YOU'VE BEEN WARNED (no, really, you have)

James Patterson's You've Been Warned is the current best-seller on The New York Times hardcover fiction list. Number One.

Can I tell you how scary this is?

My coworker, Lauren, and I were flipping through it this morning, and we were in hysterics as we read various passages aloud. We could turn to any page and find at least a dozen ridiculous one-liners. It's the kind of book that makes one yearn for the witty, polished prose of a Danielle Steel or a V.C. Andrews.

Then we began reading just the last sentence of every chapter. They were all very--cue scary music--DUN DUN DUNNN!! And the more we read, the funnier they got.

Naturally, we decided that they needed to be collected.

So I typed up a list of the last line of every chapter in the book. And the amazing thing was that the story actually made sense this way. Lauren pointed out that it's like that speed reading technique they teach you in high school, where you only read the first and last sentence of each paragraph and, supposedly, that gives you the gist of it. So this is like speed reading on speed.

Now, I am not claiming to have the World's Best Taste in literature. In fact, I'm pretty easy to please. I can usually find something redeeming about whatever it is I'm reading. I like Faulkner just as much as I like the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. In fact, I probably like the Sisterhood more, because I've actually read them all.

I'd also like to point out that I actually HAVE read a full James Patterson novel. A few of them, in fact. I found the first two Alex Cross books, Along Came a Spider and Kiss the Girls, entertaining (I liked the movies, too). But then he started kidnapping every member of the Cross family. Bringing back serial killers from the dead. Chasing his hero with tigers AND vampires--in the same novel. And not cute teen boy vampires like Edward Cullen either. I mean, what the heck?

Then he began publishing every novel with another author, like he can't even be bothered to write his own books anymore. He has a new release nearly every month, and I have trouble trusting a writer who must spend like two weeks, max, working on a book.

I'm sorry for being snarky here, but I'd like to point out that on Amazon, as of this minute, Warned has 93 customer reviews, and a whopping 62 of them gave it one star. Some choice quotes:

"All the paragraphs.
Are written.
Like THIS!

Karen Honeycutt: "I am very pissed off that I wasted money on this."

Robert Stovall: "Weird and boring"

Nuff Said: "Holy Moly ! This is so not a good book!"

Cricket: "This is by far the most disappointing book I've read in years."

"James Patterson should be ashamed of himself."

deeper waters: "A waste of time and an insult to one's intelligence. There is nothing redeeming about it....not the plot, writing or the characters."

Ronald E. Pagels: "This is probably the worst book I have ever read."

goldencz: "It was HORRIBLE!!!!"

N.R. Cronce:
"James Patterson Schlock Doctor"

J. Crace: "James, buddy, you're getting too far out there--even your devoted fans hate it!!"

H. Gore: " YUK!! I can't believe I read the whole thing!!! "

Anyway, here it is. The last line of every chapter in James Patterson & Howard Roughan's You've Been Warned (Little, Brown and Company, 2007). All italics and punctuation are theirs.

I'd like to think there are a lot of good creative writing exercises here. Rearranging the sentences so that they form paragraphs and a new story. Turning it into a poem. I think the coolest thing would be You've Been Warned, Last Sentences: The Graphic Novel. I'd totally do it if I could draw. And I loved Lauren's idea of a page-a-day calendar. (Hmm, what's my inspiration for today? Flip. Oh, "And I think that burning smell is back too." Excellent!)

Note: If you were planning on reading this book, please go no further. Need I say there are spoilers?

