I know everyone has mixed feelings on cliffhangers. Some people despise them, others appreciate them. I tend to fall in the latter category. Why? Because if a book engages me enough to make my jaw drop with a fantastic cliffhanger, it is already a hit. Whether that book ended that way or not, the chances of me picking up the next one are already strong. If I didn’t like the book, it doesn’t really matter how cliffhangery the ending is—I probably won't be picking up the next one. By the time it would even come out, my desire to know would be gone anyhow.
The books that have the most outstanding cliffhangers for me are the ones that I don’t need to reread the last several pages to tell you exactly what happened. In fact, I often tend to remember even more about the book as a whole when it ends on a cliffhanger that really grabs me. Not to mention the fact that while there are more than one kind of cliffhanger, I think the ones that many people dislike are the super abrupt ending ones. But think about this way—would you rather the story be ended a little earlier, without as much tying over to the next book, or would you want to pick up right into the action in the next book?
So… because I’ve been thinking about this lately, in part because of some talks I’ve had with a few other bloggers and some reviews I’ve skimmed where people actually gave the book a lower rating because they didn’t like that it had a cliffhanger ending… this post is dedicated to some of my favorite cliffhangers.
Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins: This one is, in my opinion, the best kind of cliffhanger. It isn’t just trying to force you to read the next book, but rather, this one ties everything up… and then throws a twist. Sure, my jaw dropped and a few choice words might have gone through my head (okay, four choice words did go through my head), but Hawkins pretty much had her own burst of brilliance with this. She easily could have waited, and thrown that at us at the beginning of book two. Instead, she’s given us all a taste of what is to come, while still leaving it impossible to predict specifics.
Firelight by Sophie Jordan: This is one of the more, ends abruptly kind of cliffhangers, but still ties up the majority of the plot for this book. The way I view the ending to Firelight is that it’s a good stopping point before book two. Things are about to really amp up from what I can tell based on that ending, and I personally would rather have an entire book devoted to that. This is part of the art of cliffhangers- where to stop and how. And this one nailed it.
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness: If you think Firelight had an abrupt ending, it’s nothing compared to this one. This is a mix of the kind of cliffie in Hex Hall and the Firelight one. It throws a whole new twist, while still cutting off all the events of book one. But then when you read book two, you realize that was the needed and perfect stopping point. And I can even quote exactly what the final line is in both books one and two because they stood out to me that much.
Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead: Each book ends on a cliffhanger, growing more shocking as the series continues. Honestly, though, in a series like this, there’s no way around it. When there are several long running plots between the books, can there be anything but a cliffhanger when it’s impossible to wrap everything up at the end of each book? Nope. And honestly? It’s how impressively Mead handles all the long running arcs, while adding in new things to every book that astounds me. Sure, I curse and pout at the end of each book, mostly because I am so invested I want more. Is it the ending itself that ticks me off? No. I think they are about twelve Einstein’s worth of brilliant.
There you have it. My take on cliffhangers. I don’t think they are there just to sucker you in to having to keep reading even if you hate it, nor do I think authors are jerks for including them. I fully appreciate their purpose and their applications.