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Friday News: John Green chastises readers for not being generous; NYTimes...

If you read a book and it made you unhappy, then John Green is here to tell you that you are reading the book wrong. See, he’s trying to defend his friend Veronica Roth whose last book in the Divergent trilogy is the subject to intense unhappiness.

Just wrong, readers.  You and your pedestrian expectations! Thank goodness John Green is around to tell all Veronica Roth’s readers how they should be reading the book.

And it’s great to see Andrew Shaffer stand up for poor John Green by calling the readers who disagreed with Green’s position as “a howling pack.”

and John, so put upon, agrees.

Here’s the deal. Roth had a book that built up a lot of expectations. If she wanted her audience to buy into her ending then it was on her to deliver that in the text itself.   And yes, saying that you’d punch the author if you saw her is inappropriate but that’s really not what the furor was over. It was over the non stop negative reviews on Amazon and the tumblr posts which declared that they weren’t going to see the movie or ever read Roth again.

You don’t get to build up the promotional machine and pat all these passionate fans on the back for their grass roots support and then slap them in the face with criticism when they aren’t loving all the decisions made by the author.

And focusing on a few bad apples is classic derailing and misdirection. No, you shouldn’t threaten an author but let’s characterize this honestly.  These are hyperbolic emotional statements, not unlike the authors tweeting about how there are dozens of death threats against Roth on social media and in Amazon reviews (none which could be pointed out when I asked).

By fostering a manic fan base, you get manic responses. Welcome to fandom. How about be generous to the readers who fund the author, who spread the word of the author’s books, who hand sell all their friends and friends of friends?  How about be generous to them?

Also? Eff U to all those people who say that readers who like happy endings aren’t generous and are reading books wrong. Many of us, including those Roth readers, probably have plenty of death and sorrow in their lives and maybe in their fiction they don’t want to experience those feelings again and again.  That doesn’t make them small or mean spirited or less than or even dumb. It just means that those readers choose to read for different reasons.

After all that crappy stuff, watch this video.


Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Persnickety
    Oct 25, 2013 @ 04:18:31

    Well that’s an author I get to cross off my to read list. I do understand that authors have the right to write the story they want to write, but they really don’t have the authority to tell me how to read that story.

    Also, a good piece of art ( book, movie, painting, tv show, play…) should always have people who don’t like it, as well as those who do. Something that creates universal liking, is a bit suspect and may not hold up to later views. Unless it is universal meh, don’t whine about the negative reviews, or at least don’t whine in public.

  2. Rosie
    Oct 25, 2013 @ 06:07:13

    I just … wow. Unhappy readers just don’t get it, huh? What the hell ever.
    I know some readers who just adored the first two Divergent books and the characters, and the ending ruined the whole thing for them. They’re allowed to feel that way. It sucks more for them than it does for Roth!
    I kind of feel sorry for everyone who worked on the movie. I don’t see how it can be a hit now that a large percentage of the fan base is disgusted. (Not feeling bad for Roth, mind you, she already has her millions.) I just imagine everyone (the actors, director, etc) read the 3rd book and groaned.

  3. Loosheesh
    Oct 25, 2013 @ 06:11:53

    I don’t really follow these things but wasn’t John Green being similarly instructive, not too long ago, re: another YA author’s books? I think it was Cassandra Clare’s books?? Not sure; I kinda lump all these ‘author speaking out of turn’ cases in one big ‘best to forget’ pile.

  4. Kaetrin
    Oct 25, 2013 @ 06:15:17

    Also? Eff U to all those people who say that readers who like happy endings aren’t generous and are reading books wrong. Many of us, including those Roth readers, probably have plenty of death and sorrow in their lives and maybe in their fiction they don’t want to experience those feelings again and again. That doesn’t make them small or mean spirited or less than or even dumb. It just means that those readers choose to read for different reasons.


  5. Has
    Oct 25, 2013 @ 07:03:39

    An author is entitled to write what they like and how to end a book in any way. But they can’t control the reception of a book if they failed to convey an ending they wrote that their readers will hate. Roth didn’t understand her fanbase or didn’t care because she broke conventions and expectations in her series. And she did use romance conventions in her series – it helped to attract a large fanbase because it was one of the elements that was popular for the series. So other authors defending her can’t be surprised by that especially if the fanbase is very ardent and active.

    The first two book garnered great excitement and praise which I am sure she enjoyed but she should have an understanding that it was a great risk and gamble in the direction she took with the last book. I hate that fans who were unhappy being tarnished as crazy or mobs out to get the author. Even the majority of the reviews for Allegiant from the 5 star to the 1 star reviews stated that there were issues with that ending, as well the writing with the POV which didn’t change tones between the two protagonists and huge plot holes. It was a bad book.

    Readers don’t need to be schooled by on how to read books. Like Neil Gaiman said about GRRM and reader entitlement it should go the other the way on authors not delivering a good book. Readers are entitled to feel upset especially if they are passionate and invested in the characters.

  6. Ceilidh
    Oct 25, 2013 @ 07:31:11

    Green’s smug condescension was bad enough but it also seems to contradict what he said when he was defending Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan from the plagiarism mahogany incident:

    my job as a reader is to make the text in front of me into the best book it can possibly be.”

    (shamelessly plugging my own post here where the quote is in its entirety):

    So if it’s the reader’s job to interpret the text to make it the best it can be, thus removing authorial intent and their job to make a good story, how can Green then go after people for “reading a book wrong”?