You've Been Warned - The Last Sentences
James Patterson & Howard Roughan

I raise my camera again, and—
The music is inside my head.
“Lord knows you don’t want to piss off that boss of yours.”
I scream at the top of my lungs.
And that’s when someone does.
And he loves it even more when I join him there.
So innocent.
See? I’m back in control.
It’s time to hit the darkroom.
And I think that burning smell is back too.
And I know just where to go.
It’s the maĆ®tre d’ again.
But when he finishes, everyone reaches for a pen.
This is no dream.
“Don’t wear it to work.”
“Good answer,” I say.
The camera slips from my grasp, falling to the pavement.
“Detective, remember? Homicide.”
Gee, I can’t wait.
“Want to join the Maytag club?”
“I’m coming!”
“Don’t look now,” says Beth with an elbow to my ribs, “but I think that guy is checking you out.”
“Let’s dance,” I say to the girls. “It’s my night.”
“I’m not kidding around. You’ve been warned.”
I guess Kristin Burns doesn’t want to talk to me after all.
But what I’m looking at sure is.
He wasn’t letting me win now, though. Obviously not now.
My father’s been dead for twelve years.
This is no time to be alone.
Actually, this should have been my first call.
“I still want to know what happened to you at the Falcon Hotel. Kristin? Kristin?”
What’s up with that?
I’ve got somewhere to go after all.
Pictures lie.
That just isn’t possible, but there he is.
He’s opening the door!
“Can you keep a secret?” he whispers.
We’ll be fine.
He puts his shades back on, nods, and then turns away.
Utter. Freakin’. Amazement.
And then I’m screaming at the top of my lungs.
“Do you think I can borrow some clothes?”
“Speak of the devil,” she says.
“Because you do now.”
“No,” he says, leaning in close. “That’d be your soul.”
“No one’s ever forced to dance, are they?”
If only Penley weren’t in the picture.
It’s called breaking and entering.
To Michael and Penley’s room.
Shoot Michael.
Leaving me and Penley.
Oh, the irony.
It only reads 1.
And he looks dead.
“On how well you know your way around Brooklyn.”
He’s barely had a chance to look at the first one when I realize…we’re not alone.
“She thinks you’re a devil.”
All it takes is the ponytail.
“Allow me,” he says.
“How many times do you have to be warned?”
There are four people… Don’t hurt them.
Everything goes black.
That’s easy. “Dying.”
Before he was murdered in my hometown of Concord, Massachusetts.
The wretched look on his face says it all.
“Help, Michael, you have to save me!”
And unfortunately, that’s not exactly good news.
Right into my darkroom.
“And I know what you did at the Falcon Hotel. Both times you were there.”
And I mean everything else.
“You’re right,” I say. “Only that’s not her husband.”
And I remember who used to say that—my dead father.
At least I think I am.
With a zoom lens.
Otherwise known as Falcon Hotel.
All because of what I hear.
Praise the pencil!
“I could kill the bitch” is his answer.
“You’ll see.”
As I head home to my apartment, I get this awful, gnawing feeling that somehow I already have.
The note’s dated today.
No, just very, very desperate.
And then—what can I say?—I faint.
There was even a photo of his body being carried out in a long black bag.
Just then, I feel a pair of eyes on me and I nearly jump out of my skin.
“It’s okay, Dad. I understand.”
There’s one left.
So—why am I crying uncontrollably?
Is that why Michael isn’t at work?
“Where else would he be?”
What’s with the camera?
Who’s Michael talking to?
Then he absolutely blows my mind.
God is in the details.
Then, something does.
The pathetic truth is—anything is possible right now.
Michael has a gun pressed to his forehead.
“You and I have a lot of acting to do, Kristin.”
Make that one dead.
Don’t think, just shoot.
And instantly I realize—that makes three bodies.
Let go of the gun.
“Exactly,” comes a voice I recognize.
“I’m doing all the talking here—and this is your day, Kristin.”
But then—don’t think, just shoot—she takes my picture.
And I’m screaming, screaming, screaming, screaming…
“She’s alive! This woman is alive! She just winked at me.”


  1. I think this is my favorite little juxtaposition:

    “She thinks you’re a devil.”
    All it takes is the ponytail.

  2. Hee hee. The ponytail line was Lauren's favorite too. Here's my favorite exchange (especially the last two lines):

    There’s one left.
    So—why am I crying uncontrollably?
    Is that why Michael isn’t at work?
    “Where else would he be?”
    What’s with the camera?
    Who’s Michael talking to?
    Then he absolutely blows my mind.
    God is in the details.

  3. OMG - I can't stop laughing! I can't believe this book is #1! No, wait, I can. It just blows my mind what people think is good literature. Now this, what you just did, is awesome literature! Heee!

  4. Thanks for the great post! Also thanks for letting me steal it for my own blog. Go to http://judgeabook.blogspot.com/2008/01/youve-been-warned.html to see what my readers thought of it!


  5. I decided to take you up on the graphic novel challenge. Not a graphic novel, exactly, a bunch of single panel comic strips based on each last line. They should be appearing at http://www.aperfectworld.org in two weeks. I have other panels in the queue before these appear. It has been a fun project so far.

  6. Steph:

    Great job! And it's still too long.


  7. Anarchivist4:19 PM GMT-5

    Praise the pencil!

    That was hilarious.

  8. Anonymous5:38 PM GMT-5

    this is great...

  9. Wow, thanks everyone! I'm so flattered that you all enjoyed it.

  10. That really was the funniest thing I read all day. And really, all it takes is the ponytail.

    I don't read James Patterson, but boy, now I really have a reason not to!

  11. This is great! (Found your post via Maughta's blog.)

    Ever since I read "Kiss the Girls" and then threw it in the trash, I have been confused by James Patterson's success. I mean, the dude can't even remember the color of his main character's eyes between one chapter and the next, and his editor doesn't seem to care either.

    I wondered if he wrote while stoned or drunk. Now I know that he and his loyal audience just have an impossibly short attention span.

  12. Susanna - Ahh! I remember the eye color thing, too! Why, why, WHY, James Patterson?

  13. Yes, Patterson is awful. But, with this being the number one bestseller, shouldn't it be the readers who are at fault here?

    Don't get me wrong. As a writer, he is laughable. But, he sells, and that terrifies me.

    - E

  14. Well, nail a urinal to the wall and call me Duchamp...Dada is not dead!