It started with a conversation I overheard in the office. My friend was recommending the show Peaky Blinders to another coworker, and she did it like this: “Watch the first two seasons, and then episode one of the third season, and then stop. Then it’s the best show on the planet.”
When I went to investigate, I discovered that after the season three opener, the show takes an insanely dark turn. My friend had created her own stopping point – and thus, her own ending, by never continuing. I call this concept “Titanic-ing,” and it isn’t new in digital media. Tons of people end the film after Rose tells Jack she’s getting off the The Titanic with him, because they don’t want to live through that ending again.
But what does it mean to end a book or a book series before you finish it? Before you can confirm that a darker twist of fate is coming? Before we get into the pros & cons, I asked around to see if any fellow Chasers had ever “Titanic-ed” a book and created their own ending, or wished they had.
Rachel: Allegiant by Veronica Roth
Listen. I binged these books in about a week’s time. I had just had my wisdom teeth out, and the medicine was making me loopy; the characters were starting to seem real to me. I can’t remember where exactly I pulled the plug (after Chicago but before the ~final battle~), but the inevitable ending was glaring and I figured ignorance is bliss. If I don’t read it, no one actually dies.
Macy: The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
I am all kinds of pumped for a murder mystery involving world travel and a “National Treasure” type vibe. As far as the Da Vinci Code though, I stopped with about 50 pages left. It took such a quick turn from exciting run down of historical facts to find hidden secrets to “who got into Grandma’s fancy medication?” There were too many family secrets coming out all at once, it felt like a roller coaster that was only going down. Not even the threat of Paul Bettany could keep me going. I bowed out.
And then I found some people who wished they had stopped reading a book:
Jessica: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Although it has been a good seven years since I read Suzanne Collins’s Mockingjay, I am no less frustrated now when I think about the ending. Having always been a strong Gale and Katniss* supporter (after all, Gale, like his name, is a literal force to be reckoned with), I did not want Katniss to end up with Peeta. It felt too forced, too, phony, and too unbelievable. As real as Collins gets, with war and devastation this felt like an easy out. I should have stopped. Probably before Prim. Then I would just be a healthier and happier person in general.
Goldie: Still Me by Jojo Moyes
An avid fan of Jojo Moyes, I gobbled up Me Before You and its better-than-original (in my opinion…come @ me) sequel, After You. It’s real. It’s believable. After You painted a perfect picture of pain and love after death. On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, Still Me was a dumpster fire. I understand that money is important fans want more content, but it probably would have been better to stop after the second book. It was tedious in the beginning and tedious in the end. Static characters can sometimes be dealt with, but static plots…not so much. If you’re interested in the series, just think of it as a duology and move on with your life.
And then I found someone who thought this entire idea was crazy and an affront to literature:
Stephanie: The Giver Series by Lois Lowry
“The Giver Series” is an amazing series, but the The Giver as a standalone novel: heart-crushingly sad. That ending is a gut-punch. Read the back cover of Gathering Blue, and you’ll discover it’s not a direct sequel. If you try to alter the ending by stopping, you’re only doing yourself a disservice. Suck it up, read Gathering Blue, get to Messenger, and wrap it all up with Son, and breathe easy. You never know if an author is going to turn it around. You should always finish the book, and just change it in your mind later.
Pros for Titanic-ing a book:
- We’re only human, and there’s only so much sadness we can handle without becoming a basket case.
- If there’s anything I learned from getting an English degree, it’s that everyone will assume you’re a teacher for the rest of your life once a book is out in the world, the author stops having final say on what that book really means. So why not make your own ending, anyway?
- A big reason in the rise of fan-fiction was because of people wanting to create their own endings. So why not cut out the middle person and just do that yourself by not finishing the book?
Cons for Titanic-ing a book:
- You’re challenging the integrity of the story, and some stories aren’t as poignant without the true ending
- Life is sad, and intense endings can help you process those complicated feelings. Isn’t it better to try to work through death in the safety of fiction than having to stumble through it in real life?
- Unless you actually know what happens, you don’t know what’s going to happen. By not finishing, you aren’t giving the author the chance to end their story arc.
So what do you think? Have you ever “Titanic-ed” a book or series? Do you wish you had? Let us know in the comments below.
* As previously mentioned in our series readers article, Rachel, who edits these articles, believes that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but Gale and Katniss is the wrong opinion. Let’s talk.