Do you feel betrayed? Angry? Meh?
It’s a completely different feeling than for a movie or some other entertainment. Almost everything else takes no more than two or three hours of your time. A book can take two or three days (or weeks, depending on your life commitments). It’s a heavy investment that always seems worthwhile as long as you are enjoying the story.
The reader puts their faith into the author’s pen/computer. When that faith is not rewarded, it can create a variety of feelings (and actions). From a simple shaking of the head to a disgusted tossing of the book, each reader responds to their feeling on the quality of the story’s ending differently…but the same, too.
Is it worse when the tale is protracted, as in a series? Now the time invested is dramatic. On the other hand, to have continued to read the series, you must have enjoyed the previous books enough to keep purchasing. Does the memory of those exciting tales moderate the disappointment of a less satisfying ending? Does that actually make the disappointment greater because your expectations were falsely raised?
I’ve read some long tales that I thought ended weakly. I’ve read some single stories that I didn’t feel finished well. I suppose the reason I would even be upset at the ending is that the rest of the story made me care so much.
For me, when I come across that situation, I tend to shake my head and walk around saying something along the lines of “I can’t believe that’s how it ended”. I say this to no one in particular, since I most often am reading at home, but occasionally I can share my feelings with others who have read the same book(s).
Interestingly, if not surprisingly, other people I talk to don’t always share my disappointment. But they sure can tell me about a different book they read. Now that had a bad ending! They seem pretty upset about it, too.
Passionate readers are passionate about reading. For most of us, a happy ending doesn’t have to be happy, it just shouldn’t leave us unhappy with the ending.