Words by Lucy Atwood
If you like reading in bed, late at night then I’m Thinking of Ending Things might not be the book for you. It’s a unique, unsettling, psychological horror that I couldn’t bear to put down until I’d devoured the whole thing in one sitting. And then I was too scared to sleep.
The premise is innocent enough – our unnamed narrator and her boyfriend Jake are on their way to visit his parents for the first time. Jake is intelligent, kind, and attractive, the perfect boy-next-door, but the narrator is thinking about ending things with him. On the drive she contemplates how to break up with Jake, reminiscing about their relationship and how they met.
Small details along the way add to the growing sense of dread like a brand-new swing set outside a burnt-down farmhouse and cryptic voicemails from the mysterious Caller. But it’s when they arrive at Jake’s parents’ house that things start to get weird. Jake’s parents look, speak and act almost normally but something about them is slightly wrong, slightly inhuman. The conversation is odd, Jake’s mother smiles too much, and one of her toenails is missing. The whole scene is like a dream where everything is mostly normal, but it doesn’t quite make sense. There’s no gruesome murder, no haunted house, no supernatural being…but there’s something. From the moment our couple arrive at the house, alarm bells started ringing in my head. I wanted to scream at them to get the hell out of there, but I wasn’t entirely sure why.
There’s a moment of relief when the couple finally excuse themselves and begin the drive home but it’s short-lived. After a surprisingly eerie pitstop at a Dairy Queen, they find themselves stuck in a snowstorm outside an empty high school where the horrifying conclusion takes place. The way the author builds suspense up to this point is subtle yet incredibly powerful. Throughout the whole book there’s a disturbing, uneasy feeling that creeps up on you slowly and continues to grow until it’s almost unbearable. This feeling is only emphasised by the conversation between two unnamed characters that interrupts the story every few chapters. Their exchanges are vague but allude to a tragedy, perhaps a crime, that must be related to our couple although it’s unclear how until the final few pages.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things seems to be one of those books people either love or hate and I think that’s down to the final act. Arguably the scariest, most exciting part of the story but also the most ambiguous. If you like an ending that spells everything out for you, tying up loose ends in a neat package, then you will be disappointed. This book left me with more questions than answers and sent me down an internet rabbit hole, desperate for other readers’ theories and opinions.
On the final page, the author even suggests that the reader might benefit from reading the book again, although perhaps not in the same order that you read it the first time. And as someone who has read this book twice now, I’m inclined to agree.
So, the question is “what are you waiting for?”.