;)

  6. What a great response! I bet your daughter will remember that for a lifetime — seems like we can all pinpoint the first time a book let us down, and it’s wonderful that she’ll have your advice nestled right up against that memory.

    1. Hi, Laurie! It so nice to “see” you! And I hope she remembers it, but if not, I will look forward to having that one-on-one time with her again. :) I just love these moments.

  7. Excellent discussion with your daughter. You are a powerful teacher. I am interested to hear about her forward movement. Where she takes your advice, if she takes it and how she grows because of the experience.

  8. It seems you’re growing a future writer, Katy, and doing it the right way. Bravo. Well done!! Great response to a difficult set of circumstances…and THANK YOU for not throwing the writer COMPLETELY under the bus (even if he/she did deserve it! LOL!) since, like you said, they were crafting the story, developing the characters in their heads and getting it down on paper — er– computer chip–the way THEY saw it. Writing is so subjective…and therein lies yet another blog topic!! LOL! God bless – and great post.

    1. I would never throw the writer under the bus. ;) We have a right to write our stories the way we see them. Having said that, though, being a writer carries a heavy weight. It’s a responsibility one can’t take lightly.

      Thanks for commenting, Marianne!

  9. I am a Rita judge, and I’m expecting my box of books any day. Last year, I got a book from a bestselling author whose work I had greatly enjoyed in the past.

    And I hated it.

    I felt that I had to read the whole thing because I was a volunteer Rita judge and it was my responsibility. So I plodded through and gave it a regrettably low score. I have not read another book by the same author, but I hope that I will give her another chance, as I know she is a talented writer and capable of wonderful story telling! Tell your daughter to read the next book in the series, and give it a chance.

    I never pick up a book without hoping that it will be fabulous, and sweep me away with a story that I can’t put down until the last page. When one does, I recommend it to everyone! When one doesn’t, it doesn’t quite evoke tears, but there are some heavy sighs. But I still pick up the next…and the next…and the next…

    1. I will tell her. Thanks, Toni! :) I actually hope she does give it another shot. Sometimes, it’s got nothing to do with the author, but ourselves and our moods.

  10. There’s this little known book that I loved, but I hated the ending. There were sequels and prequels which didn’t really help matters any. I have a new ending to the story in my mind. One where the heroine grows up and manages to undo all the damage she had done to the other characters before it was too late. Regardless of how other people think Gone with the Wind ended, I know the truth. :)

  11. Katy, what YOU did is something I often did with high school writing classes. They LOVED it as well. Nice going! I think writers have an emotional contract w/readers, and when it’s broken, things get rocky. That said, the book I remember leaving me w/that reaction? The Grapes of Wrath by Steinbeck … not all books are written to satisfy emotionally. Maybe they should come w/a disclaimer. lol.

  12. Great discussion, and what a wonderful dialogue to have with your daughter. As a people pleaser, one of the hardest lessons I learned as a writer was that not everyone would like my work. The best I could do was to be true to myself and my story. If I worried about pleasing all the readers, I’d get tangled up in my head and lose what makes a story flow through me and what makes it uniquely mine. As Marianne mentioned above, writing is so subjective, and for all the reasons you’ve listed we can sometimes miss the mark, but I think our safest bet is to feel that spark, that love for our own story. That’s when the juice, the joy, the passion gets translated to the page. Provided our craft is sound, if we love it, someone else is bound to feel it and love it too.

  13. Great idea, Katy, to have your daughter rewrite the ending!
    This is why I don’t read literature – too many stories end with suicide of the main character. Who needs that? Give me a creative, hope-filled inspirational any day!
    Blessings on you and your daughter!

  14. You are such a wonderful mom, Katy! I used to dream up alternative endings to books when I was a kid, it was such a great way to vent that frustration and allow myself to enjoy the book despite the bad ending.

    This post is definitely a reason to get a synopsis critique, i think….

    Loved it, honey!

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