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The Book Ruiner

This post contains Harry Potter spoilers.  Stop reading now if you don’t want the series ruined.

So we started Harry Potter Six despite saying three months ago that we weren’t ready at all.  Despite saying the same thing just a few hours before I read them the first page.  But the reality is that what I was trying to keep them from experiencing was the thrill that Voldemort takes in killing, and the ChickieNob noted at the end of Book Five that Bellatrix seemed to really enjoy killing Sirius.  I coupled that realization with the fact that they barely flinched over Sirius’s death.  They cried; they were sad, but they weren’t scared.  And I’m okay with introducing them to the concept of sad.  Dealing with a favourite character’s death, talking out how you feel about that death, is a safe way to process the feelings of death without actually having to lose a real person.  So… I’m all for encountering sad in a safe space.

Then Josh commented that he thought they were ready.  His fear is that the longer we wait, the more chance the books will be ruined as other kids read them and talk about them.

Here is the thing.  That has already happened.  And when it did, I lied.

[I promised I would never lie to my kids, and then I lied lied lied.]


In first grade, the ChickieNob came home from school upset and asked if she could speak to me alone.  And when we got upstairs, she told me that a boy had told her the end of Book Six just to be mean.  And she wanted to know if it was true; did Snape murder Dumbledore?

She was devastated over the idea that (1) Dumbledore would be killed and (2) that this boy had taken away something from her that she held precious — letting the story unfold as it was supposed to unfold.

So I told her that the child was cruel and had gotten it completely wrong which is to be expected when it comes to six-year-olds watching movies way above their head.

She was relieved, and has gone through the rest of the series calmly, sometimes asking reassurance that Dumbledore would be in Book Seven.  And I’m not lying when I tell her that he’s in Book Seven.  And I didn’t exactly lie when I told her that the boy was wrong.  I mean, he was wrong in the sense that it wasn’t murder.  That it was something much more nuanced than that.  But ChickieNob thinks that Dumbledore lives.  So… it’s a lie.

And it eats away at me now that we are ensconced in Book Six.


I told them that I have told one lie, and I would like to preemptively ask for forgiveness.  I lied for a good reason, which doesn’t really excuse it.  But I didn’t want the books ruined for her.

And more to the point, she has been so careful not to pass the story along to her brother.  He still doesn’t know why we went upstairs that day; why she was so upset.

There are times when we accidentally ruin a story for someone else.  We say something not realizing the person hasn’t read the story or isn’t at the same part.  It happens.  And while it sucks, it doesn’t bother me.  The person meant no harm.

But this kid ruined the end of the book on purpose.  He told her that he was going to tell her everything and ruin it for her, and when she told him to stop, he kept talking.  And that is a literary violation.  I mean, it sort of sounds funny when I write about it; torturing someone by telling them important book endings.  But in the moment, when it’s happening to you?  It feels as if someone has crept into your bedroom and stolen one of your prized possessions.  She has been holding this series in her heart for years; it is so important to her.  To take away allowing the twists to unfold in due time is a crappy thing to do.

Hopefully she will forgive me when we get to the end of the book.  When I told her that I once told her a lie, she asked me again if Dumbledore was alive in Book Seven.  I told her he was, and then I repeated that when I told the lie, I did so to protect the books.  I offered to tell her the lie, to confess on the spot, and maybe she knows what it was already, because she told me that she’d rather be angry with me when the truth comes out than learn the truth now.

I’m not sure which is worse: being a liar, even if it is to save a book, or being a book ruiner.


1 Tiara { 07.15.14 at 8:33 am }

Why do you do this to me?!!? I want to read this post so badly simply because you’ve told me not to! I don’t want to ruin the books for myself but also don’t want to miss whatever you’ve said here! Ugh! 😉

2 Jjiraffe { 07.15.14 at 10:02 am }

Dude – this exact scenario happened to us a few weeks ago! The twins were in a summer camp, and a kid told them Snape was the half blood prince and Dumbledore dies. And I, who have never lied to the kids, lied and said this wasn’t true too. I am so pissed about it all – the book ruiner, me lying. Most of all, it seems to violate my own narrative about the magical experience the books would be for them. When I was going through infertility and reading the books as they came out, I clung to the notion I would read them someday to my kids and they would have the same experience of reading them as I did. In suspense with everyone else, waiting for the serial to end. But that isn’t anyone’s reading the books after 2007 I guess. Still: parents, tell your kids not to be book ruiners.

3 nicoleandmaggie { 07.15.14 at 11:05 am }

My son seems to have inherited my tendency to skip to the end of a book before reading the whole thing through. Neither of us seems to like surprises much, so he seems to be ok with spoilers. Re: Harry Potter: He stopped in the middle of the third book a few months back and hasn’t picked it up again, though he’s read the first two at least twice…so I’m guessing it will be a while before he picks up books 4+.

Hm, given that it’s July I suppose we should pick up some of his school summer reading list books. He is supposed to read three from each category. It’s a bizarre list with a really wide range on it, including the Hobbit. I don’t think that he’s going to be able to start and finish the Hobbit in a month, though that’s way more appealing than the big clump of books on the list in which the dog or best friend dies.

And I told him: This book is about a dog dying. So is this one. This one too. I don’t think this one has a dog, but the best friend dies– can’t remember if it’s the one with the drowning or the bee sting (since I had to read both of those in fourth grade). He jokes about the dead dog theme now, and I think I should probably get him the Gordon Korman book, No Dead Dogs (in which: spoiler: there are no dead dogs).

So, I guess I am a book ruiner! But only with my kid. My second seems a lot less sensitive but we’ll have to see what her preferences are once she’s able to read.

