by Michelle Gagnon
I've been reading a lot of great YA lit lately, and one thing I've noticed is that there are a ton of cliffhangers. Usually most of the story wraps up, but something happens--usually on the final page--that leaves the reader hanging (and, hopefully, thirsting for the next installment).
But it is necessary? Is there something unsatisfying about finishing a book that leaves loose threads dangling, especially since you're usually forced to wait a year to find out what happened? Or is that part of what gets a reader hooked on a series and coming back for more?
It reminds me of the traditional soap opera tenet of ending every episode with a da-duh-da! moment, where just as the couple is embracing, someone walks in with a gun.
True Blood specializes in these; the ending of pretty much every episode is a cliffhanger, and the next week kicks off by repeating the same scene. Sometimes it turns out that to be a bait and switch; Sookie opens the fridge and screams- fade to black. The next week, we discover that she just found out the mayonnaise expired.
But then, consider The HUNGER GAMES. At the end of the book, the game was over, and the implication was that the characters were well on their way to living happily ever after. Loved that ending, and it certainly didn't stop me from buying the second and third books when they came out.
I guess I'm wondering what the advantages of a cliffhanger ending are, as opposed to tying everything up nicely. Is the fear that readers won't come back, even if they loved the first book? Does a cliffhanger put you off a book, or keep you coming back for more?