BTT: Cheating and Peeking

Do you cheat and peek at the ends of books? (Come on, be honest.)

This is something I can honestly say I NEVER do, and even more truthfully, it’s never been an attractive option to me. Students say this to me all the time, from stronger readers to weaker readers, and I’m always torn on how to respond. On the one hand, I’m thrilled they’re engaged enough to want to know what happens; on the other hand, do they understand the ending enough without having read the book, or does it dull their interest in the book if a twist or secret is revealed?

What draws people to do this? Is it excitement or impatience? I’m really curious to hear the answers to this one!

This is my Booking Through Thursday response.

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13 Comments

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13 responses to “BTT: Cheating and Peeking

  1. I can understand how it happens. There have been a few books over the years where I’ve invested enough time and interest to be curious as to how things come out but may not want to invest the time and interest to see how they get there. Hence I will skip ahead to see how things are resolved. Or a book isn’t engaging me and seems too predictable I may skip ahead to see if I’m right in predicting how it all comes out.

    • Michael, that’s an interesting point about being predictable–I think I can see that one, though I’m never very good at predicting endings! In your first scenario, I would probably still keep going and finish the book–I actually just finished a book that falls into that category for me–but that may be also because I have a weird resistance to abandoning books.

  2. I never do it either and though I can kind of see the reasoning behind doing it. I can’t imagine doing it myself as for me it disrupts the entire flow of the story. I guess I’m too set in my ways to feel like skipping to the end is a good idea.

  3. I often have a lot of (for lack of a better phrase) narrative anxiety about how things might turn out. Is the book going to break my heart? Will it all come right in the end? If the narrative anxiety is keeping me from appreciating the book as I’m reading it, I’ll flip to the end so that I am no longer distracted by uncertainty about what kind of narrative arc I’m on. I generally focus more effectively on the rest of the book after doing so. But I do sometimes give up on books then, if the ending is very unhappy. That’s my own personal predilection, though. I don’t read fiction to get my heart broken — I figure that’s what the news is for.

  4. PS, I have definitely felt that kind of anxiety before, but I think I enjoy it–that kind of delicious thrill when you are so engaged that you can’t wait to see how it all ends, for me, would be spoiled by knowing in advance.

    Also, is it effective? Meaning, how much of the ending do you need to read to know whether the ending will break your heart? I wonder also what novelists think of this idea–are they offended or flattered?

  5. sometimes I do look ahead, but don’t consider it cheating.

  6. Yes, peeking can spoil things…and I really don’t think the ending necessarily tells all. There are all those pages (and clues) in between the beginning and the end.

    Here’s MY BOOKING THROUGH THURSDAY POST

  7. I’m not a fan of suprises. I find I enjoy a book more it I know what’s going to happen.
    Sally.
    http://theelifylop.blogspot.com/2011/03/booking-through-thursday-8.html

    • Sally, that is very interesting–I think some of my students would agree with you! Does it differ according to the book–like do you want to know more about the ending depending on the type of book?

  8. Yep, I’m with Phantom Scribbler; the narrative anxiety often keeps me from enjoying myself, and a peak at the end helps calm me down enough so that I can keep reading. I don’t have to read much of the ending at all — just the last couple of pages to see whether this is going to be tragedy or not, whether the ending might be happy, etc. Then I can carry on with the novel in proper order.

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