    I’m not a Divergent fan but those readers have every right to be mad. It’s a reader’s right to feel whatever they want to feel about a book. No, death threats aren’t cool (and the fact that the tiny minority of such threats are being used to deflect from much larger group’s concerns is sad to me) but I’m so sick of being lectured to by people like John Green on how to read a book. He has no idea what my objectives are when I pick up a book and for him to dismiss all those upset fans as just wanting happy ever after wish fulfilment is pathetic, especially since the book’s marketing was heavily based on its romantic elements and sorting its readers into factions like the story. That says wish fulfilment to me.

    If he wants to defend his friends that’s one thing, but taking a smug dump over thousands of fans who are mostly younger than him while he sits from on high is sad.

  7. Lou
    Oct 25, 2013 @ 07:36:05

    @Kaetrin: Word to Kaetrin’s word.

    Who knew some (I say some. Not all) authors held so much scorn for their readers. Lots of gushing and hysteria love? Yay. Glad you loved the book. Lots of negative, hysteria gushing? BAD READERS. BAD.

    A lot of YA publishers and authors court these fandoms. It’s similar to the fanbase you see on twitter from certain bands and artists aimed towards teenagers. Don’t be so surprised or shocked by their reactions when you piss them off.

  8. Mary
    Oct 25, 2013 @ 08:09:37

    What’s weird about all of this is that in regards to his own books, john Green is not at all stuck up or insistent that people like them, and he is in general a really funny and likeable guy. This whole incident seems really different from his normal personality.
    In all honesty, he might be saying these things because literally none of his books have traditionally happy endings so he might be seeing the backlash to this one particular book as backlash to all books without happy endings

  9. Jane
    Oct 25, 2013 @ 08:18:24

    @Mary – which doesnt make sense because obviously his books have been embraced which means he sells his endings better. But I like what I’ve heard others say and that is John Green is the Nicholas Sparks of the YA world and Veronica Roth Nicholas Sparked her ending.

  10. Rebecca
    Oct 25, 2013 @ 08:24:54

    While I disagree completely with telling people how they are supposed to feel when reading a book, I made my first foray into reviewing and subsequently commenting on Amazon (NEVER AGAIN) because I felt the enormity of one star reviews were completely unfair to the book (I rated it 4 stars but said in my review that it would be 3.5 stars if Amazon let me do half stars). Mainly I said they were unfair because a ton of people are rating Allegiant 1 star who fully admit that they never READ the book, they just have heard about the ending and read other people’s reviews.

    So I commented. I felt I was pretty respectful of her opinion in my comment and I stated that I wasn’t attacking her so please not to read into it that way. Basically I said, while I agree that you are perfectly justified that you are 100% sure that you won’t like the book based on the reviews (though she stated I don’t like the book – not I know I won’t like the book), how can you justify reviewing and rating the book 1 star since by your own statements, you’ve never read it. I didn’t expect to change her mind, and I didn’t put her down or anything, but I thought my point was valid and we could have a discussion. BIG MISTAKE. I got reamed by her (I don’t have to justify anything! I don’t like the book, ergo my review is valid) and by other 1 star peeps and my comments are downgraded and theirs upgraded. They then went to my review and clicked Not Helpful. So while I disagree with John Green’s statement, certainly it seems like pack mentality.

  11. EGS
    Oct 25, 2013 @ 08:37:23

    Hell hath no fury like an upset fandom base.

  12. hapax
    Oct 25, 2013 @ 08:37:38

    I do agree whole-heartedly that an author has no “right” to certain reader reactions, but has to earn them. I also agree that Roth (or her marketing machine, which she participated in) sold the series as belonging to one genre, with definite genre expectations, and delivered a book in a totally different one; that kind of genre mis-match is never going to end well.

    *However* [dons flameproof suit]

    there has been a growing sense of entitlement in fandoms that I find very distressing. There seems to be a sort of consensus that a writer (or artist, or television producer, or something) OWES the fans a particular kind of story (or plot turn, or relationship outcome) in return for their emotional investment in the product.

    It’s rather scary to read the very personal tone of some of these reviews. Not the “I was disappointed / crushed / angered by this development” but more of a “How DARE she do this TO ME after all all the love I put into this series!”

    Yes, I agree that authors sometimes encourage this sense of personal connection with their stories, prodded by a publishing industry that is increasingly unwilling to do their own marketing and forcing authors to cultivate a kind of faux-intimacy through social media.


    If I love an author’s books — if I promote it enthusiastically on my website — if I rave about it to all my friends — if I write fanfic and draw fanart and make book trailers and organize freaking conventions — that’s great, but the author owes me squat in return. All I have the right to expect is words on the paper (or ereader), and the common civility all humans owe each other.

    Contrariwise, if the author cultivates a fanbase — if she answers their emails — if she retweets their posts — if she puts up links to their fancreations — if she plays jokes and puts up teasers and writes side stories — that’s great, but the readers owe her squat in return. All she has the right to expect is that readers obtain her books legally, and the common civility that all humans owe each other.

    Everything else is gravy … and advertising.

  13. Chris
    Oct 25, 2013 @ 08:40:18

    @Rebecca: One thing that drives me crazy about reviews and review sites is how people are allowed to post reviews before even the arcs are out. I know there are advanced reader copies of books available to reviewers (I was lucky enough to get one myself) but I cannot stand when a book six month away from publication is flooded with 5 star reviews from fans who “just know it will be awesome.” It’s as annoying as the people who give one star reviews on books they love but rated it low because “Amazon made me angry” or “I wanted it in paper/ebook/trade/massmarket and it’s not available.” The whole point is to give an honest review of the BOOK.

