Tales of a Reformed End-Peeker

Just over two years ago I wrote here about how I like to be spoiled. I talked about being a regular end-peeker when reading non-romance books, after being burned a few times when the main character’s love interest in a mystery series was killed off. In Chick Lit, end-peeking lets me know if the heroine is going to end up with anyone (not always a sure thing) and if so with whom (because there are often multiple love interests). Well, I’ve had a few experiences lately that have me questioning not only end-peeking, but also what constitutes a spoiler and what doesn’t.

The first bad spoiler experience happened several months ago while I was reading S.J. Watson’s Before I Go to Sleep. In this mystery Christine wakes up each morning with no memories of her past. Some mornings she wakes up thinking she’s in her twenties, sometimes she thinks she’s just a young girl. Each morning her husband (a complete stranger to her) has to explain who she is, who he is, and that her loss of memory is the result of an accident nearly twenty years earlier. Now this may sound boring and repetitive, but thanks to the author’s skills I was riveted. However, after about 20 pages I began to wonder what was going to happen, hoping that Christine might regain her memory and realize that she loved her husband. So, I peeked at the end. Big mistake! This isn’t simply the case of discovering who killed the murder victims. By reading the end I spoiled all of the suspense the author builds up over the book. I finished the book, but with every page wished that I didn’t already know the outcome.

The second experience happened with Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. If you’ve missed out on the hype, this megahit mystery tells the story of a marriage in which the wife goes missing and the husband is a key suspect. That’s not a spoiler; that much information is everywhere on the web. But most quality reviews avoid telling much of anything else about the plot. There’s been an active thread about this book at AAR, as well as a spoilers’ thread that I studiously avoided. I’d read enough reviews of the book to know that this is one book that should not be spoiled. I downloaded the book in audio and intended to begin listening on a recent vacation. Then I made a major mistake. I went back online to reread a review about it and inadvertently pulled up a different review that completely spoiled the plot. I was distraught and have yet to begin listening to the book.

I’ve read several mysteries and Chick Lit books since those two experiences, and haven’t end-peeked in any of them. And I haven’t regretted the lack of spoilers; I’ve either enjoyed or not enjoyed the books, but have found myself wondering in each what would happen. And for now, that wonder is a good experience.

These experiences have me wondering more about what constitutes a spoiler in romances. In traditional mysteries spoilers are relatively clear-cut. But in romances, where we know there will be a happy ending, spoilers seem more nebulous. In fact, I’ve been thinking about this so much that I’ve struggled writing reviews for several romances that I truly enjoyed. The general rule at AAR is that anything that appears on the back cover isn’t a spoiler. Beyond the back cover, we try not to reveal major plot points that occur very far into the book, much past the 1/4 or 1/3 mark. Usually these are easy guidelines for me to follow. But what about when an event happens late in the book that I believe will be a major deal-breaker for some readers? I generally try to allude to these in vague terms without giving away details, but it’s not always easy.

What about you? Are you an end-peeker, or are you horrified at the very thought? What about spoilers in romances? And finally, please don’t reveal any spoilers for Gone Girl in the comments section, but should I go ahead and listen to the book even knowing what happens?

– LinnieGayl Kimmel

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34 Responses to Tales of a Reformed End-Peeker

  1. i’m a big end reader, unless the book is non-romance, or if I’ve been warned not to read.
    I want to be sure that happy ending is in place, and then I want to know how they got there. It’s all about the journey.

  2. Leigh says:

    I peek every once in a while. Lately it has been on women’s fiction type books. And when I am blogged down in a review book, I skip to the end to see if it gets any better – which makes no sense since I still have to go back and read the rest.

    Sometimes it is very difficult to write reviews with just alluding to the reason and not being able to elaborate more.

    • LinnieGayl says:

      Leigh, I can understand about women’s fiction. Sometimes you just don’t have a clue what’s going to happen, including major characters becoming seriously ill.

