The Struggles of an Escapist Reader

This blog is dedicated to my Twitter book club.

**WARNING** This blog contains major spoilers or hints of spoilers for: Silver Linings Playbook (movie), The Hunger Games (series and movies), 50 Shades of Grey (series), Vampire Diaries (series), The Lying Game (series), Divergent (series). If you aren’t familiar or planned to read and/or watch these shows and movies, I suggest you come back another time. I’ll ruin everything for you. I mean EVERYTHING.

I’m an avid reader. I’m a lover of anything from classic novels, murder mysteries, political and historical musings to dystopian fiction, trashy romance novels, and graphic novels covering any beloved Marvel or DC character.

There is nothing better to me than immersing myself in a good book. I mean submerged up to my eyeballs in a plot. It’s my own personal version of gambling. I have books I have never and will never finish because I couldn’t get into them and books that I’ll keep forever and read over and over because I feel like the characters and the story belong to me. I have a copy of Charlotte’s Web sitting on my bookshelf that is practically falling apart because I read it so many times growing up. I would melt down if something ever happened to that book. I love my books like other people love their dogs. That book is special to me. It’s priceless.

There are people who read for pleasure and people who read for knowledge. I read for escape.

Escapist readers are special breed. I get them and they get me. I try to talk to my boyfriend about my books and he patiently listens and smiles and nods and tells me he wishes he could get into books the way I do. In the end I have to storm onto Twitter, Tumblr, or text my girlfriends because they will understand how upset I am about how a book ended. They will understand why at the end of a book I threw my Kindle in mock horror and disgust. There are things that nonreaders don’t understand because it’s not just an understanding that my fellow readers and I share. We share empathy.

But try as I may, I’m here to help you understand.

This is the plight of an escapist reader. This is the plight of my people.

1. THE BOOK JUST…ENDED.

Romeo Montague begged of Juliet after their first secret meeting, “O wilt thou leave me so unsatisfied?” I feel ya, Romeo. I feel ya. Nothing and I mean NOTHING is worse than an unsatisfactory ending to a book. I’ve had 2 of them in the last month. Books that just end. I don’t know if the author was lazy, lost motivation, or decided that the imagination of the reader was good enough to formulate their own ending, but this behavior is inexcusable.

Sure. I have an active imagination. But swiping back and forth like a mental patient on my Kindle screeching, “No…no…NO! That’s it!??! It’s done??” is the stuff nightmares are made of for an escapist reader. I don’t want to continue the story on my own. I want closure. I NEED closure.

It’s one thing for a book to have an unsatisfactory ending, it’s quite another for it to abruptly stop like the readers met their maker via an unforeseen nuclear attack, never to finish the book. I’m looking at you, Gillian Flynn! I almost broke my Kindle because of Gone Girl. I paid you for a whole book!

As an aside, I cannot tell you how terrible it is to not be able to hurl a book across the room in anger since I’ve moved to electronic reading. The Kindle was tossed to carpeting. A book may have broken something because I would have thrown it a la Pat in Silver Linings Playbook (seen above).

It’s also not fun when a book never ends and just gets dragged out until you don’t give a shit what happens to anyone or anything. Just give me a conclusion so I can be done with you! I don’t even care if it makes sense!

2. I can’t stop.

It is an absolute struggle to get me out of bed most days because I crave the next chapter of a book like a junkie craves a needle in their arm. I need my fix and I can’t stop until I know that the characters are okay and the world had not crashed down around them. I’ve been this way since elementary school. I used to stay up all night reading R.L. Stine Fear Street books because I couldn’t sleep until I knew that everyone didn’t die at the hands of a classmate or some sexy hitch hiker in Florida.

The OCD in me won’t stop until I reach the end of a chapter. But sometimes I can’t even do that. I’ll go and keep going until I get to the last page. It’s an addiction. It truly is. I read all three Hunger Games books in 3 days. I read in every spare moment I could find: on the bus on the way to work, on my lunch break, while my kid was in the bathroom. Any moment I could find, I had to have my eyes on my Kindle, just trying to get to the next chapter.

3. These characters are my family.

I am one of the readers who falls in love with characters as easily as I love the people closest to me. I can imagine the story playing out in my head. I know what the characters and the scene looks like. I know what they sound like. I know how they feel. When they’re happy, I’m happy. When they’re in pain, I’m inconsolable.

Some people look at me like I have three heads when I describe a book plot with the same flourish as I would if the strife the characters endure was my own. “You don’t understand! It’s not okay! She is just getting away with murder and no one seems to care! The police aren’t even trying to bust her!” You’d think sometimes I was talking about Casey Anthony or some other horrible person in the news. Nope. I’m talking about a completely made up person who only exists in text format (until the screen play comes to life, as it so often does).

Rose Hathaway from Vampire Academy is my spirit animal. That girl is me in badass, dhampir form. She speaks my language. Six books of me sticking through it because the narcissist in me felt like I was reading something that I was a part of.

When Rue dies in Hunger Games, it was like losing your own little sister. (I can’t discuss Prim, because I’m likely to be committed. I’ll never forgive you, Suzanne Collins! NEVER!!!)

