I’ve been reading like mad. Here are some brief summaries of a few books I’ve recently read, in hopes of setting off some spark of thought for my own novel… *Spoiler Alert!!* Since I’m especially concerned with the END of my novel, I’m looking at the endings of these books. If you don’t want the endings spoiled, read no further!
L.A. Candy, written by reality star Lauren Conrad of “The Hills,” is a story about two lucky girls from Santa Barbara who come to Los Angeles for college and work and end up starring in a reality TV show. Protagonist Jane Roberts is innocent, naïve, and awestruck by L.A. As she becomes a star, she traps herself in an awkward love triangle – at the end of the book she cheats on the guy she’s dating with his best friend, who happens to be the guy she liked first and would have fallen for if not for his on-again, off-again girlfriend. So, innocence to scandal. Yes, it was a bestseller, and yes, it was the first novel in a series.
Meg Cabot is the bestselling author of The Princess Diaries series, among other hits. In her novel How to be Popular, high school junior Steph Landry discovers a book in her best guy friend’s grandmother’s attic called <surprise!> How to be Popular. She uses the books’ tricks to organize her master plan: becoming popular, taking down the most popular girl in school (who has made the last five years of Steph’s life hell just because Steph spilled a Super Big Gulp on her white skirt in middle school), and get the most popular guy in school to like her. Her plan fails, she discovers the popular guy is a jerk, and she realizes she’s actually in love with her nerdy best guy friend, who’s been into her from the beginning. Cherry on top? At the end of the book, when Steph has found herself and come to terms with who she is, and is dating her nerdy friend, all the popular kids join them for coffee.
Markus Zusak (yep, that’s right, author of The Book Thief)’s I Am the Messenger is the only book I read with a male protagonist, and it was definitely worth the read, despite being very different from what I’m writing. Protagonist Ed Kennedy is a 19-year-old cabdriver in love with a best friend who refuses to have sex with him. Life looks boring and hopeless until Ed stops a bank robbery, receives an ace in the mail, and becomes the messenger. End: he grows confident and believes in his own self-worth, and he accomplishes all the missions (messages) he’s been set. Oh, and he gets the girl. This book won the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature.
In Lauren Oliver’s bestseller Delirium, love is a disease and everyone is cured at the age of 18. Lena is all about following the rules, can’t wait, even, to be cured. Until of course she falls in love. The books is perhaps more about Lena’s journey to learning how to think for herself than it is a love story. Though her lover dies at the end, it’s in the pursuit of escaping, which will grant her freedom and show the rest of the world that they’re blind and authority can – should – be flouted. A complex ending, because she loses him, yet she gains herself: freedom, independence, a mind of her own. Worth the risks? Yep. Triumphant? Definitely.
Book One of Cecily von Ziegesar’s bestselling series Gossip Girl is saucy and sexy. It shows us the characters, sets the scene, and begins our little love-hate relationship with GG herself. Do any of the characters actually grow in this book? Nope, but that’s all part of the game. There is no triumphant end, not even a conclusion, really. Just the beginnings of more drama. You know you love her.
Beautiful Disaster, the bestselling novel written by Jamie McGuire, is a romance set in college. Abby has carefully arranged herself to look like a good girl, despite her past. Travis is your classic bad boy with a soul – tattoos, amateur fighter, ladies’ man, until he meets Abby, of course. She’s determined to avoid a relationship with him, as he symbolizes everything she’s running from, but the story goes like this: Girl meets boy, boy meets girl. Girl and boy are “just friends.” Girl and boy get together. Girl and boy break up. Girl and boy get back together. Girl and boy get married in Vegas. The End.
Ibi Kaslik has written Skinny in alternating chapters from the POVs of two sisters. Giselle, who just managed to complete her first year of medical school before being hospitalized, is a bisexual anorexic who believes their father never loved her. Holly, the younger sister, is a high school track star and all-around dare-devil, the father’s favorite. As the story unfolds we see the effects of the father’s death and Giselle’s anorexia on both girls. In the dark climax I’ve been waiting for, Giselle dies. She also, however, comes to terms with her relationship with her father, and with herself.
Written by bestselling author Francine Prose, Touch features Maisie, fourteen, at the center of an incident at the back of her school bus. No one is sure what happened, least of all her, for the majority of the book. At first she claimed nothing happened, wanting to protect her friends, and then, angry at them, she claimed more happened than did. The truth? She allowed her three male friends to touch her breasts. At the end of the book, Maisie drops the lawsuit and loses her best friends. The ending is sad, but the character growth is triumphant: Maisie learned about the importance of truth, her inner ability to deny it, and, ultimately, she learned to stay true to herself.
In a brief run-down, I can look at the books I’ve read and come to this simple conclusion: I need to either a) revise my ending to a triumphant one, in which the protagonist either gains true love or self-love, or b) turn it into a series. Of course, there’s always c) leave it as is and, as my mentor is fond of saying, go to my grave clutching the unpublished manuscript.
I’m not sure if I’m willing to change my ending the way it may need to be changed. I’m certainly not sure how. I’m not even sure I can.
There’s also another option – Send it out. And see what happens.
Of course, I may just wrack up a ton of rejections. In which case it’s back to options A, B, or… C.