I have always secretly been a fan of sad endings in books. Of course, I love when a story has a happy ending — after all, I grew up obsessed with fairy tales and whimsical escapist literature — but there’s something about a devastatingly sad ending that really stays with me.
Happy endings leave most readers feeling content. It’s as if the author has wrapped everything up with a beautiful bow, and you admire their handiwork. You feel a warm, happy glow surround you as you shut the book. Sad endings, on the other hand, haunt the reader. If you’re a hardcore book-lover, they may keep you awake long into the night, filled with rage or desperation or frustration. I personally handle seeing your favorite characters go through such terrible things. Some readers even write fan fiction trying to resolve the heartbreak, because you just can’t leave your best friends — I mean, book characters — to wallow in sadness.
This is why I love, but also hate, sad endings. They leave me wanting more, because they deny me the wish fulfilling, perfect happy ending that I so desire. Here are some of the heartbreaking endings that readers wish they could change — but hey, we’re still talking about them. Spoilers ahead.
1'Little Women' by Louisa May Alcott
Beth dies, and Laurie ends up with Amy instead of Jo. Need we say more?
2'Great Expectations' by Charles Dickens
It's unclear whether or not Pip and Estella reconcile, but apparently Charles Dickens originally wanted the ending to be even sadder: Pip was supposed to encounter a newly married Estella in London. Tragic. Either way, this lengthy novel doesn't have a flowery ending.
3'Mockingjay' by Suzanne Collins
Katniss entered the Hunger Games because she was trying to protect her sister Prim, then Prim dies anyway. The series ends on a bleak note, with a slight hope for the future, but Katniss is still very much haunted by the past.
3'Me Before You' by Jojo Moyes
After Will and Louise change each others lives and fall in love, Will dies.
4'My Sister's Keeper' by Jodi Picoult
Anna was conceived solely to be a donor match for her older sister, Kate, who battles leukemia. But as she grows older, Anna begins to fight against this system created for her, and she files a suit for medical emancipation. She wins. But at the end of the novel, she is killed in a terrible car crash and is prepped for organ donation.
5'Of Mice And Men' by John Steinbeck
6'Flowers For Algernon' by Daniel Keyes
Charlie Gordon undergoes a successful operation to improve his intelligence, then he loses it all. At the end he asks for flowers for the grave of the mouse who underwent the same test operation. Heart. Broken.
7'1984' by George Orwell
Winston and Julia both betray each other, and return to the dystopian world of Big Brother. Horrifying and terrifyingly relevant.
8'We Were Liars' by E. Lockhart
Cadence finally remembers what happened to her over Summer Fifteen: a a tragic fire killed everyone but her, and all the characters of the novel are ghosts.
9'The Remains Of The Day' by Kazuo Ishiguro
Stevens doesn't end up with Miss Kenton, and instead he on enjoying what's left of his life.
10'Tuck Everlasting' by Natalie Babbitt
Winnie doesn't drink the magic water, she grows old, and she dies. In the end, the Tucks visit her grave.
11'Bridge To Terabithia' by Katherine Paterson
Jesse's best friend Leslie dies while Jesse is at an art museum with his teacher. Then, Jesse makes his little sister, May Belle, the new princess of Terabithia in the ending you definitely cried through in grade school.
12'The Kite Runner' by Khaled Hosseini
Amir doesn't intervene when his best friend Hassan is attacked. Later, the same happens to Hassan's son, Sohrab. Amir adopts Sohrab, but this ending is seriously devastating.
13'Atonement' by Ian McEwan
You think that Cecilia and Robbie had a happy ending, but in a last-minute, heart-wrenching twist, it turns out Briony made it up to give them the ending they never had.