wayfarers all

children's literature, childhood and culture (and anything else that strikes my fancy).

My Photo
Location: pittsburgh, U.S. Outlying Islands

carbon-based life form: thinking, reading and gardening. New College alum; current grad student writing a dissertation. I specialize in children's literature, media, and culture, and queer/gender studies, with a strong interest in 19th century British literature and culture. I like history, a lot.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

unsatisfactory endings

i've read several pretty good YA (or YA-ish) novels this past week, but many of them have conclusions that i found pretty roundly unsatisfying.
The Offending Books:
Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time; Spinelli's Stargirl; Gennifer Choldenko's Al Capone Does My Shirts; Neal Shusterman's The Schwa Was Here and David Chotjewitz' Daniel Half-Human and the Good Nazi.
all good books, for the most part - I found Choldenko's narrator really engaging, and the setting (1930s Alcatraz) pretty compelling. A strange coincidence - both Choldenko and Haddon feature autistic teenagers in their novels. Haddon's, of course, is remarkable because it is narrated by the autistic teenager in question, and as I think I've mentioned before, I'm a sucker for unusual, unreliable, naive or otherwise peculiar narrators.
But somehow the ends of all these novels just didn't do it for me. I can't be more precise than that, really - just nothing happened the way i wanted it to. All felt fairly abrupt, in a strange way that left me thinking: "what am i supposed to do with this?"
which may be the point, after all, but i don't really think so. The conclusions in them all felt too contrived and tidy but abrupt, like the point of the book was everything but the end; but then in all of them too i felt there was a Message i was supposed to get, and it didn't quite all hang together.
I'll look for more from Choldenko, because i was pretty caught up by her plot and style. Spinelli is kind of a no-brainer; i know he's great, and i need to psyche myself up for Wringer, which i recently acquired from a goodwill shop. i have real trouble reading about cruelty to animals, so i know Wringer will be a challenge.

The Schwa was perhaps the most unsatisfying at the end (other than Stargirl) - i loved the book right up until the last few pages. and then i felt really frustrated; i felt a real sense of loss (partly empathy for Antsy, but partly independently).

I need a bookclub or something, but one that plows through these books at my rate - so i can get some others' input on these books. i'm really feeling puzzled about Stargirl, and i'd really love to know what other readers thought.


Blogger gail said...

I found Al Clapone Does My Shirts dissatisfying, too, and not just the ending. I liked the story about the kids on Alcatraz, and I actually liked the story about the sister. But I thought they were two separate stories that didn't work together very well. And the ending sort of reflects that. The author was trying to pull her two stories together, but it was way too late for that.

4:52 PM  
Anonymous Judith said...

Hi Kerry,

I listened to Choldenko's (sp?) Notes From a Liar and Her Dog, which I loved. I used to drive around to keep listening to it. I have read a few of the books you mention in this post, and I don't recall feeling your dissatisfaction with their endings. I was really disappointed with the final chapter of Spinelli's Milkweed, which the book could have done without completely. (I kept thinking, what were they thinking?!) Wringer is fantastic, but you do need to gird your loins a bit. I'm with you on the not dealing with animals being treated poorly.


5:14 AM  
Anonymous Suzi said...

It's not only YA novels that have trouble ending well. Or rather, I think it's REALISTIC novels that have trouble with endings; genre novels and light-hearted novels often seem to end with intelligence, partially (I suspect) because the author PLOTTED the novel ahead of time, so that the threads come together well. On the other hand, first-person narrator novels (which many of these are, yes?) may have trouble ending satisfactorily for the reader because, well, life isn't like that, and the authors are trying to bring a sense of reality to the story. I also think that a smaller story--one that isn't a Problem Novel--has a better chance of seeming well-plotted and not disappointing one with the ending. Hunh. Or, of course, the author--Ian McEwan, Yann Martel--can play tricks with narrative and reader involvement, implicating us in the story--but part of that seems like a cop-out as well.
Suzi (hey, you should check out www.adbooks.org and join the Adbooks list for more YA novel discussion...)

4:08 PM  
Blogger Camille said...

I listened to "Al Capone Does my Shirts" and did not mind the ending at all. I do know that listening to a book and actually reading it are different experiences. I really liked Johnny Heller's narration. After being an unseen presence throughout the entire book, I chuckled at Capone (still unseen) sending the note, "Done," a fantasy ending but fun.

12:11 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Free Counter
Free Hit Counter