Sunday, October 21, 2012

Cliffhanger Scale

Most books these days are part of series. Almost every time a series book is published - when it's not the last book - people start talking about the major "cliffhanger," even when there isn't one. I've found that sometimes I agree with peoples' assessments, and sometimes I do not. Therefore I've decided to add a Cliffhanger Scale to my reviews of series books. 

You can find a tab for the scale above. 

What is a cliffhanger?

In my opinion, three factors make up a cliffhanger.

1) Are the characters in mortal danger or in the middle of a suspenseful situation at the end of the book? If the answer to this question is yes, than I would rate the books as HIGH on the cliffhanger scale. I personally weigh this factor the most strongly when determining a cliffhanger. I like to end a book with my characters in a safe place, and if I find out that a book is likely to end with the characters in danger, I will most likely wait until the next installment is released before I start reading the series. 

Book examples: The Knife of Never Letting Go, Patrick Ness

2) Are relationships settled when the book ends? Do we know how all the characters feel about each other? Are the people that make up the book romance together (they could be separated by physical distance, their feelings or other factors)? I tend to feel stressed when books end without relationships being sorted out. But if the book has a big love triangle theme, I don't rate this so highly. 

Book examples: The Assassin's Curse, Cassandra Rose Clarke; Cinder, Marissa Meyer

3) Are there any loose ends to the plot that still need to be solved? I've found that most often when people say a book has a "cliffhanger" this is what they mean. The plot hasn't been completely settled. Sometimes authors will even include new information in the last chapter to get the reader ready for the sequel. 

Book Example: The Raven Boys, Maggie Stiefvater; Of Poseidon, Anna Banks

The first factor is the most important to me and the third is generally the least worrisome. As long as the current book's plot is wrapped up, I don't mind loose ends. In fact, I expect them in series. 

My Cliffhanger Scale:

For now I'm going to make my scale simple. As I use it more, I may revisit how I do this. But until then, I'm going to use a basic LOW, MEDIUM and HIGH rating.

Book examples from HIGH to LOW:

The Knife of Never Letting Go, Patrick Ness
Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins
Delirium, Lauren Oliver

Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Laini Tayler
Cinder, Marissa Meyer
The Assassin's Curse, Cassandra Rose Clarke

Shadow of Night, Deborah Harkness
Daughter of the Forest, Juliet Marillier 
Shatter Me, Tahereh Mafi

NOTE: Sometimes books/series have open endings. I will not rate those. I will also not rate the end of stand alone books. I may tell you if I felt satisfied or unsatisfied in my review. But I don't think it's fair to rate the end of a book when an author has imagined a specific conclusion. My rating system is just for mid-series books. 


  1. I really like your love triangle/ cliffhanger ratings at the end of your review! I don't think any other blogger does this sort of thing! And I know that a lot of people feel like you: should I read the books one at a time or is it going to SO destroy me if the book ends on a cliffie that I should consider waiting until the series is complete before starting it?

    Great idea, Lauren!

    1. Thanks! Soooo many people talk about books having "cliffhangers" but it's hard for me to decipher what that means exactly. I like to break it down to something understandable. We'll see how this works out.

  2. What a killer idea! I wish I'd have thought of something like this. I always find it challenging to explain when a book ends openly the grade of cliffhanger I experienced. I love this scale, what a great way to differentiate them all. BTW I hate cliffhangers!!!!

    1. Thanks, Gina! I prefer endings without them as well. But sometimes it's better for me to be mentally prepared to face one.

  3. I like it! I officially give you permission to inform me about the endings of books I'm worried about cliffhanger wise. Because of this scale, I totally trust you and know that you have the same view as me. I don't mind there being loose ends at the end, but the medium and high levels are more likely to deter me from reading a series before the books are out...especially the high. It was so nice to finish The Knife of Never Letting Go and not feel the need to punch anything because I can get the next book immediately!


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