  3. Tee says:

    Not an end-peeker here. As you say, LinnieGayl, it really does ruin, for me, the twists and turns a book can take throughout the story and that just doesn’t go for suspense reads either. The only time I’ll pop over to the end is when the book is becoming a DNF and I want to see how the author resolved it. If the book is really bad, I don’t even care about the ending! :) A couple of books have been messed up for me while accidentally reading personal reviews where the posters weren’t thinking and gave away some important details. It may not have bothered others, but it certainly did for me and I felt I was cheated out of the surprises the authors wove in. It’s so easy to forewarn of spoilers; I can’t understand why people just write without thinking.

    Re Gone Girl, I can’t answer that question for you. I would not have wanted to know the ending wrapup beforehand because I enjoyed guessing along as a reader. You may still find it interesting to see the logic (or lack of it) leading up to that conclusion.

    Hope you stay resolved to not end-peek. Once an end-peeker always an end-peeker? Not necessarily. :) You said it well when you stated: “And I haven’t regretted the lack of spoilers; I’ve either enjoyed or not enjoyed the books, but have found myself wondering in each what would happen. And for now, that wonder is a good experience.” Good luck in continuing on.

    • LinnieGayl says:

      Thanks, Tee, I’m really trying not to be an end-peeker anymore. And as several people noted, it’s really hard to look at the end in e-books or audiobooks. Although I’ll have to admit that in a couple problem e-books I scrolled all the way to the end to see what was going to happen, and then went back to my place.

  4. Lilly says:

    One of the books I’ve written has a plot twist in the final two paragraphs. It’s frustrating to know that the book wouldn’t be quite as much fun for an end-peeker.

    • LinnieGayl says:

      Wow, the last two paragraphs? That would be very frustrating to read the end, then.

      • xina says:

        Jodi Picoult wrote a book where she comepletely switched it up in the last 2 paragraphs. After I read it and put the book down, I couldn’t decide whether it was brilliant, or just a mean trick to pull on the reader.

  5. Lori says:

    Personally, I’d say skip Gone Girl if you already know the ending. The only thing that kept me plugging through that 400+ pages of unlikable characters was wanting to see how it ended. Others may disagree with me, though.

  6. Azure says:

    About Gone Girl: I have to agree with Lori. I don’t get all the hype about that book, but I made it through because I had to know how it ended. And once I did know, I was disgusted.

    As for end-peeking, one of the more interesting things about having switched from paper to ebooks is that I tend not to do it anymore. I’m not really sure why, though.

  7. Carrie says:

    A third to half the books I “read” are audiobooks, so unless I go trolling for spoilers there is no end-peeking with those books. Occasionally I do look for spoilers, but only if the book is threatening to be a DNF. Audiobooks take longer to finish than print for me, so I don’t want to waste my time.

    In print I only go for spoilers if 1) as in the above example, the book is bogging down or it looks like the author is going to employ a trope I hate, or 2) if the suspense is getting to me. ;-) In mysteries, I try hard not to look at “who done it” but sometimes I need to make sure a character I like isn’t going to be offed!

    All-in-all, end-peeking has never been a big deal for me. Knowing the ending of most books doesn’t usually impact my enjoyment of the book. I’m afraid I’m that way about movies, as well. At least suspenseful movies. Once I know how it ends I can generally settle down and enjoy the movie. I don’t like too many surprises, but I know that’s a completely individual preference. My husband and oldest daughter think I’m nuts. But then, I think they’re nuts for enjoying horror movies.

  8. farmwifetwo says:

    I’m an end reader. If the author can’t write a book that keeps me entertained from the first page to the last… it won’t matter what the ending is if the rest of the book has me quitting 100pgs in.

    I expect a reviewer to inform the reader of the plot style. I want to know if it’s a secret baby, amnesia etc. I want to know if the author does a complete plot rewrite mid book. I want to know if it works or if it doesn’t. If you have to put a “spoiler” section in, that’s fine, but if I read the book later and I wasn’t told…. I won’t trust your opinion anymore. Again, it isn’t the basics of the plot that will keep me reading, it is the characters. The plot is simply where the characters live…. they are the story.

