On Reading: Can You Handle the Suspense?

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We are post-Thanksgiving, so it is now officially okay to discuss the upcoming holidays. Whatever your religious persuasion may or may not be, this month is probably going to send waves of stress crashing over you, followed by undertows of guilt.

Why oh why did I have to pick the boss’s name for Secret Santa? Is Theresa still a vegan? How do you cook Tofurkey? Will Mom find out I re-gifted that vase? Does Aunt Shirley remember what I said about her mashed potatoes last year? Did I buy the right wine? Why are there so many people at this store at 3:30 on a Tuesday? How many versions of Jingle Bell Rock can there possibly be?? And just where in Santa’s Wonderland of Woe does that cashier think she’s going?!?!

I don’t handle stress very well.

Which is why I read the ends of books first.

Here’s what I do: I get about two or three chapters in – enough to learn all the main characters’ names and have a general sense about what the problem is. Then I skip to the last chapter and skim over it, looking for their names. If they’re a main character, they’re probably going to have something to say in those last few pages. If they’re absent, there’s a good chance they died or were otherwise written out of the story. Yes, of course I learn of spoilers and twists this way, but I am perfectly fine with that. Knowing what’s going to happen doesn’t ruin anything for me. In fact, it lets me enjoy the story more because now, knowing that, say, Best Friend Clara doesn’t make it to the end, I can just kind of relax and accept her TB diagnosis with grace. She’s not going to make it. I already know that, so now I don’t have to worry about her. I learned she was going to die before I was emotionally invested in her, so it’s easier for me to read that scene now. If her death were to come as a shock to me, there’s a good chance I’d have to put the book away for a while. (When I read the truth about Snape, which J.K. Rowling cleverly hid in the middle of the book, I read the scene three times in a row and then lay in bed crying for half an hour before moving on.)

Also, knowing the end result of a problem doesn’t spoil the book for me at all, because now that I know that the characters ended up where they did, I can spend the whole book figuring out the why and how of it. It’s the same sort of intrigue that a Rubik’s Cube holds: I know what the end will look like. Now I just have to figure out how to get there.*

Do you read the end of books first? If not, how can you STAND the not-knowing? Tell me how you’ve developed your mental fortitude at Kate@KateLanders.com.

*I’ve never solved a Rubik’s Cube in my life.

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