I was thinking the other day about how my tastes in book endings have changed over the years. When I was younger, it was happy endings all the way. Sad endings were just depressing, bittersweet a little unsettling. And if the author finished the book ambiguously - i.e. choose your own ending - that actually bothered me the most. I guess I figured since they'd written this much, why couldn't they complete the story properly? Did they not *know* how it was supposed to end? It frustrated me, having to guess how the characters' lives continued without knowing for certain. The story just didn't feel done.
Now that I'm older, I can more fully appreciate the irony and heartbreak inherent in a sad or bittersweet resolution to a story. I don't tend to seek out really sad-sounding books (for instance, where the main character is terminally ill and you know they're going to die in the end), but if an author can make me cry? That's a sign to me of emotionally engaging writing.
Bittersweet is even more poignant in some ways, because it highlights all the might-have-beens and what-ifs of the story; you know the characters could have been happier, but for whatever tragic reason, they can't be. And while I can appreciate the power of a sad or bittersweet story, I admit that I am less likely to re-read those. I am still a sucker for a happy ending, but it must feel genuine, not forced.
As for ones that end in a vague manner the reader is left to interpret...well, if I can see the point the author is trying to make, and the reason they chose to let it dangle, then I don't mind so much. But if it seems like they just couldn't decide how they wanted to finish it up, so they pulled the old let's-make-it-ambiguous-and-then-it-will-seem-all-deep-and-philosophical stunt...that just feels like a cop-out. The trick is distinguishing between the two!
|Yep, sometimes the last page just seems like a dead end.|
What about you, fellow readers? Do you like your endings happy, sad, bittersweet, or left up to you? How does it affect your reading experience? Does it make a difference to whether or not you'll re-read the book? Have your tastes changed at all?