January 7, 2010

Thoughts on Thursday

On Thursdays I'm going to take time to step back and just share my thoughts on things related to reading. Sometimes these may be my thoughts or thoughts I've gotten from my students. It depends on the Thursday. It depends on the topic. It depends on the week!

This week:
Sequels and Books in a Series

Lately I’ve been noticing a pattern about the books being released, and I’m not so sure if I always like it. Of the last 7 books I’ve read, 5 of them will have sequels! It seems that almost every book I pick up now will have a sequel or be part of a series.

Now this isn’t a completely bad thing. It’s nice to see more of these characters and what happens with them, but sometimes it’s also a little much.  I feel frustrated when I put all my energy into the characters and the story, and then I get to what I think is the end and find out I don't have the full story or complete resolution. Worse, I get to the end and I'm satisfied with it only to know that it really isn’t the ending! I don't want there to be more after that ending! I want that to be it!  And I know that in the sequel I’ve got to watch what the characters accomplished in the first book get yanked away from them, and they'll need to fight to get it back. 

A perfect example of this would be Shiver. I loved the ending to Shiver. I was satisfied with that ending. Maybe there were a few lose ends, but not enough for me to lose sleep over. Now out comes Linger (which I didn't know about when I read Shiver), and I have to face more trials with these characters. I don’t know if I want to. Not because I didn't love the book and those characters, but because when I read, I read fully with my whole heart (ok that sounds corny I know!), and to now have to go through more with them just drains my energy! Yes, yes I know I could just not read the sequel, but I'd always know it's out there!

Another thing, with so many books coming out with sequels or part of a series, the first books aren’t always the most exciting. You can tell they are just a set up for the rest of the series. Do I really want to read my way through a whole book just so I can understand book two? Could book one and book two be one whole book instead? Yes there are some great books that have the type of storyline to carry into several books (The Hunger Games, Uglies), but honestly not all books have a strong enough plot.  They should've been kept to one book.

So what do you think? Do you think too many books are being written with a sequel in mind? Maybe you love books with sequels, so you love all that are coming out. It’s just a topic that has been rattling around in my mind. I will say, as a teacher, I love books in a series because if the first book hooks a kid I know I’ve got them reading for a while!


  1. Oh my gosh, yes. There are a lot of series out there where I find the first book just drags, because you can tell the plot just isn't strong enough to carry into a trilogy.

    I think sometimes this might not be the author's choice though. I wonder if after an agent will get hold of the book (intended to be stand-alone), they say "trilogies mean more money! Write one." or something like that.

  2. I love series. For me I'm always sad to leave characters behind - so when there is a part two I relish in knowing I will get more time with my favorite characters.

  3. Your last sentence is my strongest reason for loving series. Also, series books for younger or less confident readers provide a comfort level of having familiar characters in a familiar setting while allowing the student to build fluency. I do sometimes feel that the first book is not the strongest (or leaves too many unanswered questions) but I usually choose to keep reading anyway. What really bothers me in a series are books that end on cliff hangers (John Flanagan and Richelle Mead, I am talking to you.)

  4. I should state that I don't HATE books that are part of a series. There are many I love. It's just more that is seems sooooo many are coming out this way!

  5. I have to say that I love books in series, simply because I grow attached to characters and want to continue the journey with them. That said, I find some series these days don't offer books which can stand alone...now that...that bothers me :)

  6. I love series books but I also completely agree. Sometimes it is frustrating to not have an end in sight. Like House of Night for instance I have no diea how many more books I will have to read to get to the end of the series. I wish there were more stand alone books too.

  7. Yes, series are fabulous, when the story calls for it. When there is enough story to go around multiple books and when the characters don't dry up. However, yes, there are too many books being forced into a series or sequels. Don't know who is doing the forcing, but they need to stop. :)

  8. I was noticing this trend as well, along with how all books seem to be in hard cover first. So different from when I was a young adult! I do enjoy series, but some just fall flat. Like the comment above about the House of Night series... wow, I gave up when they started releasing books 5 & 6 as hard cover. The series just isn't good enough to spend the extra money AND it feels like it's never ending! Not to mention each book is about 1/2 recap and 1/2 build up to the next book.