4 Serenity { 07.15.14 at 11:31 am }

I have never been good with anticipation, even as a kid. With mysteries I would ALWAYS read the last page first, I wanted to know how it turned out before I’d commit to actually reading the book. I don’t know why, maybe because I was afraid of getting emotionally involved with a character that died or turned out to be the bad guy? Denial, likely.

And Dumbledore’s death, man, it was shocking and painful and I did not at all see it coming. It really hurt.

Even now, I’ve actually stopped reading the Game of Thrones series because I can’t get emotionally attached to another character and not know if s/he dies. I haven’t allowed myself to read spoilers yet, but I can’t keep reading, either.

Funny how that works.

Interestingly, I’m not sure how Lucky feels about books – whether he likes to keep it a surprise and not have the ending ruined, or if he’ll be a skip to the end kind of kid like I was. That’s actually something that would be good to know about him. Because what if *I* was a book ruiner for him? That would be awful.

I am more curious as to how the twins would answer your final question. Will be a good discussion point when you get to it; is it better to be a book ruiner or a liar, even if the lie is to save the book for them?

I do think it’s awful, how someone would deliberately ruin an ending for a book when the person has already said they don’t want to know. What an awful thing he did.


5 Elizabeth { 07.15.14 at 12:15 pm }

I’ve seen with my daughter that the unknown produces a heck of a lot more tension for her – as it does for me – than “spoilers.” I’m like Serenity, I like to know the ending ahead of time. It gives me a sense of peace. Spoilers spoil nothing for me. What did spoil “A River Runs Through It” for me was knowing that someone was going to die, but not who or when. That created a horrible tension throughout the film that pretty much spoiled most of it for me.

My husband and son, however, prefer the surprise and the unknown.

6 Eva { 07.15.14 at 12:36 pm }

That kid was really mean!! I would hate it if someone ruined a book ending to me! I love reading, I read all of the HP books (both in Italian and English!!) and I loved them… I was really upset about one death in particular, I can’t say which one because maybe the people who will read this comment haven’t read all of the books yet! I don’t want to become a book ruiner myself. Dont’ worry if you lied, I would have done it too in this case, your daughter will surely forgive you 🙂

7 Ann Z { 07.15.14 at 1:12 pm }

That’s a very cruel thing for that boy to do. I am like others who’ve commented. I just can’t deal with anticipation, so I often skip ahead to see if someone makes it. So I’ll read snippets out of context and know about deaths ahead of time (sometimes). I still love reading the book and seeing how things unfold. And often, I get it wrong, as you said, Dumbledore is in book 7. If I’d jumped ahead and seen him on a page, I would have assumed he’d survived, and I would have been surprised by his death, but not angry (I mean, angry at some of the characters, sure, but not angry at being wrong in my assumptions). I bet she’ll still love the series and not hold it against you.

8 queenjohnsonclan { 07.15.14 at 2:02 pm }

I really think you are not giving yourself enough curve on the “technicality” that the boy is wrong. It could just be me empathizing too much to be objective but having read the books myself…I would say its true that he got it VERY wrong. He was trying to ruin it for her…which sucks BUT he didn’t get the book enough to really do that. I think its true (as far as the story goes) that he didn’t really die. I love this part of the harry potter series because it broadens the idea of what lives on and why some people never really die to the people who love/need them. I think that’s a great idea for kids to get their minds around. I can understand the guilt though because as far as the physical story goes, she was asking you a straight forward question and you gave her a concrete answer. That feels like a lie. However had you said “yes, he kills him but…” the truth of the story would have died with your explanation I think. In my opinion, you didn’t lie you just decided to let the story tell its own truth. I probably would have said “I think he’s wrong, let’s get to the end of the series and see if you agree with me.” I think you did the right thing for what its worth. 🙂

9 andy { 07.15.14 at 2:52 pm }

being a book ruiner is by far worse. Liam found out the end of the Divergent series and stopped reading the 3rd book that day and refuses to go back to it because it has been ruined for him now. I hope the reading of book 6 (and subsequently 7) goes well for you.

10 a { 07.15.14 at 3:21 pm }

I have no particular feelings about knowing the book’s end before I get to it. Sometimes I can see it coming anyway. Sometimes I don’t care and give up. Sometimes the book is so good that I read it over and over and it doesn’t matter that I know how it ends. I won’t spoil books for people unless they really want me to, though. I won’t lie about it, but I won’t go out of my way to tell someone about a book until I’ve ascertained that they’re not going to read it or they’ve finished it.

My standard response is “I can tell you the answer to your question if you really want to know. But are you sure you wouldn’t rather read it yourself first before we talk about it?” On the other hand…there is a clear line between fiction and reality in my house, so the endings of books have lesser impact around here. 🙂

11 JustHeather { 07.17.14 at 4:01 am }

What that boy did was mean!! And I think your lie is a forgivable one.
For me, I guess it depends on many things, such as how much I feel I will invest in a book, or if I will even read it, etc. With my outlander series, I do NOT want to know what happens before I read it.

12 Aerotropolitan Comitissa { 07.17.14 at 6:36 am }

Every so often I hear of people who promise to never, ever lie and I wonder why on earth you’d do that. Do they just, like, hate surprise parties that much? Have they never heard of Kant’s murderer dilemma?

Anyway. I think in this case the book ruiner is worse because there doesn’t seem to be much explanation or excuse. At least your intentions were in the other person’s interest, whether or not you hit the mark. The book ruiner in this case sounds only to have their own pleasure in mind. Although I can see that you might ruin a book with good intentions, too – you have to take it in context.

13 Bob { 07.18.14 at 8:43 pm }

Please don’t let Chickienob know that the ship sinks at the end of “Titanic.”

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