Open Endings: Why I Love and Hate Them

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Open ended novels present quite a controversy to readers. On one hand, yes, they let readers themselves forge the ending to their preferences. On the other hand, who likes a hanging conclusion? So, dear reader, here’s what I think about open endings.

One of the very first YA book trilogies that I read was LEGEND by Marie Lu. Lu is one of my favorite writers (after reading masterpieces such as THE ROSE SOCIETY). Now, if you read CHAMPION, the last book of the trilogy, and suffered through the (highlight for spoiler) painful ending of Day losing his memory and June and Day “meeting” again (i’m going to cry), then you sort of understand the pain that an open ending can release. I know this wasn’t the worst ending imaginable, that it’s possible that everything would turn out fine in the end. However, you might know that I enjoy crying over books. Books like CHAMPION, books that have painful open endings, books like those are books that happen to become one of the closest books to my heart, and part of the reason why open-endings can sometimes do well for me.

Additionally, books that have open endings can give readers something to think about. Who doesn’t love fan theories or a nice discussion? That can lead to tons of new ideas: friendly (or less than friendly) arguments, fan art, or even something that you can think about when you’re driving to school or work in the morning. In other words, open endings give you something just a little bit more, something that’s more than an ending that’s wrapped up nicely by the end of the book. Perhaps that open ending can give an author another way to continue that series. (Like SHATTER ME! This book closes up pretty nicely, buuuut their fight isn’t totally over. Tahereh could totally continue on with the series, I think.). In other words, it’s possible for open endings to offer more.

However, although an author could theoretically do more with a series that ends on an open ending, I think that’s another problem that can rise from an inconclusive ending. You know when you’re reading a book and the book builds up to such an action-packed climax and you’re waiting for an explosive conclusion? And then….. it just stops? It’s fuzzy and nothing is what you expected. It can definitely work for other readers but usually, I’m disappointed. I’m usually looking for a book that ends with a bang and not a oh.

A lot of those books that have open endings are part of series, so you’re pretty emotionally invested in that book if you’ve spent time reading the past however-many-books before the last book in the series. So, to me, when I’ve dedicated a lot of my feelings to that certain book series, I expect something that I’ll love and something that’ll make me feel content. A problem with open endings is that a lot of the times, they don’t make me feel content—they leave me discontent and annoyed.

I’ve realized that this discussion has partially turned into a rant, but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. To me, I feel like there’s a few ways people react to open endings. Sometimes, you can love it! It gives you more to talk about. It can spark discussion, fan theories, everything, really. On the other hand, you can hate it. You can feel discontent and annoyed. Or you could possibly be impartial. Who knows? However, I’d love for you to tell me what you think. I feel like open endings can do a lot for a person, especially spark discussion about your personal preferences.

For your own reference, here’s a list of books that have open-endings. (Thanks to all you cool kids for helping me out with this list! <3)

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So, tell me what you think. What do you think about open endings? Do you think they spark discussion and satisfaction? Or do you think they’re annoying and inconclusive? Let me know in the comments!

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29 thoughts on “Open Endings: Why I Love and Hate Them

  1. Excellent discussion post! Personally, I love open endings (as heartbreaking as they are) as long as they’re done well. There really is a fine line between open-ended and deliberately inconclusive.

    I also love how you cited Champion by Marie Lu. Honestly, its ending is one of the reasons why it stuck with me for a very long time and became a favorite. It’s the only open-ended book I fell in love with.

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    • I agree with that! I don’t want a book where the author makes it seem to forced or unnatural. Thank you! I love Champion as well; I think Marie did a fantastic job with her debut series! Glad you agreed with my post! 🙂

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  2. I’ve read and been impressed by books with open endings, but it’s a rare occasion for me to love anything, (books/movies ect), with an open ending. I am the kind of person who likes things wrapped up tight with a pretty bow on top. I like me some closure. Unless, of course, there’s going to be a possible sequel. >:D Really interesting topic.

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  3. I definitely agree with you that sometimes I love them, and sometimes I just don’t haha. I feel like most books that I’ve read with an open ending were books in series, and not the final one, so I knew there was going to be more. Though waiting another year to find out how it continues is torture haha

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  4. I tend to really like open endings, but I agree that they can be done poorly when you were expecting something conclusive. As long as the openness fits with the rest of the plot, I love a good open ending! Great post!

