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Do readers just love to hate cliffhangers?

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A different type of cliffhanger

A different type of cliffhanger

I’m starting to think we, as readers, actually love cliffhangers. Or at least love to hate them.

Really.

Earlier this week, we talked about those gasp-inducing, anxiety-causing cliffhangers on the VBC Facebook page. And while it was easy to name the one that gutted us the most — favorites were Karen Marie Moning’s Dreamfever ending and Chloe Neill’s Hard Bitten — it was always from a beloved series.

We like to complain about cliffhangers. Hell, I like to complain about cliffhangers. I still don’t know how I made it those months between Dreamfever and Shadowfever. I wanted to hate KMM for leaving me hanging. I mean, I actually thought the end of the book might have been cut off because I was reading it digitally. But I couldn’t hate her for it. Brutal, yes, but it made me spend the agonizing months between books thinking about her characters, what might have happened and worrying about who had been killed.

If done right, I think readers — myself included — secretly enjoy cliffhangers. I’m not talking about leaving a book without a conclusion, but those novels that wrap the book’s main plot but leave you with a deep craving for the next book. Getting a taste of how bad things are about to get can help keep the series in the forefront of our minds. Think about the ire the ending of Hard Bitten inspired. Even after the release of the next book, readers wanted to talk about book 4 and its ending. They wanted to hate on the choice at the end of the book or praise the solution in the next. It kept readers engaged. And if there is one thing we like to do as readers, it’s guess about what our favorite characters are going to do. Cliffhangers elevate the stakes of that guessing game.

Now, for this post’s caveat: If the book doesn’t resolve any plot points and leaves us hanging at the end, that’s not a good cliffhanger. It’s just poor plotting. I’m talking about those purposeful endings that leave you gripping your chest and looking up the next title’s release date.

What about you? Can you admit to not really hating cliffhangers? Which one gave you the ultimate heart attack? I have three: Dreamfever, Hard Bitten and Dead, Undead or Somewhere in Between.

33 Responses to “Do readers just love to hate cliffhangers?”

  1. Alison Robinson says:

    Dreamfever definitely, I found it sooo hard to start reading Shadowfever (I only started the series last month) because I thought the worst.

    Dead, Undead or Somewhere Inbetween, not so much because the Renfield Syndrome just felt like a Dallas-type reset. Honestly I believe you could probably read The Ripple Effect (not that I know) without reading The Renfield Syndrome and not feel you were missing anything.

    Hard Bitten, well TBH if Biting COld doesn’t wow me I might give up on the series. The last couple of books have not grabbed me the way the previous ones did.

    • You absolutely need to read The Renfield Syndrome to be able to really enjoy The Ripple Effect. Even if you didn’t — and, again, you do — The Renfield Syndrome was FANTASTIC. Edgy, dark and all about Rhiannon trying to get back home. Really beautifully done.

  2. Nicole Miller says:

    Out of the three mentioned I have only read the fever series. I stayed up til like four in the morning to finish Dreamfever….couldn’t put it down. When I got to the end I literally screamed. It was so frustrating but like you said I kept it in my mind the next six months trying to figure out who died. I have never had another series consume my thoughts like this one. I was constantly trying to figure it out especially at that point. Well I’m sure just like the rest of you I never did figure it out til the very end. This should be a must read for everyone.

  3. Julie says:

    For me Dead, Undead or Somewhere In Between switched my reaction to the entire book only because it changed the setting of the novel so much. While there was stress about what had happened to the characters in the other novels, their world remained the same. The end of Dead, Undead or Somewhere in Between changed everything – and it was hard for me. I still haven’t picked up the second book.

    I was completely shocked by the other two books you mention but it wasn’t so horrible for me as the next book in both were already out. If it had been months in between that may have changed thing for me.

  4. Mandi says:

    Fever series has brilliant cliffhangers. I loved them. They killed me but I loved them.

    I’m very much not a fan of the way it was done in the Chicagoland series. I don’t think it fit the story. I think it felt forced.

    So I LOVE to hate them when done correctly. Otherwise I just get pissy and it may lead me to not pick up the next book.

    • This.

      I think the Chicagoland cliffhanger was very ballsy. We might look at it differently if we had received a better resolution in the next book. Instead we were left hanging the majority of Drink Deep. Perhaps the cliffhanger’s resolution affects whether we love or hate?

