The old ‘happily ever after’ trope can become tired and predictable, so many authors decide to buck the trend and write a less satisfying ending: a “happily NEVER after”, if you will.
We asked you, our faithful Reading Addicts, for your favourite and most memorable fiction that ends with a disturbingly unhappy result. You gave us nearly 800 replies, steeped in your tears as you remembered deaths and disasters that had befallen your favourite characters. We have tallied them up and grouped the 50 novels with the most mentions to create this list of the unhappiest endings you have read.
Flowers For Algernon- Daniel Keyes
Originally a short story, this novel follows Charlie through his ordeal, and touches on ethical and moral themes of the treatment of the mentally ill. This tragic tale gained more than 150 votes from you!
The Book Thief – Markus Zusak
This beautiful story of young Liesel, a girl living during WWII, is in second place, gaining over 100 of your votes. Death narrates, and the theme of mortality is ever-present in this novel so it is no wonder it has placed so high in our list.
Where The Red Fern Grows- Wilson Rawls
This beautiful and tragic story about a boy and his dogs was always going to break your hearts. The love we feel for our animals can be felt through this book’s popularity, and this one is a hit with the young and old alike.
Bridge To Terabithia- Katherine Paterson
This novel made many of us throw the book across the room and cry “Noooooo!” at the surprising tragedy that befalls the characters. It is apparently a children’s book but many have enjoyed it/been broken by it as adults.
The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas- John Boyne
A story set in the time of the Holocaust is undoubtably going to be tragic, and I suppose none of us were expecting a happy ending. Despite this, it still shocked and horrified many of us at what befalls the characters within…
Me Before You- Jojo Moyes
A story that follows a quadriplegic man and his carer, Louisa, as they form a relationship, and ultimately fall in love. Many of you decided this story of love and relationships was one that ended so unhappily that it belongs on our list.
My Sister’s Keeper- Jodi Picoult
This should absolutely not be confused with the film as the end was adapted for movie-goers… The book is far more tragic and caused many of you to break your hearts for the pair of sisters, and their family.
11. The Fault In Our Stars- John Green
12. The Great Gatsby- F. Scott Fitzgerald
13. The Elegance of the Hedgehog- Muriel Barbery
14. Tess of the D’Urbervilles- Thomas Hardy
15. Tuck Everlasting- Natalie Babbitt
16. A Thousand Splendid Suns- Khaled Hosseini
17. Charlotte’s Web- E.B White
18. Sarah’s Key- Tatiana de Rosnay
19. The Yearling- Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
20. Anna Karenina- Leo Tolstoy
And after the featured top 20, here is a list taking us to the rest of the top 50…
The Lottery- Shirley Jackson
The Little Prince- Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Wuthering Heights- Emily Brontë
We Need To Talk About Kevin- Lionel Shriver
Still Alice- Lisa Genova
Sophie’s Choice- William Styron
Atonement- Ian McEwan
Diary of a Young Girl- Anne Frank
The Giver- Lois Lowry
Gone With The Wind- Margaret Mitchell
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire- J.K. Rowling
Allegiant- Veronica Roth
Old Yeller- Fred Gipson
Gone Girl- Gillian Flynn
A Farewell To Arms- Ernest Hemingway
Cold Mountain- Charles Frazier
The Amber Spyglass- Phillip Pullman
Never Let Me Go- Kazuo Ishiguro
The Outsiders- S.E Hinton
The Dark Tower- Stephen King
On The Beach- Nevil Shute
Watership Down- Richard Adams
All The Bright Places- Jennifer Niven
I Know This Much Is True- Wally Lamb
Lord Of The Flies- William Golding
The Time Traveller’s Wife- Audrey Niffenegger
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince- J.K Rowling
The Red Pony- John Steinbeck
The Last Time They Met- Anita Shreve
One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest- Ken Kesey