  9. genevieve says:

    I have to say I’m an end-peeker. especially when it comes to suspense novels, mainly to get the right ‘voices’ to the right characters. or if to see if there is actually a happy ending.

  10. Eggletina says:

    I usually only peek when I’m frustrated or worried about a character or the direction the story is going. I’m not too sensitive to spoilers in general, especially when it comes to general comments or minor spoilers that don’t have a big impact on the final plot resolution. In fact, I’m easily frustrated by reviewers who use spoiler tags frivolously for what is most definitely not a plot spoiler. However, if I’m reading a thriller, I do try to stay away from too many comments and reviews until I’ve read the book. I think excessive hype will ruin a book for me faster than any amount of spoilers will, though.

  11. Leslie says:

    I am surprised at so many end peekers!
    The only time I read the end of a book is when I’ve become bored or I just don’t like the story, though usually I won’t even bother if it’s a DNF.

  12. Lindlee says:

    I’m a selective end-peeker. If it’s an author who I know and trust, then I rarely, if ever, end peek. If it’s a new author or one who’s burned me in the past, it depends. If the story sounds interesting and I’m excited about it, then I’ll jump right in. If I’m on the fence, I’ll read the ending to see if I think it’s worth my time.

    I think end-peeking is more important for me b/c I’m one of those people who a bad ending can ruin the entire book. It doesn’t matter if the beginning and middle were GREAT, if the ending is horrible it ruins the entire reading experience for me. I know not everyone is like this.

  13. Twila Price says:

    I’m a confirmed end-reader before I even buy the book. And I adore spoilers, too. I even seek them out before watching movies, tv shows, whatever — because, for me, knowing beforehand lets me relax into the story without being worried that I’ll hit something that will send me right out of the world the author/artists are trying to put me into. I get people asking me how I can do that, doesn’t it ruin it for me? But, for me, it just makes sense — there are a lot of books that I want to read, so why waste time with one that won’t give me what I prefer? And, besides, I find it’s the journey between page 1 and page 212 that matters, not how the author made some clever twist.

  14. Vol Fan says:

    I used to be a spoiler freak, whether it be books, movies, tv shows. Never bothered me at all. I’ve tried to force myself away from being spoiled and for the most part, I rarely do it anymore. What has helped me is having a kindle. It’s not as easy to flip over to the end page as it is with a paper version. But honestly, it rarely ever interfered with my enjoyment of the book. I can see how it would for some, especially in a book with twists and turns in the end.

  15. ell says:

    I am a frequent end peeker both in books and in movies – drives my family crazy even though I try to explain that it really doesn’t diminish my pleasure in any way. It is merely reassurance. It drives me crazy to invest time and emotion in a story only to have it spoiled, IMO. (Pay It Forward is a movie I consider spoiled by the ending)

    I haven’t read Gone Girl, in spite of all the hoo ha about it, maybe because of it – I almost never like books that everybody and his dog’s brother are talking about, but I would be seriously aggravated to have invested the time to read it only to get to the end and find it loathsome. I am not familiar with the author’s work, so I don’t trust her. There have been times when I read/saw something that made me want to wash out my brain afterwards and I so don’t like that.

    The times I don’t peek are when the story is so absorbing that I am caught up in every word, and simply carried along. And that is my favorite kind of reading…..

  16. TrishJ says:

    I would never, never, never peak at.the end of a book. And I hate spoilers. I enjoy the journey, but if I know the end, it isn’t exciting. Sort of like Christmas. If you know what is in the box, you aren’t so excited to open it up.

  17. LinnieGayl says:

    Thanks, everyone! It seems as if we’re a mixed group. But at least for now, I’m enjoying not looking ahead. I also think based on some of your comments I’m going to skip Gone Girl for now.

