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Why The Face? I’ll tell you.

endingI just finished David Shafer’s thriller Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, which I read because of Dwight Garner’s NYT review. The book is everything Garner says it is–bright, popping, funny, suspenseful. And it has all the things I love: complicated heroes and heroines, smart riffs on contemporary memes, and–best of all–a global conspiracy that really is out to get the paranoiacs as well as the rest of us.

It’s just great, as far as it goes. WHICH IS NOT FAR ENOUGH. What Garner does not tell us, and as far as I’m concerned this is a cardinal sin of book reviewing, is that the book doesn’t have an ending. After about a hundred good pages of rising action, with the good guys and girl ready to take down the evil that now lurks in a container ship off the Oregon coast, everything just stops. Nothing on or in the book says “first in a series” or anything, but surely the reviewer could have said so. Unless he didn’t finish it.

Thank goodness Tolkien had already finished The Lord of the Rings before I got to the end of The Two Towers and “Frodo was alive but taken by the enemy.”

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. Glad for the warning as I was just in the process of buying the audible title based on Garner’s review. Your experience makes me of my response to S. A. Bodeen’s Shipwreck Island. I read the egalley where there was no mention of it being the first in a series. So, boy was I surprised at the sudden ending! I kept looking to see if perhaps the book hadn’t completely downloaded! I figured it had to be the first in a series (and now know that it is), but I wonder if I would have been better prepared for the ending knowing that.

  2. Rick Stone says:

    I loved this book. I found mark to be a compelling character. I must disagree with the critics take on the end. Mark is on a quest – as are all the characters – to discover what they are capable of in a complex world. I found the end to make perfect sense and loved the way it fit the beautiful prose throughout.

  3. Gavin Curran says:

    I loved this book. The writing is fantastic and the topic and characters definitely feel ripped from the headlines. I totally disagree with the reviewer regarding the ending. There is an ending. It is more sophisticated and leaves it open to the reader to decide the course of the characters. It is funny and insightful and satirical. Best thing I have read all year.

  4. Peter Budnik says:

    I think the fact that we are able to have such a discussion speaks loads to the richness of this work. At once, it is obvious that Whiskey Tango Foxtrot wraps up just as everything seems to be coming together (perhaps leaving the reader to mentally form the title’s abbreviation in exasperation). When you spend four hundred and some odd pages getting to know the protagonists (and protagonista?) intimately, it only makes sense that you want to know what they DO. But in reality, it’s what they BECOME that provides the book’s conclusion. As a book that seems so perfectly tailored to play on our hopes and fears about the control we are relinquishing to technology, I cannot imagine a better ending than one that leaves the outcome open. That, in and of itself, will ensure this work remains relevant for years to come. A sequel would ruin this perfectly static, perfectly dynamic ending.

  5. Roger Sutton Roger Sutton says:

    I’m trying to imagine that WTF is a stand-alone thriller, deliberately upending our expectations of the genre–and Peter Budnik’s point about the title is a good one. But while I think it’s a smart book, it doesn’t seem to be asserting its cleverness in that particular direction until the last page. To imply only at the end that your global conspiracy takes second place to your characters’ development (and they do grow and change as the book progresses) demonstrates bad faith toward your reader. Had the author been erecting the conspiracy as a smokescreen, then, sure, but I don’t see the evidence for that.

  6. Mary Folts says:

    I found the writing, characterization and theme excellent. When I got to the end, I thought maybe my Kindle purchase hadn’t downloaded completely. A good book encourages consideration and re-consideration by the reader. This one certainly did.

  7. Randi Pennell says:

    I agree! I thought it must be the first in the series.
    The book was very fun to read – loved the characters! But what happens??

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