Do You Need a Happily Ever After in Books?

As much as I’d love to say that I love my stories to be completely realistic, there’s something inside of me that tells me otherwise. I read countless stories and series, and I’m 100% sure that if I finish a series and it ends in a sour note (as in NOT a happily ever after), then I will most definitely not like it.

Why is it that I so desperately need a happily ever after (HEA) anyways? I’ve always wondered why a perfectly good ending, an ending that could very much happen in real life sometimes pisses me off or saddens me to no end. The How I Met Your Mother ending? Hated it. The Delirium series ending? Disliked itDivergent series? I’ll probably hate it as well (I’ve been spoiled to no end with this one).

The reason I read books (or watch tv series and movies) is because I want to escape real life. So why the hell do I need to be reminded about how horrible the world is? I want an honest to god happy ending that’ll leave a smile on my face and some [happy] tears in my eyes. Is that so much to ask?

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I know that there are some HEAs that seem totally fabricated, but generally, I tend to enjoy HEAs in books (or series, or movies).

There are situations where a HEA is completely out of the question (i.e. TFIOS), but in a way I think an HEA is more than just “boy and girl are together forever”. I think a HEA also has to do with how the main characters are at the end. Are all their problems are resolved at the end? Is it going to stay that way? Are they happy, or will be eventually? Will they stay happy? I don’t necessarily need a romantic HEA, just an ending that’s… happy.

What about you guys? Does a happily ever after affect how you feel about a book? Let me know in the comments below! 

44 thoughts on “Do You Need a Happily Ever After in Books?

  1. Rebecca @ The Library Canary says:

    I think it really depends on the book. Like with TFIOS you know going into that that it’s not going to have a happy ending. Same with books like Code Name Verity. But as far as other books go, like Divergent, I wanted a HEA. You watched these characters struggle for 3+ books and you want them to make it. You want them to find that happiness. And then they don’t? That’s not fair. And yeah, yeah, I know that life’s not fair, but books aren’t life. They’re books. For me, they are an escape from reality. So why make them so realistic. Why can’t there be a HEA? Real life sucks. And I don’t think that books always have to be like that.

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  2. Joy (Joyousreads) says:

    Not all the time, Marianne. Some books I can understand the impossibility of HEA; but if a story line (and its characters) begs for it, then I’ll be sure to state my grievances if I don’t get one. I want to mention some books that ended sourly for me but I’m scared I might spoil you and your readers. 🙂

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    • Marianne @ Boricuan Bookworms says:

      Not to worry, Joy. There is this one book that I would’ve bawled my eyes out if it didn’t end happy, and since I saw that you read it on GR, I’ll tell you. It was Time After Time by Tamara Ireland Stone. I really seriously would’ve started sobbing in a corner if it hadn’t ended with a HEA. They more than anyone deserved it, dammit!

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  3. P.E. @ The Sirenic Codex says:

    I don’t need HEAs. In fact, what pissed me off with Allegiant wasn’t so much the ending but that I thought the world building just failed and the ending was a last ditch effort to show some emotion. I guess for me, books are an escape, but I can’t escape to them if I know every story will have a HEA. It’s too predictable. I need stories like Game of Thrones where my favourite characters are killed so that I’m on my toes. I know this isn’t for everyone though. My co-blogger, Mari, loves HEAs too.

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    • Marianne @ Boricuan Bookworms says:

      I love Game of Thrones (the TV series) but I remember the first time they killed a character I liked. I was so depressed I abandoned the series and didn’t watch it for MONTHS because I was pissed off. I thought, “Why make me love them if they’re going to die?!” however now I really enjoy it. I don’t like the deaths either way, but I see it as more of looking at the bigger picture. Thanks for stopping by!

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  4. Lola @ Hit or Miss Books says:

    I read to escape from real life as well 🙂 And swoon over the sexy guys aaah shhh 😉 Hmm, this is an interesting discussion and I think I agree with you. No way TFIOS will be adequate for a happy ever after. I hate when a series ends up badly coz it’s a series and you’ve probably connected to the characters and stuff. Some people can die, sure, but not the ones you love the most. That wouldn’t be acceptable. Haven’t finished the Delirium or Divergent series but I did hear those series don’t have the best ending. I don’t mind not-so-happy ending in standalones though.