  18. Margaret says:

    Gone Girl…agree with Lori and Azure. I regret buying this one.

    As for peeking…I’m the opposite of LinnieGayl. I always peek at the end of romances, I figure there’s not much to spoil there…HEA is standard. I never peek in non-romance.

    • LinnieGayl says:

      Thanks, Margaret, for your thoughts on Gone Girl. And interesting point about romances; end-peeking wouldn’t spoil the ending as we do expect the HEA.

  19. LeeB. says:

    I never peek at romance endings because I figure I know how they will end. Women’s fiction and/or chick lit I may just to make sure the heroine ends up with the right guy. :)

  20. Nana says:

    I usually only peek if I’m in the mood for a happy ending and not sure if I’m going to get it, usually because the book’s packaging is ambiguous. I end-peeked for that one Russian book – Bronze Horseman, I think? – because I was so worried about everybody in the family. When I saw what happened, I didn’t finish the book. Maybe I missed out by doing that, but it wasn’t what I was looking for at the time, so I was happier that way.

  21. Heather says:

    When considering buying a book, I read the back, the first chapter, and the last chapter. Regardless of genre. Always have, always will. It hasn’t ever spoiled a book for me (I like to laugh at everyone believing the villain is the hero, or vice-versa).

    And I agree with farmwifetwo above: the review must address enough of the book to let me know if it’s a big mis, amnesia, secret baby, or nonconsensual. I dislike those plots, and don’t want to be surprised half way through the book.

  22. Kay says:

    End peeker here! And proud of it. Although I find it harder to do with electronic books

  23. xina says:

    Now that I read digitally, I am not an end peeker. Before that, I was all the time and never really regretted it. With a book like Gone Girl, a book I loved, the book wouldn’t have been nearly as fun if I would have peeked. You mention, Before I Go To Sleep, a book I have been hearing good things about. I’m hoping for just as much of a suprprise as Gone Girl.

    • LinnieGayl says:

      Xina, a lot of the people in my book group were pretty surprised by the last chapter or two of Before I Go to Sleep. I hope you enjoy it. I was surprised at how the author made the book work for me, despite being spoiled.

  24. elaine s says:

    Compulsive end-peeker here and I don’t mind spoilers in reviews although try hard not to give them when reviewing myself. My idea of hell is to be the victim of a surprise birthday party so it’s not surprising I am an end-peeker.

  25. maggie j says:

    I didn’t realize how much of an end-peeker I was until I started using an ereader. I find myself itching to peek at the ending. It’s probably kept me much more interested in mysteries … having to pay more attention to clues in the story.
    I find patience for most things in life, but not the slow bits in novels. I end-peek when a story starts dragging. I’ve read the end of books, then simply skimmed for high points once I know the outcome.
    Bottom line is that well paced, absorbing stories aren’t as common as they should be?


  26. Lori Johnson says:

    I’m an unapologetic end-peeker on non- romance novels. I guess I like the “craft” of writing. I like reading a story, while “watching” the author work their magic in the background. To me it’s not important to be surprised. I actually hate the suspense. If I don’t peek I find that I almost have to run back through it and re-read key parts to see the clues the author left. Romance stories I don’t usually feel compelled to peek. I know there will be a HEA. Great comments

  27. Lindsay says:

    I can’t believe how many people are peekers! I agree that peeking at the end of the book is like knowing what you’re getting for Christmas early, (and I wonder how many of the end-peekers here also went snooping through their parents’ closets as kids…) :-) I hate being spoiled (for Christmas or for a book,) and I never peek at the end. In fact, sometimes if there’s a book in a series that I’ve really been anticipating, I won’t even let myself read the back cover or any of the reviews. I’ve even found myself grabbing a piece of paper to cover up the bottom of the page I’m on if I’m in the middle of a really good suspenseful book, so that my eyes don’t accidentally drift down and spoil something…. On the other hand, if my impression of a book is that the ending is likely to be sad I usually won’t even start it. I’m probably missing out on some good books that way.

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