Broken Monsters & Great Books With Bad Endings

Broken Monsters & Great Books With Bad EndingsBroken Monsters by Lauren Beukes
Published by Mulholland on 9/16/2014
Source: Publisher
Pages: 528
Buy from IndieBound

 

After Detective Gabriella Versado discovers the top half of a young boy’s body attached to the hind legs of a deer, she shifts her time and energy toward finding the killer, which leaves her teenage daughter wading the dangerous waters of social media alone. A frustrated young journalist new to Detroit picks up the story of the strange killing and aims to make it a viral sensation just as Detective Versado learns the murder is far from an isolated incident.

While Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy surprised me with a close encounter in Richmond, I was well prepared to take a trip back to my hometown of Detroit in Broken Monsters. Prepared, but nervous. It’s easy to get a distant, overhead look at a city like Detroit, but much more difficult to capture its true feel and Lauren Beukes absolutely nailed it. I knew before I read the acknowledgments that Beukes had done more than just ask a native questions, she spent real time in the city. Not only does she include specific, identifiable landmarks (like a re-named Pewabic Pottery and Heidelberg Project), she writes with a real sense of the city’s speed and mood.

While I found Broken Monsters compelling and difficult to put down, I didn’t get the sense of fear that many have discussed, though it’s rare for me to be scared while reading. My biggest issue came with the novel’s end, which is difficult to talk about without spoiling. I applaud Beukes for working to deviate from the standards in crime fiction, but the sudden shift toward supernatural elements felt misplaced and would have worked if it had been better infused throughout.

I’ve read many books without satisfying endings, but I think this is the most polarized I’ve felt. Though I’m sure many readers will have no problems with the conclusion, I have a hard time feeling like I can recommend the novel, despite everything I loved about it. How much does the end of a book impact your overall opinion? Can you overlook an ending you truly disliked if the majority of a novel is great? 

  • We agree that it’s not as scary as some have said, but I couldn’t disagree more about the ending. The story was never really a run-of-the-mill crime novel, so it always felt like anything was possible and you were always so off guard about what would happen next. Even though parts of the ending left more questions than they answered, on the whole it was a brilliant thematic bow for much of what came before it. I don’t think the shift to the “supernatural” was even really a shift, much less sudden. Plus, my God, it was absolutely riveting. I forgot to breathe for a few minutes.

    • SPOILERS
      It seemed like everything in “the Dream” up until that point was from Clayton’s POV, which I didn’t have a problem with. I’m fine with ambiguous endings, but I felt like placing the ambiguity in Clayton’s sanity/ability to do whatever he was doing was too easy and, once I realized it was happening, it pulled me out of the amazing scenes taking place.

      • MORE SPOILERS
        That’s not completely true though – there’s several mentions of the “the dream” in other forms and from points of view of other characters, from the breakdown of the American dream embodied in Detroit in general and TK specifically (is the spoiled American dream and the effect it’s having on people the same as Clayton’s “dream” and what it’s causing him to do?) to Leyla literally saying to Cas after she brains the dude with her purse “I don’t know what came over me – it was a like a dream.” Clayton says at the end, as well “All the dreamers are here” – which I interpreted that he’s not the only one who is “dreaming.” So while he was certainly the least stable character, the interpretation of what happened wasn’t just reliant on his sanity – it was really EVERYONE’S (including the reader) because Jonno was broadcasting that video, and people needed to see for the dream to be real.

        • I can see that, it just felt very subtle for the sudden punch at the end for me. I should have expected it, though, since it does seem to be Beukes’ style (which just might float too much between reality and abstract, since I was iffy on The Shining Girls, too).

          • Gotchya – floating between reality and abstract is a good way to put it. I thought a lot of Pessl’s NIGHT FILM while reading this, and that novel ended up going the complete opposite direction this one did. Anyway – good discussion! :)

  • Diane D

    I really want to read this one, but when I read “top half of a young boy’s body attached to the hind legs of a deer”, I thought UGH not sure. Glad to hear you liked it and now I will reconsider.

  • I find it hard to overlook an ending I didn’t like, since it’s well, ‘the end.’ I’m more forgiving for beginnings and middles I don’t like if it ends well. Speaking of which, I loved 99% of Gone Girl, but the ending just didn’t do it for me.

