Thursday, 30 April 2015

GUEST POST: Should YA Books Always Have a Happy Ending?

Today I'm happy to welcome Harvey from Bookmarked! I love his blog - you will, too, if you like dry humour - so you should definitely check that out. But first, read his guest post below. Should YA books always have a happy ending?

I'll word that question differently shall I? Should we patronise our kids and shelter them from the brutal reality of the real world whilst making all of our books boring because anybody under eighteen doesn't have the emotional capacity to handle it?

The simple answer... no.


I suppose it all depends on what you define as a happy ending. Undeniably, there's a certain feel good factor about the whole thing. We all like to return to our favourite books when we're feeling a bit meh and enjoy getting lost in a fictional world for a few hours. Yeah, people might end up dead, but everything will turn out fine in the end, right? Nothing bad is actually going to happen. But is that a good thing? Do we really want all of our books to have that (slightly patronising) feel good factor? Do we always want everything to turn out alright in the end? I don't think so.

The Fault in our Stars, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, His Dark Materials and even more recent books such as Kevin Brooks' Carnegie winning The Bunker Diary. They're all books that are very highly acclaimed for, and what's the one thing they have in common?

A bleak ending.

(You may have realised by now that I am a big fan of bleak endings...)

So really, the question here is this: should young people be protected and sheltered from death, destruction and general gloominess in the books that they're reading? Life isn't like that at all. People die, get mugged and are kidnapped every day, and that's the real world. It's on the news, it's practically on my doorstep, so why patronise me and give me a happy ending in a book just because you don't think I can handle it?

Personally, I don't think age should matter, it should be the book. If a happy ending fits the book, then so be it. But why change the ending of a novel just because you don't think your readers can manage it?

I feel that there's a general perception out there that the YA genre is stupid. There seems to be a stereotypical YA book, that is simple, and that is only good for teens. There are numerous people out there who seem to think adults should be embarrassed reading YA. Truthfully, it seems to be a much understated genre. YA books are aimed at young people, right? And naturally, all young people are stupid and immature, so therefore, they can't handle an unhappy ending. Yet there are still some YA books out there that I think deal with racism, murder etc much better than many adult novels - and so we come back to the question - should the books we read have happy endings just because of our age?

I've run out of things to say now, so...

And they all lived happily ever after.

Do you agree with Harvey?

Harvey is a book lover and a book blogger over at Bookmarked. He is a big fan of Amber's blog and is very grateful to her for letting him write this post, even though he struggled enormously with it.

Harvey lives in England and is a social recluse.

When he grows up he wants to be a piece of popcorn.


  1. I loved this post! I definitely agree with Harvey on this one. I hate it when a book that has been built up to be a little bit tragic and a whole lot realistic suddenly turns around with a happy-everything-worked-out-perfectly-ending. That's not how the world works and although I sometimes read to escape the real world I still like things to be realistic. Your friends aren't always going to forgive you, you aren't always going to survive cancer, sometimes people who are depressed commit suicide, the girl you've spent half a year chasing down will not want to come back to the same town she ran away from. People often criticise sad (realistic) endings saying that it was the 'easy way out' but I don't think that at all. It's much harder to kill a character than to have them live. People criticise Paper Towns saying that it was a whole lot of build up for nothing - but I loved it because of that. John Green didn't shy away from who Margo is. He didn't strip away a huge part of her character just so that he could make his readers happy or give the book a satisfactory ending. Anyway, I think I'm just rambling now.

  2. Well said! Assuming that teens can't handle bleak endings is incredibly insulting to them. This idea probably came from the same idiots that decided that every child to receive a trophy just for showing up because they were too young to deal with not winning. If the story has a HEA, fine, but it shouldn't be forced!

    1. I agree! People seem to think that young people can't handle certain things in life - and this is nothing but both insulting and patronising. Happy endings should definitely not be forced and I feel this can entirely ruin a book for me.

  3. This is something I've been thinking a lot about lately after reading another book with an unhappy ending. I finished the book and started thinking about how the ending of this particular was not hopeful at all. And I think that's where books like The Bunker Diary are criticised. Not for being unhappy, but for not leaving any hope that things could get better. (I think TFIOS, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and His Dark Materials ended unhappily but with hope)

  4. Harvey , Kinda of true it this depend on the type ending , but the TFIOS makes me cry when i even think about it.

  5. I'm a sucker for sad endings!