Now you may be thinking, “What a dumb question. Of course a happy ending is better than a sad one.” Here me out though. I will say, I love when a book or story ends and everything is neatly wrapped up, everyone is happy and all’s right with the world but there are some benefits to books that have some serious sadness about them to the point where a happy ending isn’t really possible.
I believe I was in 5th grade when I read two books, back-to-back that broke my heart. A Taste of Blackberries and Bridge to Terabithia were crushing but I loved them, and still do, despite their tough content. Also, contemporary books like A Monster Calls and Looking for Alaska are just two of many I’ve come across where I didn’t end the books with an overly warm, fuzzy feeling.
However, in a lot of these books I still felt that everything was going to be okay. Some of the more difficult books deal with loss, specifically, the loss of a friend or loved one. While this topic, death, isn’t something we like to talk about, it’s something that is going to happen and we all will have to face loss and sorrow at various times.
It’s the journey or the hope on the other side of this that really makes “sad books” some of my favorites. No one says books have to be happy, I mean even the Bible says we’re going to face trials, but I love when a good book like a novel or memoir ends on a note of hope, and so many of these kinds of books do that.
Dealing with loss and disappointment, for many, is overwhelming, because we’re so protected from it nowadays but there is a place where we can get a picture of how one can deal with loss. I mean, I know novels aren’t real in that it’s not something that happened to an actual person, but that’s the beauty of a novel, it speaks truth. How a character deals with sadness or loss is such a powerful thing when it comes to facing similar challenges in our world, so don’t shy away from a sad book.
Some friends of mine say they never read books that are sad or may have a sad ending because life will bring enough sorrow on its own, but again, it’s that hope beyond despair, that light that breaks the shadow, and that moment where we (or our characters) can get up again despite being down in the dirt having thought we might never be able to stand again.