Those of us who have been reading romance for any length of time have probably known the agony of the book hangover. Granted, it probably happens to readers of other genres as well, but no genre matches romance for the depth of the emotional involvement. That’s pretty much the whole point, really, so it shouldn’t be any surprise when this sort of thing happens. While everybody who has experienced a book hangover has their own particular brand of it, there are a few things that are universal.
First, let’s define the parameters of a book hangover. A book hangover occurs when the reader has been so deeply involved with the book that, when it is over, returning to the so-called real world is difficult, incomplete, or even surreal because the hold the book has on that reader is that strong. Some of us may take exception here, to the term “real world,” because, if the world of the book weren’t real, it wouldn’t be haunting us the way it does. The characters inside a well written book are as real and alive to the involved reader as people we can see and touch in our everyday lives. The fact that they were conceived by a writer, and live within the pages of a book doesn’t matter. We’ve been on a journey with them, and then they…aren’t there anymore, but, yet, they are. They still live in our heads and our hearts. We wonder what they’re doing now, what they’d make of things that exist outside of the book, and find our thoughts drifting back to that book, even when we’re supposed to be doing normal “real” world grownup things
One of the worst things about a book hangover is the inability to get into another book because part of our mind is still living in that first book’s world. How can we get involved with another book when this one is still that much a part of us? This may be slightly easier when reading books in a series, because there will be another, and we’ll get to revisit old friends and old haunts, see what happened to everybody and how they’re dealing with it…until the final book comes out, and then it’s all over. Book withdrawal is a real thing, and it’s not even remotely close to pretty.
Some readers find that the best way to cope with a book hangover is to try for some book methadone. Try another book that is similar to the first, but not exactly the same. This could mean any number of things. It could be as general as another book in the same genre, whether as broad as romance in general, or as specific as inspirational contemporary with diverse characters and working class heroes. Maybe anything paranormal will scratch the itch, or maybe it has to be within that same specific universe, or, failing that, the same type of paranormal creature. If the hangover book is a historical from a specific period, then maybe only books from that same period will do. Sometimes, it’s books written in the same era (checking publication dates is important, in cases like this; those reissues are tricky) or written by the same author, even if the next book is not in the same story world. Maybe it’s not even in the same genre, but the author’s voice still holds the same, so it’ll do. For now.
Sometimes, reading something that is similar isn’t going to work. That’s when some readers try the exact opposite of the above, and go for something completely different. For readers who read in multiple genres, this may mean following a phenomenal historical romance with a contemporary YA, fantasy, horror, memoir or how-to book. (Has anyone ever had a how-to book hangover? If you have, please leave a comment in the comment section.) For these readers, embarking on something entirely removed from the source of the hangover can work as a palate cleanser and they’re ready to get back in the game, fully aware that the same thing may happen again, but this is one of those instances where hybrid vitality makes a strong case for itself. No wonder romance readers are the most likely to read across genres. We need to reset our meters now and again, because romance evokes some powerful feelings.
Other times, when the hangover is particularly strong, we become like Diana Ross in her 1975 disco hit, “Love Hangover.” If there’s a cure, we don’t want it. If there’s a remedy, we’ll run from it. This past week, one reader was afflicted with the dreaded triple book hangover. That’s right, three books, three hangovers, and yes, they are cumulative. That reader (okay, it was me) a fabulous historical romance with a contemporary, followed by a YA (that didn’t even have a romance in it; what’s up with that?) Said reader has picked up and put down other books, because it won’t be the same. What if the next book isn’t up to snuff? What if it’s only an okay read? How does one come down from those dizzying heights? Does one, at all?
With that, dear readers, I turn it over to you. Have you ever had a book hangover? What’s your favorite book hangover cure? If you haven’t found one yet, what methods have you tried? Have any come even close to working, even if they didn’t make it all the way? Is there a book you never quite got over, and don’t plan on getting over anytime soon? If you’ve never had a book hangover, we want to hear about that, too. Pull up a chair in the comments section and tell us all about it. There’s room for everybody at this table.