  5. La Mala says:

    I think Richelle Mead is and expert on cliffhangers . I was close to tears whit the endings of Shadow Kiss and Blood Promise . Also with every book en the DarkSwann series and in the last three books in Georgina Kincaid series . Every time I finished reading one I got son angry and frustrated thinking ‘oooh ,no . She did it again !’ .

  6. Danni T says:

    I really do hate cliffhangers. If I know that a book has one, I will wait until the next book comes out before I read the first one. I hate having to wait to find out whats going to happen.

  7. P.E. says:

    I’ve always been a fan of cliffhangers done right. I love when a book leaves you stunned and wanting more. It’s more exciting that way, and I love the shock that comes with it. I love how months later, I’ll still agonize about that one point and I’ll count down the days till the sequel comes out. 🙂

  8. Brie says:

    I think we can’t avoid them, and some authors are masters of cliffhangers. I love, love, looooove Meljean Brook’s cliffhangers, probably because she leaves the main couple alone and the cliffhanger involves the overall story-arc. But those are the only ones I love, the rest I hate with a passion.

  9. Angela says:

    Out of the books mentioned above only Moning hit me hard. I just knew who it was but needed the written confirmation. Hard Bitten left me knowing that this was not final and I think Chloe Neill made that clear in between the lines. Although I can understand the rage it caused.
    Saare’s cliffhanger made me smile and cry out “wow” as it took me by surprise in a very positive way. Never had I expected this gamechanger thus loved it all the more.

    As long as cliffhangers do not end as Moning’s had, I’m fine with them. A good overall arc will make mw anxious for upcoming books anyway (The Hollows for example). I just hate open endings or where the main character does not end in an at least good place as Taken By Storm recenty did.

    • Angela says:

      I just wanted to add that I do love the Raised By Wolves books. Barnes is an exceptional writer, it just broke my heart that she left Bryn in such a bad place. If this would have been a cliffhanger I would be ok with it but…..

  10. Marina says:

    I hate cliffhangers with a passion! They offend me terribly and I feel i’m not respected by the author in general!!!!

    I trully believe that I should have the choice to read the “next” book of the series no matter how bad the author wants to turn thinks! The only reason I don’t hate Moning and Mead is because the series were already finished when I read them as for Neil after the stunt she pulled I’m not picking up any more books!

  11. Oh man, I LOVE cliffhangers! Once I start a series, I see it through to the end, no matter what so cliffhangers don’t offend me. I think they’re exciting! I don’t like roller coasters or any kind of thrill rides, and I think for that reason, I enjoy the emotional thrill that a cliffhanger can give me. I like the feeling of anticipation, of being anxious to find out what happens next. It sort of reminds me of how I felt at Christmas when I was a kid, seeing the presents but not being able to open them yet.

  12. Dreamfever was the worst cliffhanger ever, I almost throw my reader to the wall. Hard Bitten didn’t affect me as much because it was clear what had happened and I accepted the outcome, it didn’t let me wondering. I hate when they leave me not knowing what’s going on like in Dreamfever; I don’t like “that” kind of cliffhangers.
    Sometimes I don’t read a book when I know the end is one of those cliffhangers, in those cases I wait until the next book is out or close to its release date. I don’t want to be suffering because of a book, no thank you.

  13. Michelle says:

    I hate cliffhangers with a passion. Like Danni T (above), I usually won’t read a book that I know has a big cliffhanger until the next one is out and I can carry straight on. I am holding off reading Enslaved in Shadows for that reason.

  14. Looks like a few people would prefer to wait until the next book is out before reading a title with a cliffhanger. I like this idea in theory, but never have the patience to wait it out.

  15. trixie says:

    I dont mind little teaser cliffhangers like those in Ilona Andrews books in the relationship between Kate and Curran. The major story line is always resolved but you wonder what is going to happen next. Same goes for Patricia Briggs. Storyline is resolved, but you want to read more of the series/relationship developement.

    Although I liked Jeaniene Frosts’s VLAD, I really hated the end. Even though the battle was over there was too much of a cliffhanger left with VLAD and Leila. With the other problems I had with the story it is not on my automatic buy list when the next one comes out.

    As for Chloe Neill books, I was really into the series until she killed off Ethan. Doesnt matter if she brought him back, which IMO was poorly done anyways, I stopped reading the series.

  16. Katie says:

    Hands down the Dreamfever cliffhanger. Luckily I started the series late so I only had to wait about a month or two but even that long killed me. That one scarred me so bad I try not to start long series unless all the books are out already!

    Fever series will always be my favorite!! I would love to see these books as a TV series instead of a movie so we can see all of the great moments!!!