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    • Marianne @ Boricuan Bookworms says:

      Swooning over guys is my favourite past-time (kidding… sort of LOL).

      I think in standalones (especially contemporary) sad endings are more acceptable because of the subject matter. In series I hate non-HEAs because it’s like “I invested so much time in this, give me my happy ending!”.

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  5. Zoe @ The Infinite To-Read Shelf says:

    Okay…I may be in the minority, but I love sad endings when they’re used well. Some of my favorite endings are Allegiant, Tiger Lily, Code Name Verity, The Vanishing Season and We Were Liars. Whenever I leave a book feeling a ton of emotion, I know that book is good. xD

    However, I don’t like it when there’s a sad ending just for the heck of it. It has to be purposeful, you know?

    Thanks for sharing Marianne! I ❤ this post!

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    • Marianne @ Boricuan Bookworms says:

      I have not read Allegiant, however now you’ve kind of motivated me to read it. As for the rest of those books, the only one I read was We Were Liars, and I didn’t like it. But it wasn’t because of the ending, it was more of a general dislike.

      I don’t like happy endings when they seem forced, so I understand what you mean!

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  6. Miranda @ Tempest Books says:

    OH my god…can we just talk for a second about how much I freaking HATE HATE HATE HATE how How I Met Your Mother ended? You opened up a huge can of worms 😛 It’s months later, and I’m still so worked up about it. UGH. I even wrote this really long post about how awful it was lol (http://tempestbooks.wordpress.com/2014/04/01/my-thoughts-on-the-how-i-met-your-mother-finale/).

    I feel like HEAs have a time and a place. Sometimes I’m totally craving one, other times I wish there’d been one, and other times I wish there hadn’t been one. It really depends on the writing, characters, and story. But I definitely don’t NEED one…although sometimes I have to admit that it’s nice to curl up to a warm and fuzzy story that you just know is going to end well.

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    • Marianne @ Boricuan Bookworms says:

      Um… you have no idea what you’ve done. HIMYM is definitely a huge rant for me and I cannot even skim the surface without bursting into angry flames.

      That’s good to know about HEAs. I guess I just get so attached to the characters that I want them all to be happy. But I agree. There’s a time and place.

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  7. Abby @ Enthralling Reads says:

    It really depends, but most of the time I like contemporaries to end in HEA. But to dystopian/post-apocalyptic books, I sometimes prefer open endings or tragic eventhough it pains me (masochist much). It’s just my own preference ^^ But I totally understand your love for HEA, because well- everyone wants to be happy! Great discussion!

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    • Marianne @ Boricuan Bookworms says:

      Oddly enough, I can tolerate a non HEA in contemporaries! I guess because most of them deal with dark subject matter in the first place?

      My love for HEA definitely has to come from the fact that I put myself in everybody’s shoes and it feels like I’ve been cheated myself if the ending is sad. Thanks, Abby!

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  8. Dea S. says:

    I’m going to jump on the bandwagon and say it depends on the book/series. An open-ended or an un-HEA story is necessary for some books, and I can accept those. But I just loathe it when an ending came out of nowhere and it’s obviously purely for shock value.

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  9. Shannon @ It Starts At Midnight says:

    Oh, I now feel ALL the rage toward How I Met Your Mother, Allegiant, and Requiem! HIMYM especially. Because I spent what, NINE years watching that!? No. NO. I want all my hours back, please.

    Now, I don’t need a complete rainbows-and-unicorns HEA, but I’d like SOME hope, you know? Something nice at least, even if the rest of the world is a filthy mess. If a book is like “and then everyone died. The End.” I am probably throwing it across the room.

    Such a great topic! I will try to get my blood pressure down now from the HIMYM talk 😉

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    • Marianne @ Boricuan Bookworms says:

      YES on HIMYM. I honestly still feel rage-y when I think about it.

      Yeah I never expect everything to be perfectly put together, but I do expect maybe something that’ll make me feel somewhat happy.

      Haha it’ll be hard to lower you blood pressure, but just think of all the good times in HIMYM, okay? 😉

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  10. Cait @ Notebook Sisters says:

    To be honest, I like my books with HEA. x) I know?! So terrible aren’t I?! But I always feel a bit cheated when events come together super smoothly and everyone ends up hugging and loving. Yes I read as an escape sometimes, buuuuut…I really like realism. So Divergent was perfect in my eyes. XD And yes please to drama and catastrophe.