  14. Carolyne
    Oct 25, 2013 @ 08:41:40

    It seems terribly disingenuous to write novels with a goal of bringing out strong emotions and fierce engagement from young readers, and from particularly teenagers craving emotional heights, and then when they react with fierce emotion tell them they’re doing their feelings wrong. Young-adulthood is tumultuous enough without telling kids their own emotions are incorrect. Kids screamed over Frank Sinatra back in the bobby-soxer days, and I’m sure we’ve all seen footage of Beatles fans. Fans are fans.

    Should readers, teen or adult, be threatening an author? Of course not–and I have no objection to sitting them down and giving them a firm discussion on inappropriate reaction and going over the line. Does the creator of anything “owe” people specific outcomes? No (though it may affect sales/viewership). But there’s no profit in informing people they’re incorrect to feel passion, love, elation, satisfaction, or downright hate over a story, or even over just the spoiler, if they’ve already invested emotional energy into living in the world.

    I actually value the experience of seeing a beloved character killed off in a fantasy series I read as a young teen…now. It helped me understand the power of storytelling and the power of my own emotions. Back then, it was the awfullest thing ever and I sat on the floor under a gloomy rain cloud all afternoon. I wrote a letter to the publisher about the awfulness and the weeping. If the internet had been more accessible (we didn’t have a home computer, that was for fancy people), I’m sure I’d have found like souls with shoulders to cry on and to help me vent my rage. Also, I was 13 or 14, and I vented rage over not getting to stay on the phone for an hour or watch a late TV show. I was un-jaded and still learning the scale of the world’s injustices.

    That said, I still sometimes get upset over stories, but I try to keep it to calmer discussion and quiet gnashing of teeth.

    The author of Allegiant made a choice, she must surely know the audience she was writing for, and so be it. I’m glad she’s told the story she wanted to tell, and I hope the book isn’t as badly constructed as some reviewers claim. John Green–who will always be “the other John Green” to me, since I knew the YA graphic novel creator John Green first–might wish he could instruct people on how humans must properly interact with text, but that’s now how stories work out in the wild. Perhaps that’s a useful exercise in a university course, or it’s his wishful thinking. He may be a good novelist, but alas this doesn’t make every opinion he tweets a worthy insight.

  15. CK
    Oct 25, 2013 @ 08:42:42

    Skipping commentary on the book kerfuffle.

    HOWEVER, that video is awesome and inspiring and made me cry at my desk. Thank you for linking it. (I may be biased because we have a little girl in my daughter’s class who just came out of remission for her neuroblastoma. She’s 8.)

  16. Andrea
    Oct 25, 2013 @ 08:43:17

    I stopped reading the series mid-way through Insurgent (b/c I was booooored), so I have no strong feelings about Allegiant either way.

    This a reminds me of how readers reacted to Andrea Cremer’s Nightshade series, which I don’t think was “sold” to readers either.

    I’ve noticed John Green being very….preachy (?) before, and it annoys me. Readers honestly don’t need him to explain to us how to read/interpret/feel. And yes, it’s very ironic considering he doesn’t have necessarily “happy” endings. It’s clear from all the adoration he receives that he is better at selling the ending.

    And why is it that every time there’s a stink, I see the same two authors tweeting snarky comments?

    Thanks for such a great post.

  17. Amanda
    Oct 25, 2013 @ 08:45:22

    I haven’t read these books (started the first one but never finished it) but from the reaction it seems like Roth did not really prepare her readers for this possible ending. I remember how I felt while reading the last Harry Potter book, I was satisfied with the ending but I was completely prepared for the possibility of a more tragic ending (which means I would have cried four times instead of three). If Rowling had had a different ending I would have been sad but wouldn’t have felt the sort of betrayal that these readers seem to be feeling.
    As Jane said, in her reply to Mary, you know not to expect a HEA with authors like Green and Sparks. In Roth’s case its not the lack of an HEA but the fact that the ending was a WTH type ending that seems to be the problem.

  18. Carolyne
    Oct 25, 2013 @ 08:59:16

    @Amanda: Interesting point. In my blah-blah-blah long comment above, that was part of why that book I read as a kid struck me so hard–up until that point there’d been no indication the series would actually kill off major characters, and that particular character death very much came out of nowhere, a startling onscreen accident. After that point, the author got very killy with her characters, and fans tended to shrug at each subsequent death-of-sidekick/love interest/protagonist.

  19. cleo
    Oct 25, 2013 @ 09:02:24

    I didn’t read Divergent, so I don’t have strong feelings about this.

    I can see both sides. I can see why an establushed author might feel protective of a younger collegue (I think Roth is 25). I can see why the author if The Fault in our Stars is in favor of books that push their readers. And I get the backlash against Greene – I don’t like being told how to react to something and I agree with Jane that wanting a happy ending isn’t a sign of being a light weight.

    @hapax: I agree

  20. Jody W.
    Oct 25, 2013 @ 10:14:31

    When review backlash happens, I can’t help but think about reviews for other types of consumer products. Movies, music, food — everything from entertainment to consumables. Do producers tell consumers how they can react to movies or music? Maybe, I don’t know. Do chefs tell them they can’t diss food or a restaurant if they hated it? I don’t know. I mean, I hear things about passionate chefs. Particularly in the highly accurate romance novels I read about them, amiright? Would ppl flame Gordon Ramsey’s cooking or would they be too scared to? hehehe.

    But seriously, book publishing is weird. People telling each other how to write, how to read, how to review, and bursting into rants when those people don’t oblige. This week has seemed a bit like an internet pissing contest to see who could be the most righteously outraged by whom. Perhaps we should all talk about parenting or politics instead so we can calm down?

