This one here is for all my bibliophiles out there in the world. I see you, walking around emotionally raw from whatever new novel just ripped your heart out, and I sympathize.
Our struggle is real, and it's an ongoing mental battle to sort out the feelings that that this hunk of paper and cardboard just made you address. And the worst part is -- no one understands your emotional distress unless they've read the same book! It's hard out here man, but we're doing the best we can because it's only a matter of time before you stumble onto the next book, and that's it. The whole distressing episode starts fresh yet again.
Phase 1: The Honeymoon Stage
You just got the book it’s amazing. You’re amazing. The characters are wonderful, and all is right in the world. You tell yourself that this is what true emotions feel like, this is what characters in a novel are supposed to be. These people are practically real. Your emotional highs are reaching a crescendo. You were so happy then…
Phase 2: Emotional Lockdown
Things are getting a little more serious now. No, you can’t go outside and hang out with people, not right now anyway. There are things happening, emotions running wild, unresolved conflicts and characters getting hurt. The romantic leads are about to make a terrible mistake, and you have to make sure they realize that before it’s too late. Why do you suddenly feel personally offended at a written comment not meant for you? The drama, the suspense, the high stakes -- there’s just too much going on here. It’s time to cancel all your plans. These are your friends now.
Phase 3: Numbness and Exhaustion
You’re in the thick of it now, my friend. There’s no turning back. Everything hurts now and nothing makes sense. Did your favorite character die, get seriously maimed, lose their family, planet or significant other? That’s nothing, my friend. Be prepared to get steamrolled with emotions coming in too fast for you to handle. Those characters' feelings are now your own, and you have to struggle with that burden ‘til this book's done. Try not to snap at your own loved ones at this stage of the novel reading process when they say things like, “But it’s only a book!" They know not what they do.
Phase 4: Anger
Numbness gives way to bitterness that just turns into anger. “What kind of mess have I gotten myself into?” “Why would I do this to myself?” All valid questions that tragically there are no answers for. You begin to curse yourself and the choices you have made because they all led you to this point. You desperately wish you could stop reading but, alas, you are in too deep and know far too much to give up now. It’s important at this stage to make peace with the way things are, to see the faces of the ones you love and acknowledge that they will bring you into the light once this whole ordeal is over. This, too, shall pass.
Phase 5: The Victory Lap
You did it! You’ve finished the novel that has kept you captive for so long! You are finally free to break the paper shackles that once bound you and leap into the air unburdened by deep emotions and characters who don’t exist. You have walked away from this novel largely unscathed and you are once again ready to walk in the light and absorb other forms of entertainment, perhaps something that won’t try to hurt you like this one did. You vow to never attempt an emotional journey like that one again. Your heart can’t take the distress, and frankly, you’ve already read this book. What’s the point in doing that again?
Phase 6: Hysteria
It’s been awhile since you’ve read that novel, but for some reason you can’t get it out of your head. You comb the racks at the bookstores attempting to recreate the spark you had with the last book. “Where can I find a story exactly like the one I just read… but still different?” you ask yourself. “Is there a sequel?” “Has this author written any other books?” There’s no fighting it now: You need to experience the journey again. It happens to the best of us.
Phase 7: Relapse
You’ve given in to the powers that be and re-read the novel. You take your time though looking for elements you missed last time you read it, poring through every possible detail with a fine tooth comb. You look up fan fiction, fan art, read online theories and craft a few of your own. Heck, you might even re-read it a third or fourth time because you just ~know~ there’s something you missed.
Phase 8: Bargaining
“Please, higher powers that be, let the author have a Q&A. I have so many questions, and in return I’ll volunteer to do the dishes for a month!” Alternative bargain requests include imploring about the status of a movie inspired by the novel, beseeching whoever can help that the lead role goes to your fav. actors, petitioning for a new book and praying your fan-fic gets enough shares so the author will inevitably see it.
Phase 9: Reluctant Acceptance
You have to come to terms that this is how it all ends. This novel was pure and real and very much loved, but now it’s time to say goodbye, but the memories of your adventures together will live on until the end of time. You could always give it another re-read if your heart so desires.
Phase 10: Moving On
It’s time to move on to the next book, to start the process anew and go through the stages like the weary warrior of words you have undoubtedly become. You are a champion and you understand the importance of knowing when the war is won. You’ve sorted through all the emotional baggage you could with that last book and you’ve figured out every method of slicing it apart and breaking it down. You have gained closure on this journey, and it’s time to embark on a new adventure.
Congratulations! Hopefully you get through the next novel without the disquietude.