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  11. Alise says:

    Great topic! I’m definite torn between I MUST HAVE A HAPPY ENDING *pout* and can’t at least one book have an ending where everything doesn’t end all nicely? But you’re right, I’m probably only ever going to happy with happy endings xD Oh my gosh, do not get me started on that How I Met Your Mother finale D:

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  12. Francine Soleil says:

    I’m a big lover of HEAs and not getting them is always frustrating. I adore books that leave a smile on my face or leave me with all the feels. Endings can make or break a book for me. I’m generally a positive person, and I always want my books to end in a positive note. Although, let’s be realistic. That doesn’t always happen, but I don’t feel as bad anymore at seeing those kinds of endings, especially if the book was so well-written.

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  13. Rachel @ A Perfection Called Books says:

    I definitely agree! I read to escape reality too, to forget about the stresses of life for a few hours. I want to read happy books, no one wants to read sad books, sad things happen in life already! I think humanity is just accustomed to seeing happy things in entertainment so they’ve come to expect it.

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  14. Cristina says:

    This is an excellent Marianne and while I love HEA’s…I don’t always need them. It’s complicated, you know? I do need them but I don’t. It depends on how invested I am in a character(s). AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAND I think the best case scenario is not a perfect HEA. It can be messy but with some sort of hope at the very end (if that makes ANY sense at all). *wink* Awesome post Marianne.

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  15. Paula M. @ Her Book Thoughts! says:

    “The reason we read and watch moview/TV series is to get away from reality” I remember reading this statement, I just forgot where Anyway, I do admit that I agree with that statement a little but I still want my books with a lot of dose of reality. I’ve had my fair share of reading books with tragic endings (sometimes I know that it’s not gonna end well but I still read it, WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME) Anyway, as long the ending is realistic, I am satisfied. And Happy endings happen in real life too! Sadly, sad stuff too. But as John Lennon say, “Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.” HAHAHA. I honestly don’t know the purpose of this quote on my comment :p

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  16. Mel@thedailyprophecy says:

    It depends on the story. Sometimes it’s more realistic when there isn’t a happy ending, because it would feel forced and fake if it did. Sometimes I just don’t get why they choose to make it an unhappy ending, perhaps just to shock us?

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  17. Goldie @ My Book Musings says:

    I’m one of those who don’t need to have a Happily Ever After, because some can still be a
    “happy” ending in terms that it’s realistic, or that in the end they’re happier without each other. Lol. Real life has a whole lot of explaining to do with this outlook of mine. Sometimes I don’t know whether I miss my blissfully idealistic romantic self, lol. :p But great great great discussion post, Marianne!

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  18. Jeann @ Happy Indulgence says:

    I think intrinsically a HEA ending makes us feel good and like the investment in the characters and the time to read the books made it all worth it you know? I don’t need every ending to have a HEA, I just need them to make sense and not leave us hanging or mad.

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  19. Wendy Darling says:

    I think it all depends on how well the author has laid the grownwork if he/she is going with a non-HEA ending. A certain amount of foreshadowing and a delicate hand is necessary to make it feel right, and not just like an attempt to manipulate your emotions. They’re definitely hard to pull off in a way that feels satisfying, which is why it’s usually much easier to go the traditional HEA route. Sometimes I can admire an author for taking a chance, but other times it’s enraging for sure.

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    • Marianne @ Boricuan Bookworms says:

      I like your reasoning on this. Foreshadowing is definitely necessary to make an ending believable. Like you, sometimes I’ll admire the non HEA ending, but most of the time I’m just mad if it’s just for shock value. Thanks for stopping by, Wendy! 🙂

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  20. Tabitha (Not Yet Read) says:

    NO I know exactly what you mean. I like to tell myself that I like realistic endings and sometimes I do. Heck I know for a fact I rated a book five stars and loved it even though the main character died at the end. The impact was huge but it was fitting and the ending was still just as it should be – so sometimes it works but usually I think I have to admit too that I want a happy ending.

    Its just as you said I read to escape reality. I do like horror books sometimes which usually don’t have happy endings they have ‘and this is who’s left and how they ended up, moved past the horror’ type endings – but i don’t read them all the time.

    Gosh I need a good pick me up right about now. It might be time to break out my good old reread – The Hob’s Bargain by Patricia Briggs

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