Thursday, September 2, 2010

What if… a story doesn’t have a happy ending?

***WARNING: There are spoilers for books in this post that are part of the subject! If you have not read The Uglies Series or The Twilight series and DO NOT want spoilers do not read! You have been warned!***

Happy Ever After.

It’s the words we like to see or at least feel at the end of a book… right? I feel like this topic is a very big debate among readers. Will you read a book if you feel there is no happy ending? Do you need to know your book has a happy ending before you read it? Do you enjoy a not-so-happy ending? How about bittersweet endings?

When I was younger I hated when a book or series I read didn’t have a really happy ending. I felt cheated! Why shouldn’t there be a happy ever after for he or her? Why did it have to end on that note and not a happier one? I would think “I read this book and there is not happy ending to make me smile while I read the last pages?!” It’s something, I discovered over time and reading many books, that always having a happy ending to a book isn’t always best.

An example of this would be from the Uglies series. At the end of Specials we have one of our main characters die and then Tally ends up going back to the Rusties and running off with David. I don’t think people understand how incredible frustrated I was with this ending when I first read it! I was on total hate mode and I just wanted to not have read the ending – at all. But, after a lot of thinking, I realized that I could think of no other way it could have ended that could have had the same emotional impact it had on me with it’s real ending. I realized “Wow, maybe having a bittersweet kind of ending is what’s best for a series.”

Then there is the issue, which I never thought would come up, but the issue that I didn’t like the Happy ending to a book. There are very few books out there that made me mad because of the happiness of the ending, but they are out there.

An example to this, and I’m positive I’m not the only one to feel this way, is the ending to the book series Twilight: Breaking Dawn. There was no major casualties when an epic battle was about to take place between two of the strongest groups of vampires. They all went home and said good night to each other and The End. It was too happy of an ending for me. I wanted to feel the pain of losing one of the characters I had grown to love and I wanted to felt the sorrow felt through the other characters. But instead I got a neutral feel of “Oh, well everything is fine now.” That’s NOT how I want to feel at the end of a series I loved!

So in the end, I enjoy a good, well deserved happy ending sometimes, but other times I wouldn’t mind myself an awesome bittersweet ending that leaves me anger and sad, but has me reacting strongly to the writing. Though I have yet to come across a complete and total non-happy ending… unless you count Romeo and Juliet… but that discussion is for another time.

So, how do you feel about the endings of books/ series? Do you want/need a happy ending? Do you sometimes enjoy a bittersweet one? Let me know!


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kjovus said...

I disliked the twilight ending too. It was too perfect, too sicky sweet. Too big of a group hug.

anjohnston said...

Great post. I think a lot of us thinking about this kind of thing with the conclusion of Mockingjay (not saying what type of ending it is, just that ends). How could it have been better? Was it the right ending?

I think about that with all the books I read and the times I feel most cheated are when all of the strings are wrapped up because life isn't neat, it's messy. I want to know my MC(s) is happy or on their way to being there and have learned something but I don't want them to get everything they want because in life, we'll always want something else after that. The best novels give us that sensation. That idea that things are going to start to get better, that they've learned something from the trek we've just witness and can finally move on.

Thanks for sharing!

danya said...

Good question! I think sometimes it depends on how much is at stake. If it's a really epic read with a good vs. evil struggle, it'd be a little unrealistic to have a super sweet 'no casualties' ending (like in Eclipse & Breaking Dawn, for instance). However, if it's meant to be a lighter, fun read, that's more just about entertainment value and a good story, I quite like a happy ending, and might feel that bittersweet was out of proportion.

Ava said...

I liked this post! I agree with you about both series you mentioned, I felt the same way. (Well, with Specials I didn't even feel it wasn't a happy ending because I always hated Tally's boyfriend...but that's a different story!)

I love any ending that makes you stunned or makes you think. I think Breaking Dawn didn't do that at all, but most books I've read have been happy, though not without cost (aka deaths). Such as Harry Potter, mostly happy but still really sad when a few great characters die. And I won't say anything about Mockingjay, but I liked the ending even though it wasn't totally happy.

Anyway, great post!

Anonymous said...

Great post! I like a bittersweet ending. I wish Stephenie Meyer had the guts to kill some people off. I did love how Bella was able to protect everyone though, and I was happy with the book overall. Loved the ending of Mockingjay.

La Coccinelle said...

Gah... Breaking Dawn is one of my least favourite books, mostly because of the unrealistically happy ending. I wanted someone to die. Why bother having uber-evil villains like the Volturi otherwise?

For me, it's not so much about whether the ending is happy or sad. I want it to be complete and to make sense in relation to what came before. I hate ambiguous endings where nothing is explained and you're left with too many unanswered questions. I also hate endings where something unexpected comes out of the blue to solve all the conflict. If I'm left scratching my head, I'm probably not going to view the ending favourably.

Kah Woei said...

I really hate those ... they make me all sad and depressed. Of course, sometimes the sad endings work but on the whole I prefer the happy ones.

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