  21. Jill Sorenson
    Oct 25, 2013 @ 10:25:26

    I agree with those who’ve said that Roth doesn’t owe readers a happy ending and readers don’t owe her a positive response. I’m not offended by John Green’s statements, but I saw a lot of snarky commentary about readers who like happy endings being dumb and “no fun at parties” (?) etc. It’s the same old stereotype. Teens/fangirls/romance readers are all passion/fury, no intellect. Add “amateur reviewers,” another frequent target of author derision, to the list. This attitude totally dismisses the possibility that a reader can have a strong, negative *emotional* reaction that is also fair and thoughtful. There is a certain disdain for emotions, as if they should be removed from critical response. No complaints are made about strong positive feelings, although beware if those are accompanied by gifs. Only imbeciles use gifs. /sarcasm

    One thing I disagree with in the post is that authors build or foster rabid fanbases. Readers build fanbases because they love the characters, not because the author caters to them. Without an emotionally engaging book, the fans will not come. Success is unpredictable and not controlled by authors or publishers. Fan behavior shouldn’t reflect on the author, unless the author is directing her fans to act.

    The question I’ve been pondering is: Does Roth deserve this backlash? I don’t think she’s done anything wrong, or that readers are wrong to express their feelings. I’m sure she did what felt right for her series, knowing it would be controversial. Did the author or her publisher make a bad choice in marketing this series as romantic, therefore setting up genre expectations? I would say no, as YA has no HEA guarantee. By following trends made popular by other books, did she attract readers she was bound to disappoint? The ending to the Hunger Games trilogy struck me as dark and dismal.

    I guess I can’t get on board with the idea that Roth is getting what she deserves any more than I believe that success or failure is a controllable thing, and always what one deserves.

    I do understand the hyperbole. The other day I saw a movie with a fake-out ending. After a few minutes of “they’re saved! yay!” the film backtracked and ripped away that happy ending as a pre-death dream. I felt jerked around and screwed over. F you, movie. Do I want to punch the filmmaker in the throat, no. Never. I’d shake his hand and ask him about the choice. Just because I tweeted a ranty reaction doesn’t mean I’m unreasonable or incapable of appreciating art.

  22. Lindsay
    Oct 25, 2013 @ 10:33:51

    I like John Green a lot as a person, especially all his youtube and Nerdfighters work, but I completely disagree with him on this. He may never have read books with strong genre expectations, and I know YA defies a lot of genres, but it’s okay for people to not like an ending or not like what an author has done.

    Mass Effect 3 came out, tying up a (great) video game series, and people lost their minds because they hated the ending. I can understand both sides — people had invested dozens, maybe hundreds of hours enjoying the universe that was “My Shepherd” and their choices shaped the story, but in the end the choices didn’t seem to matter as much as they would have liked (without getting into spoilers). The game-makers also tried to make the best game possible within their grasp, and felt that how they were tying up the series in the way that they wanted to. Now, video-game genre expectations tend to be that you are the good guy, you win, you save the day, and bad is defeated — totally acceptable expectations, just like an HEA in a romance. But to be told you didn’t like those expectations being defied because you’re enjoying the game wrong is pretty unreasonable too.

    Mass Effect wound up re-writing the ending. But this was a big studio owned by a bigger publisher with literally hundreds of millions of dollars at stake (minimum budget for a AAA is $80mil these days). It will be really interesting to see if anything happens remotely similar when there are no other interests save author/readers involved, even though as books go there’s a lot of money involved as well.

  23. Lindsay
    Oct 25, 2013 @ 10:40:31

    @Jill Sorenson: I totally agree with regards to brushing this off as “teen girls” phenomenon, which really upsets me as it takes an entire group of extremely passionate people who are devoting that passion TO things and creating things from it, and mocks them as inconsequential and stupid — mainly because they’re girls. SO frustrating.

  24. Jia
    Oct 25, 2013 @ 10:54:43


    It will be really interesting to see if anything happens remotely similar when there are no other interests save author/readers involved, even though as books go there’s a lot of money involved as well.

    I wonder about this myself. Not with the books because that’s done. But since there are movies… I can’t remember if the entire trilogy is being adapted or just Divergent with the sequels dependent on success. Would they change the ending of an Allegiant adaptation or keep it the same? I have a feeling movie goers wouldn’t be thrilled about this ending either.

  25. Lindsay
    Oct 25, 2013 @ 11:07:29

    I wonder that, too. Movies do test endings and test screenings and will tweak things before final production — I have some really weird dissonance with some movies as I’d work on the (generally lamentable) video game that releases the same day as the movie only to have a completely different ending when I actually went to see the movie itself. Whoops! As it had to be finished over a month before the movie release itself we generally didn’t get any edits made after the test screenings. Pirates of the Caribbean 2 was really notable for me — in the game Elizabeth SHOOTS Jack, instead of just chaining him. I thought that was far more satisfying character-wise, but apparently the heroine shooting Johnny Depp didn’t pan well in screening.

    I’m trying to think of examples of books-to-film where the endings are completely different besides the Bourne movies (which have nothing to do with each other after the first half of the first).

  26. cleo
    Oct 25, 2013 @ 11:28:49

    @Lindsay: Dances with Wolves changed the ending. I thought the book’s ending was happier, or at least more hopeful – because the white couple was allowed to stay with the tribe.

    ETA – In the PBS Mystery adaptation of Coyote Waits by Tony Hillerman, Lt Leaphorn’s wife is still alive, even though I think she died a couple books earlier. I remember reading that they decided not to kill off Emma and deciding not to watch, because I liked how Hillerman dealt with Leaphorn’s grief.

