It's a common discussion on writing forums that comes from those elbow-deep in their WIP. How should I wrap up my story? And it's not a question that can be easily answered.
Readers want, and deserve, a good ending. They've invested hours in a world with these characters, watching them struggle, cheering them on. Leaving everything up in the air at the end would just be unfair. But does a good ending necessarily mean a happy one?
Because sometimes the boy doesn't get the girl, the lost treasure isn't found, and not all vampires will be able to stick with their vegetarian diet (Sorry. Couldn't resist.). And. . . that's okay.
Disney-esque endings aren't a requirement in YA. In fact, the stories where everything doesn't come out sunshine and roses can offer young adults some insight into the harder lessons they're going to learn. This isn't to say those happy endings don't have a place in YA! But the ending should match the tone and subject matter that's been established from the beginning of the book. If you read the first five pages of Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott, you know that the possibility of confetti throwing and group hugs is slim, but that doesn't mean the book didn't have what's the most important part to an ending. Closure.
Whatever obstacles the main character faced should be resolved. The reader should be able to see that your character has been changed or has grown from whatever they've faced. Most importantly, the ending should be realistic, true to your story, and hopefully give the reader something to think about long after they've finished the last page.
Have you ever read an ending that left you unsatisfied? Do you prefer happy endings?