    I remember when a "series" of books wasn't a sequel, type thing. I LOVED the Fear Street series by RL Stine when I was growing up. All books that take place in one town but different stories. Those were fun.

    I had the same thing happen to me as happened to you with Shiver but with Prophecy of the Sisters. This was an amazing book, though I didn't know it wasn't a stand alone so imagine my cry of despair when I got to the end and got a cliff hanger! Gah!

    Also, because I haven't rambled enough, I have to tell you I love coming to your blog. The owls make me smile every time!

  9. Most of the books I've read in the last year have been the first (or second) in a series. I don't really like it. To me, it just seems like greed. Telling a good story isn't enough anymore; it seems that the publisher has to make as much money as possible, even if it's at the expense of the author's vision.

    The worst offender that I came across this year was The Hollow by Jessica Verday. The first book was a 500-page placeholder. We knew up front that it was going to be a trilogy, but I find it a bit difficult to believe that that's what the author originally intended. There was just too much extra padding in the first book for that. I got the feeling that there was one story, and that the publisher wanted a trilogy... so the story was spread out so that it could make three (long) books.

    Some of the most beloved books out there aren't part of a series. Jane Austen's publisher didn't get on her case about turning Pride and Prejudice into a five-part series of novels. Charles Dickens was never forced to write a sequel to Oliver Twist. Why isn't a stand-alone story contained in one book good enough anymore?

  10. I've noticed the same thing. My favorite reads from last year were all a part of series. Thankfully none of them spent too much time recapping the story. I loved The Hunger Games and thought the ending was pretty satisfactory. I was expecting some huge cliffhanger, but the main story was wrapped up nicely even though there were obvious issues still to be addressed.

    I was a B&N today browsing the children's sectios and it seemed to be overrun by series. It's not necessarily a bad thing for authors to continue a story, but sometimes I think an author's talent may be better used creating an entirely new storyline instead of continuing an old one.

    Good points about the best loved books not being series. So true!

  11. I agree that too many books are coming out with sequels. I feel like it's being forced out of the story and it's not really needed. I do like books that could stand on their own-it's nice to have a sequel, but there doesn't need to be one. And I like books that wrap up-instead of leaving you hanging. If there is going to be a series, I want each book to have plots that are wrapped up-I think the Harry Potter books are a great example of this. There's a large overall storyline, but each book has a mini-storyline important to that book that is resolved.

  12. I am notoriously bad at reading sequels and series. And I know that publishers take a book and chop it up so that they sell more books. AND, more often then not, the sequel/series are never as good as the first book, so it's not really worth reading. A good example (for me, anyways) was The Goose Girl. I would give that an A - j ust loved it, but the rest of Hale's Bayern books are really rough. I will say, though, I have been pleasantly surprised by the Magic Thief series, Theodosia Throckmorton series, Enola Holmes, and Skulduggery Pleasant. :)

  13. I feel the same way sometimes. I'm almost finished with a book and then I realize that the author is just setting him or herself up for a sequel. There's no resolution and sometimes there's even some weirdness because the author is adding in some sort device or incident to help extend a book that just needs to END.

    Thanks for saying this. I hope some authors listen. If your writing is good, I'll read your second book! It can have new characters and different ideas. I'll still buy it if I like you!

  14. If I love the characters, I love having a series to look forward to. But I agree wholeheartedly with you in that I don't like it when the first book seems like a set up. Ugh! That frustrates me to no end. I feel cheated. Give me satisfying characterization, plot and conclusion. Left wanting more is fine but I hate to be left hanging.

    Thanks for the thoughtful post!

  15. This is an interesting argument. I can totally see what you mean, even though I don't really feel the same way.

  16. I tend to be a series reader myself but agree entirely about a filler book for the first or even second books. They are quite unnecessary and take me away from an otherwise great story line.

    Other than that little (seemingly popular) hang-up I have to say that I prefer getting to know characters deeper, which you can't necessarily do with a stand alone book. Not that you can't get that with a one-off, but if I am investing the time in a worthwhile character I'd prefer to have more time with the character(s).