  27. hapax
    Oct 25, 2013 @ 11:44:21

    I’m trying to think of examples of books-to-film where the endings are completely different

    Well, there’s practically any Disney film: THE LITTLE MERMAID (ptui, ptui, ptui), HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME (lights flaming torch), THE FOX AND THE HOUND (loads bazooka), THE BLACK CAULDRON (resorts to nuclear carpet-bombing) — also such live action films as CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG, MARY POPPINS, etc. And no, those weren’t “folktales” held in common property, but actual, y’know, literary works. Not to mention totally f’ing up actual historical events, as in POCOHANTAS. Apparently Disney (and other makers of “children’s films”) are terrified that anything but a saccharine-happy ending with dancing mice etc. will traumatize the little dears.

    I’ve been told that a lot of travelling theater companies used to change the endings of Shakespeares plays (esp. HAMLET and ROMEO & JULIET) because the tragic endings played so badly before audience.

  28. Charming Euphemism
    Oct 25, 2013 @ 11:47:08

    @Jody W.:

    When review backlash happens, I can’t help but think about reviews for other types of consumer products. Movies, music, food — everything from entertainment to consumables. Do producers tell consumers how they can react to movies or music?

    This! So much this! Does everyone who is scolding the disappointed readers feel the same about discussing, say, Battlefield Earth? There were young actors in that movie who probably felt bad about the reaming it got everywhere. How come authors are such special snowflakes that they have to be handled so gently?

    Seriously, what would be the reaction if John Travolta tried to insist that we all watch the movie generously and not act like entitled fans. Ruthless mockery is my guess.

    (edited for typos)

  29. Carolyne
    Oct 25, 2013 @ 11:59:20

    @hapax: My favourite change in endings is the delightfully cheerful ending of ROMEO & JULIET in NICHOLAS NICKLEBY (I’ve only seen the stage play, haven’t read the book), with great rejoicing all around and, as I recall, one actor who steadfastly refuses to get up from being dead.

    Once as a tween I was helping a friend by giving her the ten-minute summary of HAMLET (which she had neglected to read before the class), trying to make the story as exciting as our daily roleplaying-game sessions (which she never neglected), when she interrupted me and exclaimed, genuinely horrified, “Please don’t tell me Hamlet’s going to die at the end!” Another lesson in the power of storytelling that I’ve never forgotten. And a lesson in valuing the audience even if they’re silly girls with all those silly emotions that real (non-girl) people don’t indulge in so openly.

    My very first lesson in this? My mother reading THE LITTLE MERMAID to me when I must have been a pre-schooler. One night I insisted she hand the book over so I could retell the ending properly. For all I know, that was the very first trigger for me becoming a writer. I ptui on the Disney movie too.

    Sometimes, you just have to stab your readers in the gut. Did I say readers? I meant characters.

  30. Kelly
    Oct 25, 2013 @ 12:22:29

    @Carolyne: OK, I must know – what was the traumatic childhood book?

    Mine was Bridge to Terabithia….

  31. cleo
    Oct 25, 2013 @ 12:38:21

    @Kelly: I find discussions of this kind of childhood book and movie trauma / betrayal fascinating – from Old Yeller to Optimus Prime. Maybe because I don’t remember having that reaction to any one book / movie.

  32. EGS
    Oct 25, 2013 @ 13:09:03

    I read a book called Snowfall when I was 12 and inhaled it within 24 hours while sitting on my bedroom floor listening to ATeens (lol). And then I got the ending, where the male love interest dies in an avalanche. Womp. I was devastated for weeks. I can still remember the horror I felt at it, at why the author had to do something like that to me. So I get where these fans are coming from.

    As an aside, I recently got to listen to Charles Baxter speak, and he said that endings should be a surprise but not a shock. I have a feeling Roth’s was in the shock category. I’m not against killing off characters – even main characters – but doing it for no more literary purpose than for funsies and horror is obnoxious. I have not read Allegiant, though, so I can’t say if that’s definitively the case.

  33. Melissa
    Oct 25, 2013 @ 13:33:16

    Anyone else thinking of Stephen King’s Misery? Just wondering…

  34. Darlynne
    Oct 25, 2013 @ 13:34:48

    I simply cannot hop on the fan-outrage bandwagon. I didn’t hate JR Ward for what happened to Jane, I didn’t want to punch Suzanne Collins for the ending of the Hunger Games trilogy. As a reader, I read, I experience, I am free to interpret or react as the story unfolds for me. If I don’t like where things are going–Laurell K. Hamilton–I read elsewhere. If my favorite restaurant changes my favorite dish, I eat elsewhere.

    What I don’t do is make it personal, for either side. Beyond that initial transaction, I don’t believe either party owes the other anything else. This whole–and the next, future–kerfuffle makes no sense to me.

  35. Liz Mc2
    Oct 25, 2013 @ 14:10:40

    I haven’t read Veronica Roth so I can’t comment on the expectations she may (or may not) have established within the novels. But I did notice she has several “Four/Tobias POV” stories for sale–re-tellings of scenes from the novels from his point of view. I find it hard to see this as anything but fan service and deliberate profiting off of fan engagement in the romantic storyline. If Tobias’ point of view was necessary to her artistic vision, it would have been in the first two novels, right? And I think that that kind of thing DOES create expectations about the ending for readers–it appears the author is going to satisfy their romantic desires. This looks to me like a certain amount of the author/people defending her wanting to have their cake and eat it too.

