So About That Ending [MAJOR SPOILERS]

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Of Scars and Stardust has been out in the world for almost a month now, and to say that it has been a very crazy thirty days would be an understatement. But before the book came out, I promised myself that I would write this post sometime in November. And so, here we are.

First of all, I want to gush all over the Internet for a sec. I’m so insanely grateful for all of the bloggers and readers who have reviewed/discussed/challenged me on this book, and it has truly been a pleasure to receive your emails and messages about Scars. Whether you like or dislike the book and wanted to give me your opinion either way, I appreciate it. I love hearing from you. I can’t believe I get to do this for a living. I can’t believe people are actually reading words I wrote. Like 300-something pages of them. Still blows my mind.

That being said, I’ve received a fair amount of messages asking me about or expressing an opinion on the ending. There seems to be a lot of confusion over it, that it was messy, anxiety over what happened to some of the characters after the story ended, and questions about a sequel.

I want to answer all of those questions here. So from this point on, I’m going to talk about those characters and that ending, in detail. There will be MAJOR SPOILERS. If you haven’t read it and don’t want it to be spoiled, do not read any further.

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You still here? Awesome. Reminder: there are spoilers coming up. In case you forgot. 

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Ready? Excellent. So, I think the best way for me to talk about what happened in that ending is to start from the beginning, the first draft of this book. When I sat down to write this story, I knew two things: 1) It would be about two sisters, one who was searching for the other. 2) My narrator would be unreliable. I didn’t know why she was unreliable, though. Not yet. And I didn’t know whether the wolves would actually turn out to be real, or if she was suffering from delusional behavior.

As I wrote, I wanted to believe Claire. I wanted so badly for those wolves to be real, but as her voice unfolded on the page, and her behavior became more erratic, I realized that they weren’t real. That they couldn’t be. That was about three-fourths of the way through that first draft. So, since I decided that she was mentally ill, I decided that I needed to really drive home that point. I made her decisions completely irrational, off-beat, and not in line with her character arc. And at the end of that first draft, Claire ended up in an institution, but not in the same manner as she did at the end of Scars. She was completely wrecked, rocking in a padded cell, convinced that Grant was coming for her any second.

I quickly realized that ending wasn’t going to work for a million and a half reasons, the biggest one being that mental illness does not typically work that way, and I had yet to do the research I needed to create a different fate for Claire.

So I put that draft away for a few months. I read. I researched. I combed over articles and studies and opinions pieces at the library. And, most importantly, I had the opportunity to speak with a former student, one who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and suffers from hallucinations, delusions, and other erratic behavior. With her insight, I layered in aspects of Claire’s mental illness, while also trying my best to tell her story as the person folded up inside all of that: a seventeen-year-old girl with a home and family, who wants to go to fashion school and occasionally smokes cigarettes and desperately wants to know what it feels like to kiss the boy she grew up with.

But still, despite—or maybe because of—all of my research, I still couldn’t wrap up Claire’s story with a neat little bow. Something that my student had said to me stuck with me, and that was this: “Recovery from mental illness is little like drug or alcohol addiction. It’s not a straight shot up; it’s more like a roller coaster. There are a lot of ups and downs along the way.”

If I was going to tell Claire’s story with integrity, I needed to honor that aspect of mental illness. It is not something that can be easily solved. It’s not something that can be completely controlled by medication. It is most definitely something that needs time and space and therapy, and even then, there are still ups and downs. And so, Claire ended back in New York, under psychiatric care, but she is different now than when she came. She understands that she suffers from delusions, that half of what she witnessed back in Amble wasn’t real, and she understands that she is there to heal. But even with all of her growth, there are still some hallucinations that hold her up. There are the “phone calls” from Grant, and the vision of him at the park. So while Claire is in a much healthier state of mind, she isn’t completely under control yet. That last chapter happens only two months after that final scene back in Amble with Grant, and I feel that it’s fair to say that Claire doesn’t have everything figured out yet at that point. I think it’s more than fair, actually; I think it’s realistic.

That’s also the thing about writing an unreliable narrator in first person: you see everything through their eyes. This story was told from the perspective of someone suffering from erratic thinking and behavior, and so the narrative reflects that. Because Claire is still healing, and she hasn’t completely sorted through truth and delusion herself at the end of the story, the reader doesn’t get a clean ending either. I didn’t do that to cheat anyone out of a satisfying ending, I promise. I did that to be truthful about Claire’s journey, and to show that she still has a little ways to go, but that eventually she will get there.

But I will tell you this: Grant was real. Every character in the story was real. And I’d like to imagine after Claire went back to New York, Grant did some healing of his own, first in the hospital, and then through his own therapy back in Amble. I’d like to think that now, three years since that first draft, he’s an officer in Amble and that he’s happy and in a relationship with someone more stable (not Lacey Jordan. Ugh!). I also like to think he forgives Claire for what she did, now that he understands that she was not completely herself, and that he even sometimes misses who she used to be when they were growing up.

As for a sequel, there isn’t one. I’ve thought a lot about it. I even wrote out the first few chapters of a sequel from Grant’s perspective. But ultimately, I decided that this story needs to end here for now. Will there be one in the future? I don’t know. I never say never, but I can say that it’s definitely not on my mind right now.

I hope that helps clear some things up. I know it’s not the ending that some of you wanted, but I think it’s the ending this book deserved. Thank you, again, for reading Scars. I appreciate all the love, support, and feedback more than you could ever know.

AH