A Rant from a Reader

No, Gentle Reader, there will not be a guest post today.  Or, maybe, sorta, kinda, a guest post, but one written by yours truly.  Assuming I have you totally confused at this point, let me try to be a little less cryptic.  In the normal course of events,  I wear my ‘writer’ hat when writing these posts.  Today, I am wearing my ‘reader’ hat, and want to relate a recent experience of mine as a reader.  There may be something of interest to writers in the tale that follows.

As I have detailed elsewhere, I am an avid and eclectic reader.  You would be hard-pressed to find a non-fiction topic or a fiction genre not represented on my bookshelves.  Two fiction categories, Young Adult and Urban Fantasy. somewhat merge in my mind and are conspicuous for their scarcity in my library.  Until recently, my YA reading was re-reading for the umpteenth time the ‘juveniles’ of Robert A. Heinlein.  By the way, I find those ‘juvenile’ science fiction novels written 60 years ago and more to be almost as enjoyable today as they were when I first read them so many years ago.  Urban Fantasy, which I would find difficult to define, simply didn’t interest me enough to spend money on.  My vision of vampires is dominated by Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, and Jonathan Frid as Barnabas Collins.  H. P. Lovecraft more than covered the ‘paranormal’ landscape for me.  I still don’t understand what a ‘sparkly vampire’ is all about.

Not long ago, I decided to at least make an attempt to fill in some of the gaps in my reading as regards both YA and Urban Fantasy.  I had run across a particular author in my travels through the blogging world and the author was promoting a new book.  The blurbs indicated that the book was in that paranormal sort of universe that I associate with Urban Fantasy.  Moreover, the heroine was a college student which at least would touch upon the Young Adult genre.  I looked the book up on Amazon.  The new title was there and at a price that wouldn’t break the bank.  I clicked on ‘buy’ and the book was downloaded to my Kindle.

A few days later, I found the time to read the book.  From the opening chapter it was clear that this book was going to fulfill my expectations to expose me to both the YA and Urban Fantasy categories as I understood them.  The heroine was a college student and we spent a fair amount of time meeting her college roommates and getting acquainted with the campus.  More time was devoted to her interacting with several male students who were uniformly square-jawed, broad-shouldered, and absolutely “hot”.  An interesting sub-plot was initiated with the introduction of her “best friend” from childhood — male, square-jawed, broad-shouldered, and absolutely “hot” — but with whom our heroine had a strictly platonic relationship.  Our heroine is attacked one night while walking between classes in the company of her platonic, male best friend.  It quickly becomes apparent that the attacker is some variant of the vampire mythology, though the attacker does not sparkle.  She is ‘infected’, though her companion, while more seriously injured, is not.

The balance of the book is a search for the attacker and its kin, a search for a cure for our infected heroine, and the not-unexpected scene in which the platonic relationship with the best friend from childhood is significantly altered in bed.

Let me pause here, and reflect for a moment on what I had found in my exploration of new genres to this point.  Certainly it does not rise to the point of a “rant”.  That rant will be covered in more detail below.  But, for now, let me consider the evidence to date.

The author of this book has an author page on Amazon listing several books published prior to this one.  These titles appear to be one or more titles in at least two different ‘series’, with the one I read being book one of yet another series.  Several of the titles are available in paperback, as well as the Kindle e-book editions.  The book I purchased lists the author, an illustrator, and an editor.  A publisher is listed and the name is an imprint of a Big 5 publisher, though that imprint is devoted to non-fiction (?).  Interesting, that.  There is, of course, an Amazon ASIN, but it is distinctly not an ISBN, nor is any ISBN listed for this e-book.  Other books by this author in paperback format do have ISBN numbers.  The book is listed by Amazon as 180+ pages, which in my estimation is a suitable length for a novel of this type.

