I admit to having made that a click-bait title.
The full question is about happy endings in books where a happy ending is a little (or even very) unrealistic.
Happy endings are one of those things I’ve seen a slide in support for in genres I write and enjoy—particularly Fantasy. So the logic goes, a happy ending is unrealistic in a High Fantasy novel (for example), as there’s no chance the MC and all of their friends would escape the book’s conflict unscathed in the real world. So the argument goes, this shakes the reader out of the book, breaks their ability to suspend belief, doesn’t do justice to the horrors of war, etc. The remedy is to throw something in that turns the ending bittersweet, like a character death. In extreme cases, some will advocate for the rejection of a happy ending altogether. Kill the love interest! Kill the MC! Let the antagonist win!
I think all the concerns are valid ones. So that said, is there still love for unrealistic happy endings? Are readers (and critics) content to see the characters they’ve been rooting for make it out alright, or is a bittersweet ending the way to go? How strongly does it vary by genre? Or by target audience—particularly by age?
Speak for your genre(s) if you can! I’m interested in the variation, and in people’s personal experiences.