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What makes a great novel?
This is quite a doozy of a question.
I think the characters have to be deep enough that I can immerse myself in them. I want to feel fully invested in what happens to them. If something sad I want to cry along with them. When something horrifying happens I want to shiver with fear and wish there was some way to make everything alright for them. When they fall in love I want my heart to skip a beat alongside theirs.
Next, I think a believable storyline that causes the characters to stretch and grow. I want it to have some measure of hardship, maybe even some scares emotional or tangible. It doesn't hurt to be in the dark as to where the book will end up. That doesn't mean that I want it to end unhappily, I just don't want to know that it fits some completely obvious pattern.
Added to all of this is the ending itself. Now, to be honest, put a lot of weight into the closing scene of the book. I know that I just read four hundred pages and to be fair the last five really shouldn't hold most of the grade. Sorry, that is what is my last impression of the book. I want it to end happily, not cheesy, or disjointed, or as if they all lost track of who they are as a person and act totally contrary.
This sounds like it should be nigh impossible to find a great novel. Actually, it brings to mind what Elizabeth says to Mr. Darcy over his list of what an accomplish lady is. She says something like I am surprised you can find any.(sorry, I am sure I butchered that) Well, I have managed to find a book shelf full of these books that I can't part with. I find when I give up hope after having read several bad books in a row, nothing but one of these greats will restore my faith in books.
ps. I also have a soft spot for the bad boys turn good by the strength of their love. I know, I know, completely lame of me to be so challenged.