    I also think people are fine with (although maybe snarky about) hyperbolic fan rhetoric as long as it’s positive (“I want to have the book’s babies, Four is my book boyfriend, I love this author so much”) but surprisingly unwilling to recognize when negative statements are hyperbolic rhetoric. I doubt these readers are actually hoping to meet Veronica Roth so they can punch her, and I don’t think these are really “threats.” I’m not arguing this is valuable or effective rhetoric–for one thing, it allowed a lot of people to dismiss these upset fans as bad people making threats–but it’s kind of disheartening that some authors couldn’t recognize these as figures of speech. I wish they had criticized the rhetoric, not treated it as literal.

  36. hapax
    Oct 25, 2013 @ 14:19:25

    I have a feeling Roth’s was in the shock category. I’m not against killing off characters – even main characters – but doing it for no more literary purpose than for funsies and horror is obnoxious. I have not read Allegiant, though, so I can’t say if that’s definitively the case.

    I *have* read ALLEGIANT, and the other two books as well…


    … and I would make the case that the ending in question was in fact pretty well set up as a logical conclusion to the various characters’ personality development arcs.

    Not that it was telegraphed, or wasn’t a great disappointment to what the fans would have *wanted* or *expected* to happen, but nobody acted out of character and it was definitely consistent with themes present throughout the entire trilogy.

    Other readers may disagree with me, of course, and I would be delighted to discuss it with them with quotes and cites, if I actually particularly enjoyed the books (which I didn’t, I read them more out of sense of obligation than desire).

    I would suggest it is possible that this last detail — that I had pretty much zero emotional investment in the characters and their fates — which enabled me to see the narrative clues setting up this ending. Which doesn’t mean, of course, that I am reading it “right” and others are reading it “wrong”. You could make an equally good case that *I* am the one reading it “wrong”, by failing to recognize how emotionally appealing these characters are!

  37. Kate Hewitt
    Oct 25, 2013 @ 14:31:54

    I have to agree with Hapax, without putting any spoilers in, I think Roth set up the ending of Allegiant from the beginning of Divergent. It didn’t surprise me really at all, and I think it fit the characters and their journeys. I’m surprised, frankly, that so many people are surprised. I do understand feeling disappointment about the end of the book, and even when I accept that the ending has to be sad, and it fits and seems right, I have been sad about the sad ending.

    I think some authors do encourage rabid fandom though. Maybe they don’t start it, but they continue to whip it up with discussions about their characters as if they are real people or possible boyfriends, offering extras on their site or special reads/perks to particularly ‘loyal’ fans. I’m not saying Roth did this, because I have no idea. But I think it happens and as an author you’ve got to take the fallout when and if those fans ‘turn’ on you because they don’t like what you did with a book. I also agree, a ranty tweet is not necessarily a legitimate death threat, just a product of conducting our social lives more and more online.

  38. EGS
    Oct 25, 2013 @ 14:33:30

    @hapax: In-ter-es-ting. Now I really need to read these damn books.

  39. Carolyne
    Oct 25, 2013 @ 15:11:44

    @Kelly: I didn’t read Bridge to Terabithia until I was older and it had been thoroughly spoiled. Alas. My traumatic moment was while reading one of the early Camber of Culdi books, the Deryni series, when I was inhaling any and every high fantasy I could find. If it had someone in mediaeval garb on the cover waving some magic around, I would grab it, especially if there were lots and lots of books in the series to look forward to glomming.

    Spoilery: . . . . . . . One of the big romance plot lines in the early part of the series that I’d adored had its HEA messily destroyed. Considering I’m still bothered by that umpty years later, I can’t even bring myself to try to read GRRM.

  40. MrsJoseph
    Oct 25, 2013 @ 15:34:55

    I don’t read YA so I haven’t read this series. But this isn’t the first time Tiffany Riez and her boyfriend Shaffer decided to jump down readers throats.

    Good to know to avoid them in the future.

  41. Inez Kelley
    Oct 25, 2013 @ 15:38:51

    My Sister’s Keeper by Jodie Picoult. The movie drastically changed the ending of the book and movie goers who hadn’t read the book liked it but book readers were not thrilled with the change. (my spoiler free answer)

  42. farmwifetwo
    Oct 25, 2013 @ 15:43:41

    Suz Brockmann did the sane with Dark of Night. Changed who was to get whom. There are a number of threads on AAR about it. Authors should not be surprised if the cater to a fan base, write stories for a particular outcome and don’t. Claiming ‘I meant to do that’ doesn’t go over well. I have not readthis author.

  43. Ashley F
    Oct 25, 2013 @ 16:15:37

    I’ve had this problem with John Green before. He tends to get a tad preachy and while I enjoy his books, I wish he’d tone it down just a bit.

    I’ve found tragic endings, relationship developments, etc. all depend on the author’s ability to make it seem authentic. The power of the seventh Harry Potter book was the reader being unsure if there would be a happy ending. J.K. Rowling had allowed tragedy to strike during the battle of good and evil so it wouldn’t have been strange for her to choose that option. If an author does something crazy or completely unsubstantiated in the final book, I think the readers are okay to feel angry. If everything has been sunshine and rainbows then tragedy comes out of left field and smacks you in the face, then being upset seems justified.

    As a reader it throws me out of the book. If a character acts differently with no rationale or the author decides to play with POVs in the last book, I am seriously bothered unless it just works effortlessly. The final book in a big series is not the place to try crazy, new things. Save that for an excerpt of your next book. People tend to look to series to get adventures with what they’ve known since book one. I’m fine with pushing the boundaries but don’t make a tough character a marshmallow. It’s not authentic and it seems like the author is unhappy with their work.

    Now this is my opinion and feel free to tell me I’m crazy.

