As I’ve mentioned before, Sir I. is my sensitive (highstrung, anxious…) kid. That’s fine. I was that kid, too, and I managed–barely–to become a functioning adult. Part of my job as parent is to help him cope with anxiety. And boy, do suspenseful, dangerous moments in books and stories bring out that anxiety in a big way.
We were talking about books on an autumnal drive (cars are great places for serious conversations, btw—it helps that everyone is trapped in a moving vehicle with no place to run). We talked about the types of books we liked, and the kind we didn’t, and why we didn’t finish books. I stressed that it was okay to books down that didn’t interest him (except ones that his teacher–me–assigns for school, of course). Sometimes, Sir I. abandons books because they get too scary—the kids are trapped in a burning boat that’s about to sink and take them with it! What if they die?
“You know,” I told him, “you are allowed to peek at the ending to see if everything turns out okay. I do that, too, sometimes.”
Now I know that to some of you (like, ahem, my husband) that’s akin to sacrilege. Peek ahead to the ending? Won’t that spoil the surprise, ruin the story? Why bother to read if you already know what’s going to happen?
Um, no. For some of us ( the highstrung, anxious, emotionally over-involved types), it’s agony not knowing if X is going to happen or if Y is going to die or if A and B get together. This anxiety acts like a spreading stain, making the experience of reading that story a miserable experience. Since we read for pleasure (mostly–some of us have teachers who assign us books, like Sir I. *grin*), we’d rather give up on the book than continue in this wretched way.
Or we could just peek ahead and find out what happens.
If the outcome is satisfactory, then we can go on happily, secure in the knowledge Everything Works Out and eager to see how the author gets us to that ending. And if the resolution is not satisfactory… well, we can still abandon the book. Or we can begin to emotionally distance ourselves from the character who’s going to die and come to terms with the way the story ends before we get there and it slaps us in the face like a, um, big wet fish. It’s the difference between descending by going down the steps, or descending by jumping out of a window.
I’d rather take the steps.
What about you? Do you peek ahead or read a book out of order?