Not everyone enjoys reading, but those who do generally love the immersive experience of reading a really good book or book series.
Unfortunately, this hobby can lead to some serious disappointment or heartbreak, because the characters aren’t always given the happy ending that we might wish for them.
But book lovers would argue that it’s worth it, agreed the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit.
There was a long, approximately 30-book series that Redditor Opening_Weakness_877 loved, so much so that they recommended the series to other people, including their teen niece.
But when the teen blamed them for breaking their heart and not warning them about the ending, the Original Poster (OP) wondered if they were wrong for not offering spoilers for the series.
They asked the sub:
“AITA for not telling my niece the protagonist dies in the final book?”
The OP didn’t warn their niece about the ending of a book series they both loved.
“My niece (13) has been reading through a book series for some time now, ever since I bought her the first book as a birthday gift back in September. There are about 30 books; it is a very long series.”
“Anyways, she started reading the final book last week. I didn’t tell her that one of the two main characters was going to die.”
“I know she has grown quite fond of him but figured it best to avoid spoilers.”
The OP later felt conflicted about that decision.
“What happened yesterday was that she got really upset and told me I should have given her a warning first.”
“My brother also said I should have let her know so she could prepare for the bad ending.”
“AITA for not warning her?”
Fellow Redditors weighed in:
- NTA: Not the A**hole
- YTA: You’re the A**hole
- ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
- NAH: No A**holes Here
Some argued for the merits of emotional and intellectual challenges offered by books.
“Books that challenge us emotionally are things to be treasured.” – InannasPocket
“I don’t remember which subReddit this was on, but I once read a comment that said, ‘It’s okay for kids to be sad sometimes. They need to learn how to handle those emotions, and all this trying to make sure kids never experience anything past mild discomfort is really doing a disservice to them.’ That really stuck with me, and I think it applies here.” – penguin_0618
“OP, you did the right thing. Kids need to learn about this stuff when they are young, from books nd from life. For a small anecdote, our family cat died when I was maybe four. My parents had had him for years before I was born, I had grown up to that point with the cat a constant presence in my life, and he… tolerated me to the point that most cats will tolerate a grabby toddler, lol (laughing out loud).”
“He used to sit on one certain windowsill in my parents’ bedroom to watch the birds under a tree, so my father decided to bury him under that tree. My mother decided to keep me inside because she didn’t think I would understand, but she caught me watching from the same window. I insisted that we should go out because the cat was family, and that’s what you did when family was gone.”
“She forgot that a few months before, they had left me with some family friends because my paternal grandfather had died and they both traveled out of town for the funeral, because that was what you did when family was gone.”
“It can be really hard to explain something but like that to kids, but they absolutely can learn and desperately need to. They’re not going to get through life or probably even childhood without someone or something they love passing away.” – ScroochDown
“Punishing you because you encouraged your niece to read a book honestly seems like the most ridiculous thing to me! I know we want to protect children from hurt and pain but that is going over the top!”
“We also have an obligation to prepare them for hurt and pain. Books can do that. Books are the preparation for real life, not the other way around.” – Existing-Drummer-326
“NTA. She could as well have accused you of spoiling the ending. Also, she is 13 and not a little kid, she has to learn to deal with these kinds of disappointment, or life will be really hard for her.”
“That is the beauty of books. They not only bring us to other places and let us experience great other lives – they challenge us emotionally. That is why they are such a good educational tool growing up. And as an adult. Until the end of your life.”
“But it is a ‘soft’ emotional challenge, it helps prepare you for life, like a vaccination.” – nordic_wolf_
Others reassured the OP that they wouldn’t have warned the niece, either.
“Look, I’ve been there. My sister once saw me read a book called ‘A Patch of Blue’ when she was eight and I was 13. I told her I loved the book, because I did. I love reading books that make me feel deeply to the point of becoming brokenhearted.”
“Well, my sister read it and she bawled her eyes out and my mum punished me for it. She said I should’ve warned her and that I was an AH. I said nope because crying is okay. It means you care and that you understand that life has tragedy in it. It’s an important thing to face and understand.” – Animateddoodle
“Frequently in real life, you don’t get a warning when someone dies! Stories allow us to engage with difficult emotional concepts such as death or loss in a constrained way and we (as a society) love them precisely because of this.” – illuminerdi
“It would never even OCCUR to me to tell someone how a book they’re reading would end! If anyone ever did that to me, I would be furious. The highs and lows are all part of immersion in the story. It may have hit her hard, but that shows it was a great story.” – hoginlly
“NTA. But I also think it’s NORMAL for a teen to say something like this. I wouldn’t take it to heart. Just because she says she wishes you spoiled it does not mean it is true that that is actually what she would have preferred.” – TheExtras
“NTA. I remember so many character deaths that destroyed me as a teen. The grief and despair are real, even if it is fiction.”
“That being said, I abhor this development of shielding children/teens from difficult topics. It’s not protection, it’s sheltering. I do believe in age appropriateness for literature. I read a novel at 12 that I probably shouldn’t have, but that was on me; my single father wasn’t strict, but did try to make sure I was staying in my age bracket (didn’t mean I didn’t go around that occasionally).”
“However, it is important to have age-appropriate contact with these topics. I’m glad that your niece reads; it teaches critical thinking and emotional skills. But that can only happen when you let the reader explore the stories by themselves.”
“I also agree with other commenters who said, ‘D**ned if you do, d**ned if you don’t,’ because such a warning could’ve spoiled the book for your niece, or even kept her from reading it. I’m the first to admit I will deny certain character deaths until my last breath, but I can do that because I KNOW they died.”
“Have a discussion with your niece. Ask her about how she might have written the story. At what point would there need to be changes to it so the character doesn’t die? Or have her imagine/write the other character’s reaction or future. Have her work through this, emotionally and intellectually. Don’t encourage this trend of ‘I don’t like this, so it can’t exist, and I can’t come into contact with it.'”
“Best wishes to you.” – Witty_Cucumber255
“I really hate spoiler people, I can never forgive them either. I DON’T WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS, let me find out on my own.”
“I’ve been reading for as long as I can remember, I’ve fallen in love with characters, I’ve cried, I’ve laughed, I’ve gotten scared (can only read my favorite book in the summer when it’s light out, looking at you, Dean Koontz), I’ve slammed books down in anger, I’ve gotten angry at film adaptions of books I love…”
“Having feelings and emotions about a book is one of the great joys of reading, you get so immersed in a world that it affects you. Sheltering people from that is sad; yes, it sucks when a character you love died, but that’s what makes the books so good. I’ve read some crappy books where I don’t care what happens to the characters and given up half was through and those types of books suck.”
“Would love to know what the series is that OP’s niece is reading. I need a good 30-book series in my life!” – Crafty-Gardener
As much as everyone could empathize with what the niece was going through at the end of the series, and as much as they could appreciate her father wanting to protect her feelings, the subReddit was filled to the brim with people who believed it was best to go through the grief without warning.
True immersion in a story meant sometimes coming across infuriating and disappointing storylines and decisions, as well as beautiful moments, funny moments, and devastating ones.
Books can teach us about being more empathetic, intelligent, and thoughtful, and perhaps most importantly, how to deal with tough emotions, but that can only be true if we experience the full story for ourselves, without all the tough moments being spoiled.