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  5. I am hardly ever a fan of open endings. Yes, I come up with my own theories, but it is never satisfying. It is a theory, not an actual ending, and that is frustrating. Take The Love That Split the World… that ending was one of the worst. It hurt me, not having any clue at all what was really happening, after becoming thoroughly, emotionally invested in that story. Most of the time, they just make me angry~

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  6. Brilliant post! When they’re done right I absolutely LOVE open endings. They’re actually my favourite type of ending. I’m not even sure why. I guess I just like the mystery and intrigue. However, when they’re not done right they can ruin the entire book. I definitely understand why a lot of people don’t like them though because it can be frustrating putting all your energy into getting invested in a story and then not receiving any kind of answers.

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  7. Great post!

    I like open endings, even though I sometimes find them incredibly frustrating. I like the idea that character’s life goes on beyond the end of the book. Real life doesn’t end when a certain chapter of your life is over, so it’s nice when a character seems real enough that they’re life doesn’t end at the end of the book either. So I like when things are left often, or when not every detail is sown up at the end of the story.

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  8. I think I love and hate open endings. A lot of factors probably play into how much I like it. For the most part, I think its how the author handles it. Does it leave you with a good discussion at the end or does it leave you literally not feeling like anything got accomplished? A book I just read had an open ending and just oh how I wished there was more to it, the author handled it beautifully and I can’t complain. So, I really don’t know if I like them or not? I’m going to say its a case by case basis lol

    Lovely discussion 🙂
    Molly @ Molly’s Book Nook

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  9. I agree with a lot of the other comments that it really is not an easy ‘love’ or ‘hate’ for an open ending. I love an open ending when the main character needs to move on now, when we see they have to start a new chapter in their life. However, I hate an open ending that doesn’t resolve the plot.

    Great post!

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  10. I think open endings are really cool for short stories or stand alones. I personally love to use open ending when I write because it’s so much easier than trying to think of an ending and usually I’m on a time limit so it’s just quicker too. My English teachers typically hate me for my vague endings. When it’s a series though, I like it to end with a closed off ending. After you’ve invested that much, it’s nice to have a closed ending. Also, you’re already getting a good few unanswered questions especially when waiting for the next book and whatnot. I’m kind of neutral on open endings.

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  11. It definitely depends for me. I don’t like it when nothing is tied up, that stuff makes me angry. But when an ending alludes to where it would probably go, I’m cool with that because I can fill in the blanks myself. I sometimes find myself getting annoyed when every last question is answered. I want to be like– hey author’s, give your readers some credit. We can figure some stuff out with out everything being spelled out and epilogued to death. It’s a love-hate for sure!!

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  12. I think most of the time I’m not a fan of open endings – especially if they’re TOO open. But I can handle a little bit of uncertainty. The book that comes to mind when anyone mentions open endings is the Requiem Trilogy. I actually thought that the ending really suited the series, but most people hated it! 🙂

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  13. I think books need to have some sort of conclusion/closure, like it can’t just end in the middle of the climax without giving any sort of resolution to the problem of the book, but I don’t mind if there’s still some openness (or uncertainty, as Nicole said, that’s a better word lol). I usually prefer that to the overdone epilogue ending in which everyone is married with kids. I guess I like those happy-for-now endings or the ones that answer the main question but leave the future open.

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  14. What a great discussion post! For me I personally dislike open endings because I need to feel a sense of closure to whatever I read and I absolutely hate it if I’ve invested my time in a series for it only to conclude with an open to interpretation ending! I get why other people might like them but they just make me annoyed tbh!

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  15. Open endings can be a bit of a hit or a miss with me. I’m all for the happy endings in novels because real life provides enough unhappy moments that when I choose to read I want to be left satisfied and happy but I know for the story to make sense and to be in keeping with the story’s plot sometimes a happy ending isn’t always possible so I’d settle for an open ending with hints at some positive things to come. As long as it’s not all doom and gloom I’m happy.

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