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.
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.
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.