I Don’t Know How The Story Ends by J. B. Cheaney

Hey all, it’s Alexa! So, fun fact: some of the first books I ever read on my own were historical fiction novels; Little House on the Prairie, Dear America, the classic American Girls books, when I was in elementary school, they were basically all I read (until I got into Nancy Drew but that’s another genre for another time). As I got older though, I kinda dropped off the historical fiction bus in favor of fantasy, sci-fi, mystery, and the occasional contemporary; in fact, in the near-year that I’ve been posting here on Verbosity, I think I’ve only reviewed about three historicals.

But, after getting to discover this gorgeous little gem, I think it’s a genre I shall have to return to.


Description From NetGalley:

Our story begins in a dusty little town in California, a bustling place called Hollywood…

Isobel Ransom is anxious. Her father is away treating wounded soldiers in France, leaving Izzy to be the responsible one at home. But it’s hard to be responsible when your little sister is chasing a fast talking, movie-obsessed boy all over Hollywood! Ranger is directing his very own moving picture… and wants Izzy and Sylvie to be his stars. 

Izzy is sure Mother wouldn’t approve, but scouting locations, scrounging film, and “borrowing” a camera turn out to be the perfect distractions from Izzy’s worries. There’s just one problem: their movie has no ending. And it has to be perfect–the kind of ending where the hero saves the day and returns home to his family. Safe and sound.

It just has to.


I adored this story from page one. Everything about it was just beautiful, and even though nothing technically exciting had happened at the start (by that I mean no real train wrecks, cowboy chases, or shootouts), I was still utterly captivated by the story, still desperate to know what would happen next.

I remember nearing the end of the book, knowing that I was running out of reading time and that I had other things I needed to get to. Normally, I’m a lot more disciplined about that sort of thing: I read for my appointed time and when the timer beeps, I rip myself out of the storyworld (which, yes, is often as painful as it sounds) and move on with my day. But for this book? My alarm went off, I took one look at my iPod, and just shook my head. “Nope,” I said to myself. “I have to finish the thing.”

And I didn’t regret it. From beginning to end, this book was beautiful, brilliant, gorgeous perfection, and I adored every second of it.

Plot: 5 stars out of 5.


It’s rare that one can say this, but every single one of these characters was brilliant. Like every one, even the minors, were multi-faceted, well-developed, and just plain fantastic. They played their parts marvelously well, but even more than that, they were each individual people with individual stories that just happened to pertain to the main.

Speaking of, I really liked Isobel. I’m not sure I’d say she was my favorite (Ranger and Sam were pretty amazing in their own rights, and even Sylvie, who spent the entire book being that special brand of annoyingly adorable only a little sister can manage, was pretty fun), but I definitely liked Isobel. Even when she made choices I didn’t like or agree with, I could always understand why she made them. Her father’s expectations for her meant a lot, I think, but so did her expectations of him. She wanted things to go back to the way they were, or at least to keep them in such a state that all would be the same when he returned. But life just doesn’t work that way, and, as difficult as it was for her, I loved watching her journey as she grew and learned.

It’s not like I can end the character section without talking about Ranger and Sam, but I will do my best to be brief: Ranger is kind of Isobel’s cousin and Sam is Ranger’s cameraman/best/only friend. In the midst of early Hollywood, the boys have set out to make a movie together, and they drag Isobel into the midst of it.

I loved Ranger’s personality: he was passionate, creative, and full of strength and perseverance. True, he could be very impulsive (I mean, please, hon, just stop and think for five seconds), but it was because he was willing to do anything to make that film, and as a fellow artist, I can respect the dream.

Sam may or may not have been my favorite character, lol. I loved his quiet-most-of-the-time-but-totally-not-afraid-to-say-what-I-think ways, and how he at least tried to be the level-headed side of the partnership. True, Ranger’s vision almost always had them all flying off to do something crazy, but I had to give Sammy props for trying. 😉

Overall, I think the characters were my favorite part of this book. They were all such gorgeous, fascinating people, and they grabbed me from the start, drew me in, and kept me captive till the very end.

Characters: 5 stars out of 5.

Writing Style/Setting:

You may be starting to see a pattern here, but I loved the style and setting too. Every bit of the writing was poetic and gorgeous, but I particularly loved how the author described the wonder of seeing a movie for the first time. The way she described all the camera switches and the little things that we don’t even think about (or filmmakers really have to deal with anymore) just made the setting come alive and the pictures seem so much richer. It was just really cool to read it all through Isobel’s eyes because she hadn’t lost that sense of wonder, the amazement at the fascinating inventions that movies really are.

As usual, I cannot end the review without sharing a beautiful quote:

While the picture was running I’d felt bigger and better, like I was part of the effort to chase the barbarians from France. But when the dark recesses of Clune’s had spilled its audience onto the glaring streets of Los Angeles, the world seemed to be going on just the same as before, no matter how thoroughly my feelings had been worked over.

If that doesn’t describe how one feels after a good story, I’m not sure what does.

Writing Style/Setting: 5 stars out of 5.

Overall, we come in at a solid 5 stars out of 5. This book is fantastic. I loved every minute of it, and I highly recommend it for middle grade and up. If you’d like to get a copy for yourself, you can pick it up here for $11.04.

Comment time! What’s your favorite historical fiction? Read anything outside your normal genre lately? Any good books you’ve read about early Hollywood? Leave me a comment and let’s chat!

Note: I received a free ecopy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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