I recently read a much anticipated sequel to a book I adored. I waited. I counted the days and hours. I checked my Kindle every hour after midnight on the release date until the book finally showed up at three AM.
I was ultimately disappointed in a big way. So disappointed I was kind of mad about it. It's been a week and I'm still a bit put out. I trolled reviews on Amazon to see what this author's other minions had to say and about half of them agreed with me.
So what was the letdown? Sophomore slump? Overhype? There did seem to be a bit of the "second book syndrome." First books go through years of loving care and pruning, critiqued by friends, romans, and creative writing groups who lend us their eyes, but the second published book goes through a much smaller albeit more elite funnel. On the whole, though, the wit and voice I loved so much in the first book was still there. It should have gone down on my list as "pretty darn good but the first one was better. Still can't wait for the next."
Instead, I've been fighting the urge to post a "WHY did you do this to us/What were you thinking?" message on an author blog. Damn if she didn't throw in a big, fat, old fashioned, soap opera style FRIGGIN' CLIFFHANGER.
I get that not everyone breaks out into hives over cliffhangers. I do. BUT. They are kind of like politics. Whether you are for or against, half the room is going to disagree with you. Safer to stay away from it altogether as far as I'm concerned.
As a reader I feel cheated if the story doesn't feel resolved, or at the very least paused. Cliffhangers just feel...truncated. Like you ran out of paper before you got through. There are two possible reasons to employ such an ending. One, the story you have to tell is longer than the book you have been contracted to write. If this is the case then suck it up and figure out how to make your story tighter. Two, it's a cheap trick to manipulate me into buying your next book.
I was going to buy it anyway. So was everybody else. I'm still going to buy it, but now I feel a little bitter about it. I'm also advising anyone who hasn't read books one and two to wait until the third publishes.