One of the tenets I hold for myself in my writing is that I always want a happy ending in my stories. So when I recently finished reading One Day by David Nicholls, the film version of which is out in theatres now starring Anne Hathaway, I took it hard. I won't spoil it here except to say the ending is not happy, but it is handled very well, with additional material that sort of makes the whole theme of the book come together. The film has remained true to the book--a decision many fans of the book disliked.
This EW article about One Day--which reveals the ending by the way--has oodles of comments from readers who were super pissed off at the ending in the book for not being happy, going so far as to call the author "lazy" and the plot "contrived." Many commenters said they threw the book across the room when they got to the shocking bit. I actually think the readers were just angry, hence calling the author lazy and making comments on the plot, neither of which were true.
Unhappy endings are hard to take. As a reader, you question the author, you question the story, you question everything. Maybe that's what you want readers to do. Maybe you want readers to think and react more than just a momentary "ah that was nice" and then close the cover, which is what might happen with the standard happy ending. Many One Day readers noted in the comments section of that EW article that they threw the book across the room when they go to the shocking bit. Others said the book was a giant waste of time because of the ending. A waste of time! Mein Gott! What is the point of reading at all if not to meet new characters in new places, experiencing new things? Who cares where they end up when the cover closes?
Turns out, readers care. The vitriol of the commenters about One Day both in that EW article and on Goodreads is pretty severe. What do you think? Is the happy ending better to do, even if it's safe?