Monday, January 27, 2014

Should YA Novels Have Happy Endings?

I have to tell you, I'm very opinionated on this topic, but I want to know what everyone else thinks, too. I read a lot, mostly in the genres I write. Contemporary romance and YA (mostly spec. fic, though I like contemporary, too). I read because I want to keep up on what's popular in the genres I write. I read because it inspires me. And also, I read because I enjoy it.

Because of this, and because I don't have as much time to read as I like, I'm fairly particular about what I like to read.

If I'm reading a contemporary romance, I expect a happy ending. If I'm reading women's fiction or literary, I try not to expect a certain outcome because I know those genres don't always have happy endings.

But what about YA? See, most of the stories I read in this genre have a happy ending. And by this I mean the conflict is resolved, and (because most YAs have romances in them) the characters end up together.

Also, a lot of YA stories I read are part of a series. So, you're invested in a plot and characters for three or more books, I figure the reader deserves a happy ending. I figure the reader deserves a resolved conflict and characters that are in love (if the story had a romance).

I recently read a series despite hearing mixed things about the third book. I read Book 1, loved it, read Book 2, liked it, and then stopped before Book 3. I worried something was going to go wrong in Book 3. So worried, in fact, I read spoilers for the book so I could find out. And, upon reading those spoilers, decided not to read the book.

If I root for characters only for them to not fall/or stay in love, I don't want to read about it. If the character is going to die or not accomplish what they'd set out to do, I don't want to read it.

Basically, if this happens, especially at the end of a series, I feel betrayed. As a reader, I feel like the writer has betrayed me.

So, what do you think? Specifically in YA novels, do you think stories or series should have happy endings? Do you feel betrayed when you think there's going to be a happy ending and there isn't?


  1. Whispers: I totally think I know which series you're talking about. But wait... now I've thought of more than one. Darn it.


    I think YA readers deserve a happy ending... of sorts. I recently read one where the MC literally just like, walked away, and I was like WHAT WHY DID I READ THIS WHAT HAPPENS NOW and was (thankfully) able to watch the movie that had a slightly alternate ending and receive some closure that way.

    Here's the thing, though. Life has lots of ups and downs and we could stop at any time during our lives (let's say "teenage" lives, since we're talking about YA) and type THE END and it wouldn't necessarily mean it would be at "THE happy ending". Books are the same way. Which is why I feel closure is still more important than "happy", though "depressing" is definitely not what I want, either.

    I do believe I've said enough now. ;) Boy we readers are finicky. :D

    1. Jessica, you make a great point! I guess I expect realistic and contemporary YAs to have well, more realistic endings, and the speculative fiction ones to be a happier ending since they're more fantasy, but I guess that doesn't really make sense. Closure is a very good word for it. At least with closure, the reader isn't left wondering. And yes, we are definitely finicky! Thanks for stopping by!

  2. I agree with Jessica, for the most part. I like GOOD endings, but not necessarily "happy" endings.

    Not all stories are romantic comedies, and not all endings are "happy" in the traditional sense. It's unfair of readers to believe it to be true - especially an intended audience of "young adults". My kids generally fall into "young adult" target age and I don't want them thinking life is always tidily packaged up and tied with a pretty bow, particularly if there isn't hard work involved to get there.

    Yeah, I know... books are not life, and a huge part of why we read (or write... cough...) them is to escape our lives for a little while or to make sense of that which doesn't really make sense.

    Still, it's unfair of writers to assume their readers can't handle a hardy dose of "reality" with their fiction. I loved The Fault In Our Stars, and my daughter did, too. It had a really good ending - but I'd hardly call it "happy". Spoiler: Boy meets girl. Boy and girl fall in love. Boy and girl do NOT live happily ever after. Because, you know what? There is no happily ever after. Not for anyone.

    Cinderella and her prince argued over politics in their "after". Snow White flat out refused to have kids on the premise that the enchanted forest was already over populated, and her prince decided he'd rather have a more fruitful family. The three little pigs eventually went to market - and I don't mean to shop for corn bread and the latest piggy shoes. Life does go on (until it doesn't) but it's a disservice to youth to exclusively spoon feed them stories that can't possibly live up to real life.

    Don't get me wrong, I love a story with a sugary sweet ending, but I love stories that get me thinking, too, in subtle, easy to relate to ways. I can't think I'm a total minority in this line of thinking.

    Also: "Happy" is definitely subjective. One person (or character) may think that an ending is quite happy, but I rather think Maleficent was less impressed with the tale of Sleeping Beauty than Aurora was.

    1. Liberty, good points. And it's funny because, as you mentioned, I don't want my kids thinking life is packaged with the nice and tidy bow. I guess I just want the HEA for myself :)

  3. I hate sad endings! I understand why some authors write them but I only want to read happy ending books.

    1. I guess that's why we're lucky there are so many books to choose from. If we want a more philosophical ending, we know which genres to find it in. But if we want a happy ending, it's harder to tell what we'll get with YA novels.

  4. Hey, girl!

    I've read TWO YA series in which the third book had...not quite a sad ending but not necessarily a happy ending. It left a bad taste in my mouth both times. :(

    1. That's the challenge right? If you read a romantic comedy, you KNOW you're doing to get the HEA, but in YA, sometimes it's hard to tell. I suppose it surprised me the first time that happened because I was expecting something different. But some readers love it!

  5. I think that's totally part of the genre. If it doesn't end happy (regardless of how many books it takes to get there), it's not true YA. I think that's part of the reason I stick to the genre. I don't want to get done and be disappointed or sad for the characters. In fact, I've been reading a short story collection and I've noticed I don't like half the stories--because the love interests DON'T END UP TOGETHER. Ug. So frustrating.

  6. When I read a book, I live through the characters. If they have a bakery and love their job, suddenly I want a bakery. If the characters are loved most for their additude, I want to have their additude. If they are loved for their beauty, then I want to be beautiful.
    I can appreciate and find beauty in a story with a sad ending, but I would never want to live through that, and it would have to be very well written for me to consider re-reading it. Happy endings bring hope and joy, they remind you of possibilities. Sad endings crush you, sending their message that dreams don't come true for everyone.


Thanks for sharing your comment!