  44. Ashley F
    Oct 25, 2013 @ 16:22:28

    @hapax: I agree about the tv/movie relationship thing. My only disagreement comes from watching some shows and being irritated by the writers disregarding a natural element of the show. If two actors/actresses click on screen and the initial couple seemed forced, play with it. Give it a shot. I’m not condoning breaking relationships up because one shipper fandom is larger but don’t ignore a possibility because it wasn’t what you intended. Sometimes you discover something better when you are willing to let the characters really come to life.

    That’s my 2-cents. Great argument!

  45. Olivia Waite (@O_Waite)
    Oct 25, 2013 @ 16:28:50

    @hapax: I always think of Malamud’s The Natural, which had an ending that I think was supposed to read as realistic or bittersweet and instead came across as unbearably mediocre. They made a film version with Robert Redford that wisely turned the ending into a last-minute triumph, with those memorable exploding firework lights.

  46. Susan
    Oct 25, 2013 @ 17:38:33

    @Carolyne: I didn’t guess that this was the book/series you were describing, but you’re totally correct. The first three books in the series had a very different tone, but then Kurtz got extremely bloodthirsty starting with Camber of Culdi. I learned not to get too attached to any of her characters–followed by my ceasing to give a crap about any of it and dumping the extended series. There’s a fine but definite line, and Kurtz crossed it for me (a la Karin Slaughter). Sounds like Roth may have done the same.

  47. RobinC
    Oct 25, 2013 @ 17:45:31

    @Carolyne: Oh my goodness! Me, too! These were my best friends at that time (I was 12) . I cried for days and refused to read any further in the series for at least six months. Then I went back, and it got worse! I think it took me over a year to make it through all the Camber and Harrowing books. (Later that year, my aunt let me name her new baby boy – I picked Rhys Joram. Joram didn’t go over too well, so we compromised on Rhys Anthony.) I’ve got to pull all those books out again soon.

  48. Carolyne
    Oct 25, 2013 @ 17:50:42


    I learned not to get too attached to any of her characters–followed by my ceasing to give a crap about any of it and dumping the extended series

    That’s it! It’s not so much that repetition made it lose shock value or that she failed to show the nastiness, brutality, and shortness of life in that sort of world, but that I learned not to invest in/care about any character, and thus stopped caring about the stories entirely. The emotional rollercoaster ride became meh, no matter who was stabbed, poisoned, tripped down a staircase, eaten by magic, or drowned and/or set on fire. I remember one day a friend told me she was reading the next book and asked whether I’d started it yet, then we looked at each other and both said something like, “of course a bunch of characters die,” and we just never read another. From ranty rage to indifference (to be fair, it took several books).

    @RobinC: Rhys is one of my favourite names. You know why :P

    You’re brave to go back to them! Maybe I will too. I actually have a set of hardcovers with jackets of the first three Camber books that have been sitting just being decorative on a little wrought-iron bookshelf in the foyer for years.

  49. azteclady
    Oct 25, 2013 @ 20:16:24

    @hapax: My only caveat here would be: if an author (and/or her publisher) market a series of books as belonging to genre A, readers are sure to expect–and I’ll even say they have the right to expect–that the author respect the genre conventions.

    If it’s a mystery, provide an answer. If it’s a romance, don’t kill one of the protagonists after a number of books. If it’s a paranormal with a set of rules, do not go inventing different rules every other book. And so on and so forth.

    Beyond that, and however noisy and demanding fans may be, authors really can’t tell any reader (including their editor, other authors, their family, etc.) how they should read/interpret/feel their book. They just can’t, sorry.

  50. Amy Andrews
    Oct 26, 2013 @ 10:38:55

    This reminds me of a tumblr blog recently where authors blame the readers for their crappy incomes because they’re not discerning enough! Treating readers like they were stupid. Made my blood boil. The blog itself is relatively harmless but the condescension in the comments about readers reading “drivel” and passing up the “good quality books” – ugh! Just awful.

  51. cc
    Oct 28, 2013 @ 11:13:39

    Thank you for this article! I agree wholeheartedly. I was so mad and disappointed at JG for implying I don’t know what books are/should do, and that I read Allegiant in the wrong way if I didn’t like it, well excuse me, but no one gets to tell me what to feel about a book. I’m allowed to like and dislike whatever I want in a book and read it or not for all the reasons I can think of, it’s no one’s business if I only care about character a or b, or the romance, or the worldbuilding, or the ending, or whatever—books are freedom and only I get to decide what I want from it, there’s no right or wrong way to read a book. If authors don’t want their books to be read in “the wrong way” they should never take them to a publisher.

  52. Christina Mayhand
    Feb 26, 2014 @ 06:54:50

    I think that it’s interesting that the author of this piece took John Green’s story way out of context. He said “As a reader, I don’t feel a story has an obligation to make me happy. I want stories to show me a bigger world than the one I know.” That means that A Story is just that a story and in no was under any obligation to make people feel one way or another. John Green is not saying that we have to feel a particular way but instead saying that if a story makes us feel different from what we expect we should base our thoughts on what the story made us feel like not the fact that it didn’t do what we THOUGHT it should do. I wish people could deal with things that don’t go their way in a more positive manner.

  53. Alana Rock
    Jun 18, 2014 @ 12:14:33

    @hapax: Now… I know this is WAY after the fact, and I’m not sure if anyone is even bothering to still read these comments… but I had to throw in my $0.02. I’ve read the entire Divergent series (with the exception of the ‘new’ Four POV blah*blah*blah)… lemme see if I can break down my thoughts without major spoilers.

