Have you ever read a book and been totally disappointed by the ending?
Here are some books with famously disappointing endings:
And I'm sure you can name a few more...
I just barely finished I am the Messenger. I loved it but found that the character introduced in the last chapter to resolve the mystery was contrived and unbelievable. My disappointment caught me off guard because the other Markus Zusak books I've read were totally amazing. I tried to think of an improved conclusion for I am the Messenger, but decided that it is easier to criticize than it is to come up with a better idea.
I suppose it is not that uncommon to want a different outcome for a story. I guess this is partly why the idea of Choose Your Own Adventure is so appealing...
Choose Your Own Adventure came into being during the 1980s and was hugely popular throughout the 80s-90s. In 2005 the series was relaunched and remains quite popular today.
I enjoy Choose Your Own Adventure for many reasons. A world where you can select a variety of outcomes for your character is empowering and more complex than our generally linear approach to time and place. It embraces the idea of alternate realities existing concurrently and gives the reader the ability to see the outcomes of different decisions (the future) and explore these possibilities. The reader is more fully engaged in the creation of the story.
Some really cool movies have played with this idea too. The Butterfly Effect, Hot Tub Time Machine and of course, the classic Groundhog Day. In each of these movies, the results of decisions the character makes are played out in alternate lives. Much like a choose your own adventure, these films give us the satisfaction of seeing the many possible futures that can result from a character's choice.
More recently, the publishing company Simon and Schuster is taking choose your own adventure to a new level. They have launched an eBook for teens that invites the readers to vote on the outcome of the story. While an individual user will not have total power to choose their own adventure, their vote will count. Ultimately, the author (Jodi Lynn Anderson) is surrendering control of the storyline. The book, Loser/Queen is a serial and accepts votes from users on a weekly basis. It represents a new publishing format - the reader-composed novel. I'm interested to see how this catches on. It strikes me as a very successful venture from a marketing standpoint, what I'm curious about is how having reader guided text will affect the story in terms of quality and plotline. It'll be neat to see what readers choose--will it be a "happy" ending?