July 6, 2015

Happily Ever Afters: Yay or Nay?

Disclaimer: I'm talking about happily ever afters and I'm naming specific books that did and didn't have one. Which means, potential spoilers ahead! Read at your own risk :) 

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A few weeks ago, I read A Million Miles Away by Lara Avery. It's about a girl named Kelsey, whose identical twin sister, Michelle, dies in a tragic accident. When confronted with the realization that she'll have to tell Michelle's boyfriend Peter, currently deployed to Afghanistan, the truth -- she can't. Instead she pretends to be her sister, for many reasons, and in the process ends up falling for Peter herself. From the onset I knew in my gut there was no way this could end well. I became increasing uncomfortable with Kelsey's actions (and the improbability of some of them) but something told me to keep going. And then the moment happened. The one I had been waiting for. Kelsey's mom finally lets out ALL the truth at Kelsey and verbalized every thought I had been having in a way that made the story and even Kelsey click for me. It could've ended there or shortly after just to show Kelsey was dealing with her grief in a healthy way. But it didn't. Instead, it decided to go the romantic happily ever after route and I nearly threw the book out the window in frustration. It completely undid the story for me.

It got me thinking though. Are happily ever afters really necessary in order for a book to feel finished or resolved? Maybe I'm in the minority here but for me, the answer is no. (Mind you, my favorite movie does end on an ambiguous note so really, it might just be me.)

The only other book I could think of that elicited a similar reaction from me was Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin. That's another one that had me seeing red when it got a happy ending. It didn't feel right. So I thought of the flip side. Could I think of any books that didn't get the perfect romantic ending? And surprisingly, I was able to think of a bunch and I loved all of them.


I wanted the couples in every single one of these books to get a happily ever after. I wanted the final kiss, declarations of love and riding off into the sunset. But the alternative was more real and more heartbreaking. Sometimes loving another person isn't enough. Each of these books left a bigger impression on me because they acknowledged that. There's still hope and possibility for each character as individuals and then depending on whether or not you're a romantic, you can imagine that some day down the road they'll find their way back to each other. I know I've done this and probably always will. For me, an imperfect ending can be just as satisfying as the perfect one. 


What do you guys think?


P.S. I totally love the happy endings too! I don't want you all thinking that I don't but it really depends on the book. I mean, it has to feel at least somewhere natural for the couple to end up at a happy place. IMHO :)

5 comments:

  1. Most of the time, I like a book with happy endings. However, I recently read Me Before You, and while I really did want a happy ending for Lou and Will, I think the ending was pretty realistic. So I was sad, but I didn't feel betrayed by the way the story ended. I haven't read the other books, but 99 Days is on my TBR for the summer.

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  2. I am so glad I am not the only one who didn't love the ending of A Million Miles Away, I don't know it felt to happy and a little bit to coincidental.

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  3. Personally, I do enjoy a happy ending BUT only if I'm reading a romance novel or if it feels realistic to the story. Sometimes, an ambiguous ending or one that's not necessarily happy works better for me. I liked your examples here, since I felt pretty good about how these stories ended.

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  4. I tend to prefer happy endings over tragic BUT I also like really open-ended conclusions. I haven't read most of the ones you mentioned but for Even in Paradise, I really liked that I could imagine any number of outcomes for Charlie. Maybe a happily ever after off page or maybe not--her future is still wide open. The problem I have with happy endings is when they feel rushed or out of nowhere. Or worse when they leave nothing to the imagination. That's always totally frustrating.

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  5. While I love when books end happily, I ultimately want the conclusion to fit the story that preceded it. If there's a happy ending, I want to feel it was earned and that it makes sense. The same goes for a sad ending! If it's going to end tragically, I don't want it to be emotionally manipulative. For example, as sad as I was at the end of ME BEFORE YOU, I feel like that's what worked for those characters and that story. It was a bold move, and I honestly wasn't sure Moyes was going to actually go there. But I'm glad she did, even I still get *sobs* about it. I enjoy open endings, too, if I feel like the book's conflict is resolved. I don't mind not knowing everything that happens next, as long as I know that the things driving the plot forward have been wrapped up. Now I want to go think about what books fit into these categories and figure out what I like/don't like about each one!

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