    Re: John Green’s comments – At first, I removed all his books from my TBR list. I don’t like an author dictating how I’m supposed to read, and if I don’t like something to dismiss my opinion because “I read it wrong.” I have since, rather recently, bit the bullet and finally read TFioS – really hard to separate my rage toward John Green’s comments from the book in order to try and give it an honest try. Basically, as a person, and a public figure, he can kiss my lily white butt and if I ever meet him in person, I’ll be more than happy to tell that face-to-face. I’m still reluctant to reach more of his books because of his comments. Might be my loss, but part of my rights as a reader is NOT to read a book if I choose not to.

    Re: Allegiant. On one hand, I do think Roth set up some aspects of the ending- SOME. However, regardless of what I was expecting or not expecting, I felt it sucked. I felt (like someone mentioned before) that the shift in POV was so muddy- the only way I knew ‘who’ was speaking was because I listened to the audio versions. The differences that help define and distinguish the characters (primarily Four and Tris) was absent- without the female and male narrators, Tris or Four as a narrtor could have been interchangeable. They were different people (from each other) in book #1 and #2, I loved them, I rooted for them. But Four did a 180 from the first two books and turned into a whiny pussy not worth being a ‘book boyfriend’. Granted, this is all just my opinion, mind you.
    Also… the direction that Roth chose for her ‘big reveal’ – the metaphorical ‘man behind the curtain’… as one person put it- it’s like waiting all year for Christmas and Santa and presents as a child, and then finally you wake up and open your gift from Santa, and it’s the rotten bones of your first pet. It’s her story, it’s her choice how she wanted to write it, I’m not denying that- I’m just saying that the reveal itself felt like a betrayal to me. It’s like Harry Potter goes through all those books, all those trials, and then at the very end we find out he’s imagined the whole thing and is really a mental patient locked in a rubber room. Who lives or dies isn’t the focus for me, it’s the whole damn set-up. I can accept death, I was even expecting death… but it was served in a way that to me, seemed hopeless and useless and meaningless. The Hunger Games ending was dark and wasn’t my favorite, but it still didn’t make me despise the first books. Allegiant, however, it destroyed the series. The entrire series. I never want to read the first books, which I adored, again. What’s the point? Like I said with the Harry Potter analogy- why would I bother to even care about these characters again when I know the final book destroys everything I love? For me, there was no hope. I can handle a non-HEA in books, but usually there is still something that lifts my heart up about it. The beauty of the struggle, the meaning of the loss, knowing that there was something good that came out of the horror and sadness. But this… empty deaths seemingly just for shock value, characters acting completely different, and turning the big bad Wizard of Oz into a ugly little man using smoke and mirrors. There’s no hope in that. There is no reason that I would want to continue to care about these characters because Roth made sure to erraticate and kill them (be it physically, emotionally, or psychologically) in the most meaningless ways possible. That’s why I despise Allegiant; that’s why I will NOT be reading the series again, NOT be seeing the movie (at least until it’s on Netflix and maybe then I’ll consider it because I won’t have to pay another dime to a series that destroyed my hope)… and I will not be reading another Roth book ever again. I don’t trust her as an author.

    Do I want to really ‘hurt’ Roth- no. Would I mind smacking her a little, honestly would one good smack really *hurt* her, because I’m not opposed to at least a hard slap on the wrist. I feel, as a reader, I have every right to feel the way I do. Just as other readers that enjoyed Allegiant have every right to feel the way they do. A quote I read, “No two persons ever read the same book.” Everyone approaches a book with a different past, different set of morals, different expectations, different hopes and dreams; how can any reader ‘read it wrong?’ I believe writing is an art, just like painting or music or acting… there is no such thing as ‘read[ing] it wrong’. I may not like Picasso but can still recognize his talent and respect it. I’m not ‘looking at his paintings wrong’, they just don’t touch my heart like VanGough- it’s just a personal preference. I may not like Woody Allen films and avoid them, but it doesn’t mean I automatically ‘watched them wrong’. I may think that Dumb & Dumber destroyed brain cells while I watched it, but that doesn’t mean ‘I watched it wrong.”

    Basically, I think that books are like a baby created by the author. While they are writing, editing, fine tuning- that is ‘raising’ their baby, making their baby into the best baby it can be. Once it’s published, it’s like that baby grew up and went out into the world. At that point, authors have done all they can do, and now they have to let their baby stand on it’s own feet and suceed, or fail, on their own. Not everyone is going to like your baby. Some may think it’s the ugliest baby to ever walk the earth, some may think it’s an uncaring ass, some may just not like it’s name… but that doesn’t mean the world is wrong. John Green needs to get off his high horse and stops demanding that readers do an author’s job. Roth made her choices, and now she needs to put on her big girl panties and face (or ignore) what people think of what she made. If she, or any author, can’t take the heat of criticism, the zeal of fandom, the passion of readers- then move the fuck away from the typewriter and pick a different profession.

    OK, rant over, for now. Again, these are entirely just my personal thoughts on all this. Mine are no more valid than anyone else’s, but I’m not trying to strong arm anyone into reading how I think they need to read- because that is impossible. They way I think and read can never be exactly the same as anyone else, and to try and dictate some sort of rules of correct reading, is laughable. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and how a one reader will react to a book is in their hands, and their hands only.

  54. Alana Rock
    Jun 18, 2014 @ 12:20:50

    @Christina Mayhand:

    So how exactly, is his statement that we “read it wrong” and that “my job as a reader is to make the text in front of me into the best book it can possibly be” taken out of context? I’m sorry, but what HE believes a book should do is not the final word on the matter. Nobody died and made John Green god of literature and ‘correct reading.’ He can think like he wants, but when he starts using his fame and social media to critize EVERYONE that did not like a book that he didn’t even write- that’s when he’s crossed a line.

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