    • It really does seem like the end needs to hit the right note for everything to come full circle. I hated the end of Gone Girl when I first put it down, but as I thought about it I started to love it.

  • I have trouble overlooking a bad ending. It’s my very last impression of the book, so if I don’t like the ending, it’s kind of hard to say I really liked the book.

  • It’s always disappointing when I am let down by the ending, but I also know that other people might love the ending that I did not. So, it’s hard to say whether or not I would recommend it. I am often more curious about a book if it’s great, but someone didn’t like the ending. More so then if the whole book is just good-but-not-great.

    • That’s a really great point about being curious as a reader. I think my interest might be piqued a bit more, too.

  • Sucky endings kill me. I shouldn’t even say sucky….misplaced? Misguided? Weird? Whatever. I really want to try this one because it sounds like something I’d want to know where I “fit” in the continuum of likers and haters.

    • I really did love it up until the last 50 pages or so, which makes me feel like I should recommend it with some warnings on the ending.

  • Unsatisfying endings are so tough because you’ve enjoyed the book and you want the resolution to just be something that moves you or shocks you or wraps things up in a way that makes you feel the read was worth it. When it doesn’t, I end up feeling meh about the whole book. Michelle from What She Reads recently read The Vault of Dreamers and didn’t appreciate the ending (I just finished it this week and found it a bit better than she did, but I see her point.) It is so hard when you put in all that time and effort into the book! You want satisfaction!

  • Words for Worms

    Oh man, endings are super important to me. As a plot driven reader, I have a heck of a time reconciling a great book with its rotten ending.

  • A disappointing ending is a tough thing to overlook. Kind of like a crummy dessert at the end of a great meal- which is why no one on Top Chef EVER wants to make dessert.

    I agree about this ending. I think it would have been better served if it had remained a psychological problem but…the fact that it got supernatural did make it scarier for some because then it could happen to anyone. This why I can never decide about dessert.

  • That’s a tough one. A realllllly disappointing ending is hard to overlook. If it’s just a little disappointing, I’m more forgiving, I think.

    • Yeah, I think a slight let down is much easier to swallow than an ending that kind of changes the entire pace of the novel.

  • Ti Reed

    I didn’t care for The Shining Girls for the same reason. It seemed to lack something. Suspense, maybe? Or maybe it was the fact that I did not understand or get a feel for the killer at all. I don’t know. It fizzled out.

    • I didn’t love The Shining Girls either, so I’m thinking maybe it’s just that style I’m just not crazy about.

  • Haven’t read this one but I like your comparison to Gone Girl. I didn’t like the ending either but the beginning and middle were so strong for me I was able to overlook it. Those are the parts of the story that I remember most vividly and affected me. By the time the end came around and you realize who you are dealing with as characters, I wasn’t surprised with either of their choices.

    • I think that’s why I ended up being okay with the end after I sat with it for a while, which hasn’t come to be the case with this one, unfortunately :/

  • A bad ending can definitely ruin a book for me — though I add the caveat that I read the end early, so it can wash over the rest of the book as I’m reading. Very occasionally, a book will be good enough that I can accept a cruddy ending, but endings are important to me.

    (I have a much easier time overlooking crappy endings in movies. There are a NUMBER of movies that I turn off before the real ending, and I pretend that the movie ended at the point where I turned it off. Like, I haven’t seen the ending of My Fair Lady in a decade.)

    • Haha! I so wish I could do that with movies, but I think I tend to be a little worse with movies than books…I totally write them off if I dislike the end.

  • guiltlessreading

    Do you think Stephen King, with his tweet, upped the expectation level on this one?

    • I think I actually read this before that tweet, so probably not for me…though I did hear great things about it from other people. I wasn’t really expecting to be scared by it, since I don’t think I’ve ever been scared by a book, but I was really hoping for something different in the end.

  • I really loved ‘The Shining Girls’ by her, so I’m willing to give this one a shot – though it sounds like the ending doesn’t jibe even a little bit.
    P.S. I LOVED the ending of ‘Gone Girl’ ;)

  • I really disliked 2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas for injecting just a tiny bit of magical realism, mostly at the end. It seemed out of place and wrapped things up far too neatly, so I’m not sure about picking up this book which seems like it might have similar problems.

    • I decided to pass on reading that one, since I heard such mixed things…sound like it might have been a good choice!