Also, if I have another son some day, his middle name will be Finnick. (First name if I get my way haha!)

4. Fuck these characters!

Nothing is worse than unlikeable characters. I’m not talking about the characters you love to hate- that person that makes you furiously turn pages, just waiting for them to get what is coming to them. I’m talking about flat, static characters that have nothing to them. They are just boring, lame people.

I know that the Mortal Instruments series is big, but I cannot stress enough how boring Clary is. She isn’t likeable to me by any stretch of the imagination. I was waiting for her character to open up and flourish, but I ended up putting down the book almost a year ago and wishing nothing but bad things to happen to her going forward. I don’t even think I made it halfway through the book.

I started reading another dystopian series and had to stop half way through the second book. The first one was a struggle as it was. Once again, flat, boring, characters with no personalities. Blow this universe up because I’m over all of you. (Matched by Ally Condie. Just so blaaaaaaaah!)

I painstakingly worked my way through a series of three books by Marie Lu because I bounced back and forth between loving and hating the characters. I’d be all in and then suddenly I couldn’t stand them any longer. I was all but ready to give up and say, “I’m over you,” but then she ended book two with an unreal cliff hanger that reeled me back in. I had to suffer for months waiting for the third installment. Well, played, Marie.

5. The book was SO much better than the movie!

I’m not sorry. The book was better than the movie. Better than the show. There is a reason we get up and arms about this: because we were emotionally invested and connected with the characters for sometimes years. You have this ideal built up in your head. You know these characters inside and out. When they fall short of your expectations or pivotal information is withheld from movie-goers, it is positively infuriating.

Case in point: The first Hunger Games movie probably had many viewers completely lost on many aspects of the story line. The love triangle was poorly developed, as was the time that Katniss and Peeta spent in the cave together. They were in there for DAYS. Katniss didn’t acquire the mockingjay pin at the black market. The way she acquired it and from whom are all important to the story in later books, especially to Haymitch’s backstory. Catching Fire was far improved for the big screen, absolutely nailing Finnick and Johanna’s characters and helping the audience fall even more deeply in love with Mags, a character who never utters a word throughout the book or film.

Don’t even get me started on the embarrassment that was the film version of Vampire Academy or the first 3 X-Men movies. The completely botched, abomination they passed off for a Dark Phoenix storyline, plus anything having to do with Storm or Rogue…or basically anyone who wasn’t Wolverine (nailed it!) or the Professor was sickening to witness. The personalities were so off. Then there was World War Z, one of the best books I’ve ever read, with a corresponding movie that shares only the title. Literally, that’s it. But I’ll admit the movie was pretty decent. There are worse things in life than staring at Brad Pitt for two hours.

When context is lost and storylines are changed to the point where things don’t make sense or a beloved, fan favorite character is butchered due to poor adaptation, it doesn’t make for an enjoyable movie for readers. We feel both sorry for non-readers who have never known the greatness of the character or story, and envy that they don’t feel the anguish that we do when what we loved was ruined.

6. Ummm how is this better on screen than in print?

Conversely, sometimes the movie or tv version is better. I got hooked on the show The Lying Game. Nothing was more fun than hating Sutton Mercer. What a fucking twat she was! It was glorious watching her evil ways unfold! Unfortunately, ABC Family pulled the plug on the show after about a season and a half. The show ended with a main character/murder suspect being murdered himself. HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO ME, ABC FAMILY?!?!

So, I retreated to the books. I had to find out what happened. First of all, we’re not even going to talk about how the show was 100 times more entertaining than the books. The characters burst to life in a way they didn’t on paper. (Or screen, the Kindle reader that I am.) But also, the books had nothing in common with the show outside of character names. Seriously. Nothing else was the same. Spoiler alert: in the books our beloved Ethan is a fucking psychopath and I had to get through 6 books to find out. How dare you, Sara Shepard. How dare you. (Also, I read a few of the Pretty Little Liars books, same deal. I think the show is better. Characters are more likeable or hateable.)

I can only hope that the film version of 50 Shades of Grey is a vast improvement from the horribly written books. Seriously, they have to improve it because E.L. James can’t write worth shit if she isn’t describing blow jobs or Ana taking a good, hard dicking. (Get a thesaurus, Ms. James. Nobody fucking “murmers” all the time, and any girl who says a guy is unleashing her “inner goddess” or says “holy cow” about a man’s penis isn’t getting laid any time this century.)

7. I want it to be REAL.

Sometimes I want a shitty ending…but really I don’t know what I want. When I get my shitty, real life ending, I will spend days mother fucking every character who fucked up the happily ever after because these characters have been through enough! They deserve so much more than the ending they were granted. Ahem, Four in the Divergent series. God, another failed ending to a tremendous series and destroying the life of what many of us considered the perfect guy. Remember what I said about falling in love with characters? Literally. We fall in love with them and no man or woman in real life will compare because our book characters can’t let us down. It’s safe.

This ended up practically a novel as opposed to a blog, but seriously, I could continue. There might be a part 2. There probably has to be.

I hope non-fanatical readers understand a little better how an avid and escapist reader’s brain functions, so you can all be a little kinder to us the next time we gripe about how a movie paled in comparison to a novel or comic book.

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