In the epilogue, Nancy finds her way home.
One of the main reasons I started this entire chapter-by-chapter analysis was so I could justify this epilogue. Unfortunately, I’m not quite sure I can do that.
The first time I read this, I felt weirdly disappointed by Nancy finding her door. After all we are told about lightning striking twice, the stories of the other students, and the previous chapter’s title, and Nancy just says a line and finds her door, just like that? It seems too easy. There’s something expected about getting the bittersweet ending, the one where she stays, and helps Kade, and learns to live with the second-best outcome.
However, one of the main themes running through this story is, well, story. Who controls the narrative? Sumi, and Nancy get the final word on the matter: the only person who can say how your story ends is you. The way Nancy finds her door almost breaks the fourth wall, in that it wrests the control out of the reader’s hands, out of the bounds of narrative convention. After a full story of watching our characters struggle against the narratives imposed upon them by others, this final scene offers hope. You do have the power to control your story, you just have to realise it. In a story where every character has been rejected by their family, forbidden from returning to the place they identify with most, and denied their happy ending, it could be argued we sorely need this final note of positivity.
The problem with this is that it also undercuts another of the story’s themes. Especially throughout the later chapters, we’ve seen the outcasts put aside their differences, work together, and become stronger as a group. This theme can be seen in Eleanor’s speeches to the students, the way Jack personalised their cocoa, even in the Epilogue where Kade finds a way to ease Nancy’s relationship with her parents. Yet Nancy finds her door and leaves without even saying goodbye. It’s unlikely she’ll ever see them again. (Yes, I know there are sequels. But a book has to stand on its own as well.) After I’ve spent chapters watching these relationships grow, it feels off to have them severed without a thought.
In conclusion, this conclusion has me feeling some very mixed feelings. I want Nancy to be happy! I really do! And in a storytelling sense, we have been getting indications of what’s been coming. On the other hand, it just feels so sudden, and doesn’t really acknowledge the bonds between the characters, that I’m left wishing it could have ended some other way.
Whew! That was a journey! I very much enjoyed taking this story apart, and I hope you all enjoyed following along. I’m still not sure what book to analyse next, so here is a chance for audience interaction – choose your favourite option from the poll below. Alternatively, throw some book suggestions to me in the comments. I can’t guarantee I’ll get to them next, or at all (I will need to have read the book and feel like I can say something about it) but I will check them out. Thanks for reading!