How Should a YA Fantasy Series End? My Thoughts On Series Endings.

Recently, I finished a few YA fantasy series and it made me think about how important a series ending really is for me. It can elevate the series to favorites-level, or make me think of it less fondly. So today, I thought I’d talk to you about what I believe is important when ending a (YA fantasy) series. 

Please note, I’m not a(n) writer/author and really have no authority here. So I can’t tell you what to write or what not to write. Let’s just hear me out without getting upset. 

Also, I am not going to spoil any of these series/endings for you! No worries, I won’t go into any specifics whatsoever. 

These are 5 series enders I quite recently read. With recently, I mean this year. I’ve read these books this year -and all of them are the last book in a YA fantasy series. Some endings I loved, some I didn’t like as much. 

Here’s my main point of this blog post: an ending to a series should feel realistic. It shouldn’t feel forced. And no matter how much we love our happy endings and romances, and for all our precious favorite characters to be happy forevermore, that’s not realistic. 

THE TOLL OF WAR AND CONFLICT

In a lot of YA fantasy series, there is a great war or conflict happening. For example, in the Remnant Chronicles, the Trylle trilogy and the Malediction trilogy I’ve shown above, several countries/species are at war -or at least a war is brewing. And in Six of Crows and The Infernal Devices shown above, there is a conflict going on as well. These characters are put into incredibly dangerous situations, at such a young age. 

These wars and conflicts will have an effect on the characters who have suffered through it all. If you’ve seen friends die, if you’ve been kidnapped or attacked: this will leave a lasting change. You will no longer be the same. You will always be someone who survived. 

I’ve been thinking about all of this ever since I read Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom. I won’t tell you details, because I promised you I’d keep this post spoiler free. Many of the characters in this series have been through some trauma, and they aren’t just fine. The trauma had repercussions, as it should. I was so attached to the characters in this series, because they felt so real. And one aspect of them that made them seem so real was their scars (not just literally speaking here). 

In my opinion, more characters should portray these aspects of life. People suffer through many things after experiencing trauma: some people have PTSD, vivid nightmares, not being able to be touched, panic attacks, etc. Those are just some possible effects after going through something so terrible. So why do almost none of our heroes go through them? Why are most of our protagonists in fantasy absolutely fine after battlefields, murder and losing friends? Why don’t we talk about this? 

Usually by the last book in the series, our characters have gone through some real shit. So I think that at least in that book, our protagonists should show at least some aftershock or effect. 

THE CASE FOR (AND AGAINST) HAPPY ENDINGS

Here’s where you’ll really start to hate me. One of the books I read recently had an ending that was a bit… too happy for me. And I actually liked it less because of its happy ending.

If you have a main character group of 5 or 6 young people who go to war or have ended up in some sort of conflict, I think it’s a bit too optimistic to have them all come out of it not only without any sort of trauma, but with the love of their lives as well. 

Like I said before, I need a book to feel realistic. Even if it’s a fantasy novel. That’s how you get attached to the characters, after all. And I hate to burst your bubble, but not everyone gets their happy ending. That’s not how life works, after all. 

I’m going to cause myself some heartbreak by saying this, but I think that not every character should get their happy ending and that not every character should survive. Hundreds, thousands and millions of people die in a war or conflict. But if you’re a friend of the leader, apparently you don’t have to worry because you’re going to be okay, and you’ll even find your one true love. 

It’s just not realistic, and that makes reading it over and over again just a tad less fun to me. Yes, I want them to be happy. But I also don’t want to feel lied to? 

I want these characters to have the ending that feels right for them. The ending with choices that the characters would have made, instead of the ending the author wanted for them. That’s why I both love and hate the ending of the Lord of the Rings movies. I hate it because I want those little hobbits to live together forever and be happy. But I’m also happy, because it’s a choice that feels right for Frodo. Yes, the others will miss him -and he will miss them. But this is what HE needs. Not what I, as the reader, need. 

When you have these characters, who have dreams and plans for a life after this conflict, you cannot make them give it all up for love. That’s not a message you should send. You can love someone, and let them fulfill their dreams. Make a choice that your character would make. Do what THEY need. Do not be afraid of letting your readers down. If they understand your characters as well as you do, they will know why you ended it like that. 

THE CASE FOR HAPPY ENDINGS?

I’m not a complete monster. You shouldn’t kill everyone (or their loved ones) in the end. There should be a mix of happiness and sadness. A bittersweet moment at the end -like in real life. 

