You know how sometimes you sit down to read a book? And you're just a normal, emotionally stable human person reading that book. And then you get to the end of that book. And suddenly you are no longer a simple human person, but a shattered husk of all that you were before. The ending might be sad, or shocking, or some delicious blend of sad and shocking, but either way the end of the book has utterly ruined you and you are now a small pile of rubble lying in the center of your favorite reading chair. So, if you're looking for a novel that will take your life and calmly destroy it before your very eyes, here are a few books with ruinous endings.
A good book will suck you in so completely that you might even feel like you are living that shocking final plot twist, or that dramatic character death at the 11th hour. When you're watching a film or a play or your roommate's web-series, you usually have some sense that there are other people experiencing this story as well. But when you're reading a book, you're left alone to deal with that surprise ending all by yourself. So check out these book endings, and enjoy your new, ruined life:
1. 'Ender's Game' by Orson Scott Card
Ender's Game is upsetting from page one, since it mostly revolves around a young boy named Ender going to a scary space military school to learn how to fight aliens. But the truly life-ruining part of the book comes at the very end. SPOILER ALERT: Ender is told that he's in a battle simulation as a final test for his scary space school, and he decides to try and get expelled by sacrificing his entire army and blowing up the alien home world. It turns out that this isn't a simulation after all, and Ender has won the war for humanity through mass murder and genocide, sending him into a spiral of depression.
2. 'Life of Pi' by Yann Martel
The first time I read Life of Pi, it caused a near meltdown in my book club because no one could agree on how we were supposed to interpret the ending. After an entire novel of young Pi being trapped in a life boat with a tiger and various other dying zoo animals, we discover that (SPOILER ALERT) Pi may have been trapped with other people instead, and told the animal story as an allegory because the reality was far too traumatic to process. The ambiguous ending is a brilliant metaphor for storytelling and religion, but boy does it cause a lot of book club drama.
3. 'We Have Always Lived in the Castle' by Shirley Jackson
Every good horror story has a life-ruining ending, and Shirley Jackson is no exception. We Have Always Lived in the Castle is the story of the deeply creepy Blackwood sisters, who live in isolation with their sickly uncle. Everyone else in their family is dead. One of the sisters is suspected of having poisoned them. Every single page makes you feel slightly more uneasy than the page before. The twist ending doesn't sound nearly as shocking without reading the whole book, but it turns out that (SPOILER ALERT) the wrong sister has been accused of murder this whole time.
4. 'Never Let Me Go' by Kazuo Ishiguro
The "big twist" of Never Let Me Go comes long before the end: the main characters, who appear to be normal children at a boarding school, are actually (SPOILER ALERT) clones being raised to have their organs harvested. But even after that twist, the end is still shocking and heartbreaking, as our heroes discover that (DOUBLE SPOILER ALERT) their one hope at deferring their own deaths was never actually possible, and two of the three young friends are killed as they "donate" their organs to "real" people.
5. 'The Blind Assassin' by Margaret Atwood
The Blind Assassin is practically three books rolled into one: first, there's the story of elderly Iris Chase as she recalls her unhappy marriage and her sister's tragic suicide; second, there's the romance novel that her sister wrote; and third, there's the science fiction story told by one of the characters in the romance novel. Through all these levels of storytelling, Atwood still manages to pull off a devastating ending, as we discover who really wrote that romance novel, and the horrible secret that drove Iris's sister to take her own life.
6. 'The Kite Runner' by Khaled Hosseini
The very last page of The Kite Runner doesn't exactly drop a huge surprise on your head... but the whole last third of the book is more or less one huge, upsetting plot twist. Our protagonist, Amir, finds himself responsible for his half-brother's son, and (SPOILER ALERT) the book ends with this small boy, who has lost both parents and been repeatedly sexually abused, attempting suicide. There are a few more pages to go after that, but your life is already pretty ruined at that point.
7. 'Tuck Everlasting' by Natalie Babbitt
Objectively, there are more horrifying endings out there than the end of Tuck Everlasting. A little girl is presented with a chance to make herself immortal, she (SPOILER ALERT) doesn't take it, and then she grows up and lives a life and dies of old age. But if you read this book as a kid (or even as a grown up), the ending probably made you consider your own mortality versus the incomprehensible blessing/curse of immortality, and then you just started screaming.
8. 'We Were Liars' by E. Lockhart
This is one doozy of a twist ending. Cadence Sinclair spends her summers on a beautiful private island with her family and her group of friends, "the Liars." But when she's fifteen, she suffers a terrible accident on the island, and has trouble piecing together her memories of that summer. When she returns, two summers later, the Liars are there to help her remember what happened before the accident... except that (HUGE SPOILER ALERT GO READ THE BOOK) at the end of the book we realize that the Liars aren't actually there, they're ghosts because they all died in a fire the summer that she was 15.
9. 'The Fault in Our Stars' by John Green
If the end of this book doesn't make you sob hysterically, you're basically a heartless monster. Hazel and Augustus are both smart, witty, pretentious teens with cancer who are madly in love with each other... so you can probably guess where this is going. The twist is less that one of them dies so much as which one of them dies, but man will the end of this book reduce you to a blubbering pile of snot when you finally get there.
10. 'Gone Girl' by Gillian Flynn
You can't talk about life-ruining endings without talking about Gillian Flynn. Gone Girl has plenty of hairpin twists and turns throughout, as you discover that sweet Amy is not quite the "cool girl" wife she's been pretending to be. But the very end is all the more horrifying when (SPOILER ALERT) Amy impregnates herself with Nick's semen in order to blackmail him, and murderous Amy and her lunk of a husband decide to stay together for the sake of their unborn child. Not exactly a functional family dynamic.