This post applies to all book types EXCEPT horror. I’m fine with everyone being dead at the end of a horror book/ movie.
- I read to take a break from real life. While I don’t mind a good depressing book, life is difficult enough without reality intruding in my entertainment. A lot of bad things happen in real life, and we can’t always count on them ending well. It’s important that books end on a hopeful note.
- When I live with a character in my head for several hundred pages, I want good things to happen for them. I start to enjoy spending time with a character as if they were my friend. Therefore, I prefer that things work out for them.
- Sad endings can make me introspective, but happy endings are uplifting. When I’ve read a book with a roller coaster ride between the pages and then a happy ending that feels right (not forced), it can make me feel cheerful the rest of the day.
- I believe that most problems have solutions. What I mean by that is that often when there’s a depressing ending, it happens, not exclusively because of circumstance, but also because of people’s choices. I like it when a character engages in problem solving to find a solution to a problem, and I think it sets an excellent example for readers.
- I believe that people can be happy in spite of circumstances. What do lottery winners have in common with paralyzed accident victims? This is not a joke. ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… One year after the incident, they both tend to return to baseline levels of happiness. When a book has a happy ending despite bad things that happen, it means that people can triumph over anything. Happiness has to do with the individual, not the circumstances.
- They combat the negativity that seems to get the most airtime. I can’t get on social media without seeing something about some celebrity feud, someone complaining that someone is talking about them behind their back, arguing over politics. And don’t even get me started on the news. Ugh. If we believe the information we’re inundated with, we’re all the wrong shape or size, everyone is mean and wouldn’t give a glass of water to a dying man, and if you’re not “with” my politician, it must mean you hate me and everything I stand for. I don’t believe any of that BS. It’s nice to read about relationships working out, people talking through their differences, and people lending helping hands. It’s even nice to occasionally read about people discussing politics without creating Hatfield/ McCoy feuds.
- Hope matters. For those of you who don’t know about 13 Reasons Why, it’s a book about a girl who leaves a tape behind to be passed to the thirteen people she feels contributed to her suicide. It’s both a book and later became a Netflix series. It was under controversy because many teens cited the book as triggering them to attempt (or in some cases, tragically complete) suicide. If books can have such a negative impact, why can’t they also have positive ones?
- Happy does not equal shallow. I think that sometimes people equate depressing books with emotional richness and thought provoking, while dismissing books with happy endings. Do you know how much harder it is to be positive than to be negative? Try it sometime. Go forth in the world with a smile and a kind word for everyone, and see how difficult it can be. I love books that put a character through a difficult struggle and end up deserving the happy ending.
- Heroes should always triumph over villains. If we don’t believe that the light side of the force will always ultimately triumph over the dark side, then what’s the point? Maybe good doesn’t always triumph over evil in real life, but it should. Maybe the detective doesn’t always catch the murderer or find the kidnapping victim in real life, but he should.
- I want to feel like there’s a point. When I read a book that’s depressing for hundreds of pages, and then ends on a bleak note, I often feel like, “Well, what was the point of that?” We all know that bad things happen and that sometimes people never recover. It seems meaningless. When I see people suffer for hundreds of pages but ultimately triumph, I often feel like, “Wow, that person didn’t let anything stop them from reaching their goal.” When I did therapy, I used to ask my groups a question: What’s the difference between success and failure? There’s only one difference… the successful people never quit. If you try something 1,000 times, fail 999 of those times but only succeed once, people will call you a success. I like books that show that.
What do you think? Do you prefer happy endings or endings when things don’t work out? Do you agree or disagree with any of my reasoning?