Of course, I do think that there should always be some books out there with the perfect happy ending. Books we can turn to when real life lets us down, to just feel hopeful and happy. But there’s a genre for that too: fairy tales. Fairy tales, their retellings, and so on almost always have a happy ending. That’s why we love them so much. Not just because they taught us morals, but because you want to see the prince and princess together by the end. 


So what do you think? Should there always be a happy ending? Should it always be bittersweet? Have you ever seen the difference between what a character would have done vs what the author wanted for their character?

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17 thoughts on “How Should a YA Fantasy Series End? My Thoughts On Series Endings.

  1. […] I don’t think I literally wrote one per month, but I did write 12(+) during the year so I consider that goal reached! Here are the discussion posts I’ve written this year: On Independence, Spoiler Free, Reading in My Own Language, Format Mood-reading, Change Ratings or Re-read, Reading the Synopsis, The Term YA, Giving Authors a Second Chance, Reading Slump or Reading Meh Books, Rating Romance Books, Putting Aside my Favorite Genre, On Diversity + Privilege and Feeling Uneducated, and lastly, How A YA Fantasy Series Should End.  […]

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  2. I think for me the happy endings depends on the book. Sometimes you just really need the character to have a happy ending, other times them having a happy ending just seems impossible. Great post!

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  3. I think there shouldn’t ever be an always for any kind of ending. I think there is a certain beauty in having different kind of endings everywhere. Sometimes a happy ending works well. Sometimes a bittersweet ending is okay. Or an open one. Never a cliffhanger at the end of a series completely!

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  4. Not to long ago I read the finale in a series (it was a YA contemporary with lots of time travel) and the ending just killed the series for me. Everything felt too easy – like the main character got what she wanted and her and all her friends lived happily ever after. (Except for one older character that kind of wanted to die anyway…) And because everything was so perfect, it made me kind of dislike the entire series and I will probably never reread it. So I totally agree that things need to be a little bittersweet in some books. I also completely agree that some stories need that happily ever after ending – like you mentioned fairy tales and their retellings, but I’d also put romance novels into that group too. When I read those books, I’m looking for a happy ending more than when I read any other genre. (And I would like to see the repercussions of all that fighting, too.)

    For me, there’s one more thing I like in my endings. Or, rather, don’t like. I don’t like the endings that tie up everything and hand it to the reader in a big bow. I don’t actually like it when the end feels like ‘well, okay, all their stories are over’ (and, yes, I have found them). I prefer the endings that makes it feel more like the end of an era, but there’s still more life to these characters. I want to feel like they’re still living on going about their stuff, it’s just that now I’m no longer privy to what they’re doing. (If that makes any sense.) Love your post, because I am definitely one of those people that the ending of a series can make or break the series for!

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    • That definitely makes sense! Thank you 😀 I do love my happy endings in romance books too! Those are definitely necessary too. I like what you said about the ending not being the end of their stories too. I think that’s so important! These characters are so young, there must be tons of things they still want to do with their lives!

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  5. This such a good post, and I completely agree with what you are saying. I have always felt that Cassandra Clare likes her happy, happy endings a little bit too much. Like, no matter what happens, everyone ends up partnered off and happy…with no PTSD or anything…and I don’t feel that is very realistic at all. The fact that this group of teenagers all end up with each other so easily…and I think back when I was in highschool and no guys were lining up to be my boyfriend lol! But then you look at the Divergent series, and how everyone kicked up a massive stink about that ending. But like you said, the ending should be right for the character and their journey, not just what the author wants.

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  6. Such an interesting post, and I agree! I always feel a little, I don’t know, cheated? when everything just works out perfectly and everyone is fine. I mean, I hate it when a character dies because I feel ALL the pain and it’s terrible. BUT if there is a completely happy ending the story feels a little too constructed. It’s exactly as you say: it feels as if it’s what the author wanted instead of what would have realistically happened. That’s why I love The Hunger Games and also Harry Potter (even though some claims can be made about the realism behind the big three surviving, of course). There are also times when I feel really relieved that everyone has made it, and I DO curse the author for killing off any of my favourite characters, but in the end it does make the book that much better, I think. And about the trauma: I agree with you 100%. It is so completely unrealistic to assume those characters can just have a happily ever after without any scars (emotional or otherwise). It makes me quite mad, to be honest.
    Also, I’m glad to hear Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom are so good in that respect! They’re definitely still on to read/to buy list 🙂

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  7. The Hunger Games is quite a good example of a character suffering the after-effects of trauma. Katniss is definitely not okay. She steps up when she has to, but it’s clear she’ll never be the person she used to be or the person she wanted to be, which I thought was a really interesting side of the books. You’re right about it being something that we don’t see often though, and I hadn’t even really realised until you highlighted it!

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