  17. Lannister says:

    I don’t really mind a cliffhanger even if, at the time, I want to throw the book at the wall and stomp about the room and slam doors! If there’s got to be a cliffhanger ending though, I wish the next book could be released within a few months, not 18 months – 2 years, as that is just torture.

    The two best cliffhangers that I’ve read recently and don’t see mentioned are Hunt the Moon by Karen Chance and Sins of the Demon from Diana Rowland’s Kara Gillian series. The Kara Gillian one in particular was absolutely tantalising, and I’m desperate for the next book. (At least it has a confirmed release date unlike Karen Chance’s next Cassie book.)

  18. Lawd help me, I love cliffhangers. BUT!! as others have said, as long as I don’t have to wait freaking 2 years for the next book. That is meeeean.
    Also, I love it when you get your HEA but a cliff-hanger happens to set up the next book for the next HEA.

  19. Nodding my head I hate them but I don’t like to wait forever for a resolution. I hated Hard Bitten and dreamfever cliffhangers, but as the others have mentioned I want a resolution or growth with the charachters.

  20. infinitieh says:

    I have waited for the next book to be out before reading one with a cliffhanger. I *loathe* cliffhangers; I don’t even like endings that set up the next book (hero and heroine of the next book meet at the end of this one, for example). It’s mostly due to the gap between books. Given my TBR pile, I’d forget to buy the sequel anyway. If an author had written too many books with cliffhangers, then I quit reading that author’s books.

    Of course, there *is* that children’s book which ended on a cliffhanger – and the next book came out 9 YEARS later. Gah!

  21. trixie says:

    sorry one last though ::::
    worst example of a cliffhanger gone wrong is the Earth’s Children series…1st book was in 1980 and 6th and last was 2011. In total between the books were: 2-3-5-12 and 9 years AND the ending blew chunks BIGTIME. I nominate it for worst series EVER!

  22. Keira says:

    I love to hate ’em! And yeah, you pegged my top ones!

  23. Doreen says:

    I don’t mind a cliff hanger as long as it’s not too long before the next book. I’m still waiting to find out what happens to Pritkin in Karen Chance’s cassie Palmer series and it’s been ages.

  24. Andie says:

    i was so stunned at the end of Dreamfever… i had thought ALL of the books were out, so i would be able to read them all in one chunk. Not so! so i too had to suffer until the final book finally came out. (in the meantime, i got my mom hooked on the fever books so she could suffer with me LOL). KMM is an exceptional writer – she has really come into her own. i like the cliffhangers. my other fave series to read is Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander”, so i have learned patience from that. if the author is good, then they are worth the wait.

  25. Amanda says:

    Another vote for the Fever series, but one that just had my jaw dropping to my knees was the ending from Nalini Singh’s latest, Tangle of Need. While the main storyline was all tied up with a bow, one of the secondary stories that’s been carried through the series took such a sharp turn, I had to re-read it twice to make sure I’d understood. And then I threw the book at the wall.

  26. Christen says:

    I can’t believe no one’s mentioned Carolyn Crane’s Disillusionist Trilogy! The cliffhanger at the end of book two sucked dry my SOUL!!! I was shocked, horrified, saddened!!! If you love urban fantasy and cliffhangers this series is a MUST!!!

  27. Sarah says:

    I cannot stand cliffhangers. Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series completely enraged me after the last book I read in it – either number 3 or 4. I couldn’t finish the book after that because I was so mad. She has completely ruined cliffhangers for me. Another author I used to love recently did a cliffhanger and I just wanted to walk up to the woman and smack her (well, ok, not really, but I was very unhappy and I felt betrayed by that kind of ending). I may never read another Moning book, or this other author because the cliffhanger ending just enrages me to the point I can’t even get over it and love the story. I previously didn’t really like cliffhangers because I had to know what was going to happen and I hated to wait months or even years on end to be able to read it. While some authors might do it well, so that I don’t hate them afterward, KMM and Jeaniene Frost have probably lost me as readers due to their cliffhangers. If KMM does more books in her Highlander romances that do not have cliffhangers, I might pick those up at the library. I may never consciously choose to read a book that ends in a cliffhanger ever again.

    I must add though, that the Fever series had some other major issues for me (example: I thought the first book was really slow and the plot didn’t really build until the very end, and then it just kind of stopped). There were quite a few things I just could not stand, including certain things that happened around the part of the series I quit at (Mac, Unseelie princes, you should know what happened).

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