As this year of reading comes to a close, I found myself wondering….is there room for happily ever after anymore? I am actually a part of a group on Goodreads designed to discuss movies and books that end happily. Not necessarily because I require such an ending—actually the main reason is they have the best games—but the idea of ending a novel happy has been engrained in my writing career. Growing up, I had to satisfy one reader…my mother. She is the heart felt reader who loves her romance, her characters, and her happy ending.
Most of what I read this year was YA novels, so I will gear my thoughts in that area. You would think writers would want teenagers to believe in a world where such endings exist. Yet, reality strikes in the center of them. Think Harry Potter. It ended happy, sure, but there were certain character’s deaths that many would have preferred to take back. It makes the ending bitter-sweet, not happy. I remember when JK Rowling killed off her first character. The media hooked onto it. Death in a “children’s” novel? The horror. In actuality, she’s not the first to kill her character in the genre. I remember reading My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier. Now, granted the title kind of prepped me for the ending—plus the fact it was a revolutionary novel made the outcome a guarantee—but I was still impacted.
Hunger Games, of course, was built on the agreement that Suzanne Collins was going to kill off her character. Yet, she was still able to crush me in the third novel. Did she end it “happy.” Define the word happy. The main character survived and lived a long life…but I don’t know if I could say I was joyful at the end of the series. The Divergent series is the same way, ending the series on a bitter-sweet note, but certainly not happy. Both of these are Dystopia novels, so I suppose the point of the genre requires a non-happy ending.
Okay, so let’s switch: Beautiful Creatures. There’s a book that should end happy. It’s a nice YA novel based on a girl coming of age as a witch. Yet, that novel made me so mad at the end because the authors decided to kill off a character I loved. I’m told he comes back in later books, but that feels like a cheat.
So my question: is the world so haunted, so corrupt, that our books can no longer end happy? Or, are we striving too hard to match realistic life scenarios. I, for one, miss my Disney “and they lived happily ever after,” where the only deaths are that of the villain.