I get asked a lot about whether series books that I've read have cliffhangers.
I ask other people the same question about books I'm interested in reading.
I also rate cliffhangers on my blog, so I spend a lot of time considering this question.
Sometimes the answer is obvious. Sometimes it is not.
When I created the Cliffhanger Scale, I came up with a detailed description of what I think constitutes a cliffy. Basically, to me a book has a cliffhanger only if it ends when the main character(s) is(are) in immediate mortal danger. Or if the book stops when the characters are in the middle of a stressful plot situation and the action from the current story hasn't been wrapped up.
However, what usually trumps all of my careful analyzation of the end of a book is my emotional reaction to it (aka my stress levels when the book concludes).
When a books end with a few lingering questions, or after a new revelation, I don't usually consider that to be a cliffhanger (The Raven Boys is a good example of a book that's LOW on the scale). This kind of conclusion excites me, and gives me something to debate as I wait for the next installment of the series.
Sometimes I read a book that people have told me has a "cliffhanger," but when I get there, I don't really see it. Recently I had a conversation about a book I read, where I didn't consider the end to be a cliffy although another person did, precisely because it asked some questions at the end.
Basically, what I am saying is that I'm realizing more and more how subjective the idea of a "cliffhanger" is.
I'm asking you, what do you consider to be a cliffhanger?
Do you have a set of rules that govern your concept of a cliffy, or do your emotions guide your reaction?