Based on my reading, and a little bit of research about the author and the book, I draw the following conclusions.  Like a great many books and ebooks to be found on Amazon, this book is likely “indie”, that is published by the author and the publisher listed on the Amazon page is coincidently the same name as a Big 5 publisher non-fiction imprint.  Although an editor is listed for the title, again like many indies on the market, it needs some editing assistance.  The book was well proofread and there were very few spelling and grammar errors.  However, there were a number of instances of stilted and clumsy constructions that good editing might have corrected.  The greatest need for good editing, however, is the basis for the rant below.  In short, the book, generally met my expectations for a readable, indie book in genres which hold little interest for me.  Except…

One major exception to expectations met forms the basis for my rant.  After some 170+ pages of relatively competent writing, our heroine runs back into a burning building, evidently blacks out, and awakens in a different place to be told someone is anxious to meet her.  “The End”

Say, what?

I have read literally thousands of novels over my lifetime.  I have never read a novel that ends with a cliff-hanger straight out of an old-time Saturday afternoon matinée serial movie.   Shades of The Perils of Pauline!  In dozens of books on writing and hundreds of articles on the same topic, not to mention many hours of classroom time in the art and craft of creative writing, one simple dictum is repeated over and over.  “A story has a beginning, a middle, and an end.”  Whether it be 1,000 words of flash fiction, a 5,000 word short story, or a full-length novel, a beginning, a middle, and an end are required, not merely suggested.

If you suspect I was a trifle irritated, you are entirely correct.  I did not throw my Kindle against the wall, but I was tempted.  For several days, I merely nursed my resentment at what I considered the author’s very shabby treatment of his readers.  Finally, I conceived of the idea of today’s post.  More research on the author and his other works.  I tried unsuccessfully to locate the publisher, though I found another author who listed the same publisher, evidently located in England.  A very brief search for the editor got me lost in a welter of names, but all pointed back to the books written by this author.

In conclusion, as a conclusion, I will not waste any more money or time reading this author again.  I find the cliff-hanger ‘ending’ of my initial sample of this author’s work irritating and unprofessional.  On a side note, but related, I have now read several other books by other authors, previously unknown to me, that definitely fall in the Urban Fantasy genre.  I enjoyed them very much.  Each of them has a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Now that you have heard my ‘rant’, I propose a question to you, my readers.  With Young Adult and Urban Fantasy, I am venturing into unknown waters.  I don’t have a lot of examples to draw on, so I ask for your experience.

Am I unreasonable in asking that a book, even in Urban Fantasy and/or Young Adult genres, have a clear beginning, middle, and end, regardless of whether it be part of a series or not?  I hope you will take a moment and let me know your thoughts on the matter.


4 thoughts on “A Rant from a Reader

  1. Oh-oh. You will not like my YA Fantasy series, then, if and when I ever get it published. Book one and book two each have an epilogue which is cliffhanger, drawing the reader into the next book. I used this because I felt it worked well with the stories.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for stopping by, Marge, and for your comment. You indicate the ‘cliffhanger’ aspect of your books is contained within an epilogue. That implies to me that Book one and Book two each contain a complete story, with a beginning, middle, and end, and the epilogue to the completed story holds the ‘bait’ to lure the reader to the next story. That is something very different from simply dropping “The End” onto a page somewhere in the middle of the story. I don’t object to cliffhangers, per se. However, I am very interested to find that you as a writer of YA also use the cliffhanger, though more thoughtful of your readers. Perhaps it is more common in the Young Adult genre than elsewhere?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s an excellent question to which I fear there are no right or wrong answers. It boils down to the execution. Is it possible this book is the first in the series? If so, the cliffhanger is an excellent tactic. I suffered through all three Fifty Shades of Grey books because E.L James instituted well done cliffhangers.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I completely agree that a cliffhanger done well is an excellent tactic. It is a trope in story-telling as old as literature itself. In this particular instance, it seemed to me the writer simply stopped in the middle of the story having achieved a predetermined number of words or pages. None of the questions posed in the several plot threads were answered, no character achieved any goal. The writer simply got to page 180 and wrote “The End”. It should be the goal of the story-teller to leave the reader wanting more. But simply stopping in mid-sentence, as it were, is not the way to achieve that.

    Liked by 1 person

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