Is there such a thing as a happy ending?

BOOK REVIEW                                                                                                                           (Staff, 7-9,10-12)

Marcelo in the real world

What is a good ending to a story?

Are you disappointed sometimes about how the story ends?

Did you think it should have ended differently or did you love the way it  ended?

I’ve just finished reading Marcelo in the real world by Francisco X Stork. If you enjoy reading stories about characters  you love, this is the book for you. Marcelo is an interesting, rare character – someone you wish you knew in real life.
The story kept me reading too (and that doesn’t always happen). But once I finished the book, I started thinking about how unremarkable the ending was, which is strange because it was logical and tied things up well.

I’m not sure what I expect from an ending; maybe I’m too fussy. Marcelo in the real world resolved things nicely in the end without being contrived or heavy handed. But it was not amazing. It wasn’t a revelation. Do you think I’m being fussy?

Now I’m interested in finding out which books or films people have found satisfying or unsatisfying. I asked my elder son this morning and he said that Nick and Nora’s infinite playlist had a good ending. He said he thought it may have been influenced in the way movies are written. It worked well because the story was over a night, and in the end the sun was coming up, so it ended naturally and neatly.

What about the really bad endings? Lord of the flies in which the ending was a fizzer, an anticlimax. You know, the endings in which you’re convinced the author didn’t try hard enough to finish well; it could have been much, much better. You could have written it better yourself.

Some endings are deliberately ambiguous, for example, in the movie Children of men. Citizen Kane has a great ending which leaves the reader feeling satisfied with priveleged information that is a mystery to everyone else.

I would love to hear from you on this topic. Which books or films do you think have great endings and why? And which do you consider have terrible endings? And why.

What is a good ending to a story? What’s the best one you’ve ever read?


11 thoughts on “Is there such a thing as a happy ending?

  1. Catherine–I forgot about The Game–I did enjoy that, although my husband hated the ending, he felt like he had been set up. So maybe the ending is in the eye of the beholder?

  2. I would agree with Susan about My Sister’s Keeper – I didn’t like the ending at all. I felt that it was so far-fetched and very unsatisfying, particularly as at the beginning of the book it seemed like Piccoult was trying to address some of the consequences of issue that we as a society don’t like to think about. she seemed to sell-out and want to tie up the ending as neatly as possible.
    On the other hand, a film I absolutely loved when I first saw it was ‘the Game’ – starring Michael Douglas and Sean Penn. What really makes this film great is the way our emotions towards characters and situations keep changing as we are given new information. Great twist…

  3. Hmmm, I don’t know about GOOD endings, but I can think of two endings that I didn’t like, for My Sister’s Keeper and The Lovely Bones. In both cases, I felt like the authors sort of gave in and did what they thought readers wanted, and in both cases I felt cheated. I contrast that with The Secret Life of Bees which I read around the same time as Bones, where the author deliberately did not choose to manipulate things and did not give an easy out to the character.

    Sometimes endings feel like either the author has run out of steam or like I have now written x number of pages, time to end here. I felt that way about Peeps by Scott Westerfeld (whom I love) and The School for Dangerous Girls by Schrefer. Both seemed to have endings that were a little too easy, even rushed…

  4. I dont read much… but from the movies I’ve seen
    Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci Code (Yes i watched the movies and didnt read the books… shame…) I thought they had fantastic endings
    especially Angels and Demons
    Such a twist!
    Big, the one with Tom Hanks?
    That was absolute crap!
    It didnt actually finish… it just sort of ended
    like “Oh he’s young again … bleh!”
    I also thought Casino Royale had a pretty bad ending…
    It made me not see the new one
    But Shawshank Redemption had a FANTASTIC ending
    that was an amazing twist
    and The sixth sense was great
    i really didnt see that coming

    but yeah
    that’s about it

    • Yeah, I agree with you about ‘Shawshank Redemption’. For me, the only mainstream film to rival that ending was ‘One flew over the cuckoo’s nest’.

  5. I found the ending to ‘The Running Man’ very sad, but satisfying. It seemed right to end that way. I hate inconclusive endings, where you feel like the character has demons to battle becuase things are not resolved. Bill Condon’s ‘No Worries’ bothered me for that reason. It was bleak, and I hate handing teenagers books with depressing endings. I loved ‘How I Live Now’ for many reasons, but one of them was because the ending was satisfying; it felt like the story was resolved.

    • I agree about the bleak YA books with depressing endings. I also dislike intensely the books that seem to gather all the issues that young people are supposedly able to relate to. No! Just write a convincing story!

  6. The worst ending ever is Gone with the Wind. She’s been through hell and back, finally snaps out of a doomed crush and the best Margaret Mitchell came up with is “Tomorrow is another day!”???

    Best ending? That’s toughie – if I love a book, I don’t want it to end.

    • Ha ha, that would have to be the most trite ending. Very Hallmark. I agree about not wanting a great book to end. I just read it as slowly as I can. But then again, I read boring books slowly too.

  7. Hi Tanya I am working with Year 8s most of the time at the moment and one of my fave texts is Juggling with Mandarins by V.M.Jones. The story is great about finding who you are in a family and making decisions about friendships and what is right for you. The ending is good,not too predictable and quite realistic about how much people can change and what we can expect in our relationships with those we love. There is a sequel too -Shooting the Moon -which ramps the issues up considerably.

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