This week, we are all about that most insidious malady to afflict the dedicated bibliophile. One might argue that it is the most treacherous to romance readers, as romance is all about relationships and feelings. We’re not talking about the dreaded reading slump here, though this can often lead to that, if not caught and treated in time. Slumps happen all too often, but this? This is worse. What could be worse than a reading slump, you ask? Let’s find out.
What we’re talking about this week is the dreaded book hangover. It happens to us all, and if it hasn’t happened yet to you, well, wait. It will. One minute, we’re happily reading along, busting through that black moment, sharing the triumph of our lovers, as true love does indeed conquer all, including but not limited to bad guys, misunderstandings, wars, natural disasters, supernatural disasters, cattle rustlers, the ton, clan wars, drug smugglers, that annoying yet irresistible single parent next door, etc. The next minute? The next minute, we’re hard pressed to remember our own names, because the story is over, and we don’t know what to do with our lives after this.
One might say that the best thing to do would be to read another book, and some of us will try to do exactly that. It’s an effort, sometimes, because we don’t want to move on, and we shouldn’t have to, not in a world where love conquers all and right always prevails. That’s the world of the books, though. In the real world, we have book hangovers. They kind of suck. We put our time and energy, even parts of ourselves into reading this couple’s story, and now it’s over. Maybe there are other books by the same author we can read afterwards (if we haven’t already) and, if the book is part of a series, we may even get a chance to see these same characters again, as supporting characters in a new story. The romance genre promises us a happily ever after (or happy for now, especially in certain genres and serialized works) so it’s not like we’ll never see two lovers make it work ever again. If we want, we can even reread the same book over again, which means, technically, we don’t ever have to leave.
If this really is it, if the book is a standalone, the last of a series, if the author has only the one book (or a short backlist, with no linked titles) there can be a feeling of loss. The lovers have gone on to their happily ever after/happy for now without us. We’re not going to know what happens a little farther down the road. We can speculate, but odds are, we’re never going to know. If the author has passed away, retired, or moved to another genre and does not plan to return to romance, we have to deal with the fact that there aren’t going to be any more books like this one, ever. How does that even work?
Either way, what we have is the foggy-headedness that comes with finishing a really good book. This wasn’t only words on paper or pixels on a screen. This wasn’t even a movie in our heads. For the space of time we read this book, we lived the adventure along with the lovers, felt what they felt, climbed into their skins and walked around the world that was their here and their now, and now, they’re happy, and we’re…alone. We’re not with them anymore, and that’s going to take some recalibration. We need to find our balance again. Sure, we still have books yet to read. Lots of books, as a matter of fact, books we wanted when we bought them, traded for them, or requested them from the library, but they aren’t that book and they can’t be, and it isn’t faaaaiiiiiiirrrrrr. :throws self on ground, cries piteously:
Some book hangovers wear off on their own, fairly quickly, and some sufferers have surefire hangover cures. A new book by an auto-buy author, for example. That does the trick for many, or, for the extremely disciplined reader, the next logical thing to do is move on to the next book in the TBR spreadsheet. Others of us wander the moors, the book clutched to our chests, lantern held aloft, as we search for kindred souls. Preferably, said kindred souls will also have read that same book, so that we can talk about both our reading experience and the pain of it being over. Maybe trade ideas about what to do next, a prospect that may feel downright intimidating for some.
For some, moving on to another book, too soon, feels like a betrayal of the beloved volume. How can we invest in a new pair of lovers when our hearts belong to the ones who left us, all too soon? For some, reading in a different genre or subgenre can be the key. If the book that broke us is a paranormal, maybe it’s time for an inspirational, YA, historical or contemporary category. Maybe even more of a palate cleanser is needed, and it’s time for nonfiction, poetry, or something else entirely removed from this first book, because nothing else could possibly compare.
For others, the only thing to do is steer into the skid. Don’t want to leave that story world, or the feeling it brought to life? Fine. They won’t. They’ll get their hands on every single book with that setting, theme, or character type they can get their real or virtual hands on, and chase the metaphorical dragon, hoping to capture some of what brought about the book hangover in the first place. Author mentioned they were inspired by a certain TV series? Great. Binge watch that sucker all weekend long. Who needs sleep? Scurry down a rabbit hole of research to read the original Gaelic of the ballad that inspired the framework of the story, even if one does not speak/read Gaelic. That’s what online translation engines are for, right? Not that we know of anybody who actually did that, ever. :shifty eyes: Especially not this week. :shifty eyes: Twice. :shifty eyes:
Point is, every book hangover is different, the same as every reader is different, and while the feeling of a book hangover is universal, we all react to it in our own unique way.
So, dear readers, now I turn it over to you. Have you ever had a book hangover? What book caused it, and how did you get over the pain? Do you have a surefire cure for book hangovers, or do they need to fizzle out over time, on their own? Have you found a way to prevent them from happening in the first place? If so, do share in the comment section. If you think the whole idea of a book hangover is preposterous, or that they only happen to the weak, we want to hear from you, too. Pull up a chair in the comment section and tell us all about it. There’s room for everybody at this table.