Books Series: Yay or Nay?
My feelings about book series are complicated. There are a few series I’ve loved, and many more I haven’t. I’ve previously written about series I’ve found worth sticking with, and ones I’ve bailed on.
After reading my post about bailing on a series, a FB friend commented that she hardly ever reads more than the first in a series, no matter how great it is. With her permission, here’s her comment:
“Here’s my reasoning: even if it ends on a cliffhanger, it s very rare that a first in a series doesn’t a least mostly wrap up. Also the first in a series tends to be the best, and the second (and so on) tend to be the author’s attempt to keep the excitement/experience going with the characters and it tends not to be as wonderful. Some of that can also be chalked up to the fact that we’re introduced to the characters and their magic already so many times it’s not as powerful when that magic happens. The reader expects it already, dulling the magic. BTW I’m using the term “magic” but I don’t necessarily mean that in a literal sense. Basically, I’d rather end on a high note with a possible cliffhanger than ruin the magic by reading an inferior sequel.”
I was surprised by my friend’s comment at first, I’ve never heard anyone say that. After giving it more thought and considering some of the series I’ve read that were “ruined” for me by the second or third book, I’ve come to see the wisdom in her approach.
I can only think of one case where I read the sequel, hoping it would be better than the first and was rewarded:
I read Me Before You for book club a couple years ago and found it solidly okay. It’s so sad. Too sad to be effective. It got to a point where I just wanted the book to be over with because I didn’t care anymore. I was hesitant to read the sequel because I couldn’t imagine how the story could be further developed. I found a copy for a couple bucks at a thrift store and my curiosity wouldn’t let me pass it up. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the second book! The first book isn’t hashed out in details so that was a relief. We get to know more about who Louisa is as an individual, and it’s full of hope and love.
While researching for this post, I discovered there is a third book in this series, set to come out in January 2018. I’m not thrilled by the synopsis, so I’m pretty sure I’ll skip this one and keep the hopeful feelings from After You.
Of course there are plenty of series I wish I hadn’t continued.
I don’t care what anyone thinks, I LOVE the first Twilight book. I’ve read it three times. I’m not saying it’s high quality literature, and the movie definitely sucks, but this book really did something for me. Of course I felt compelled to continue the series. The second book was decent, the third one was meh and by the fourth/final one, I was hating it.
The same goes for the Matched trilogy, which I gave 4 stars to the first book and 1 star to the third.
Considering book series through this new lens has caused me to pause and consider some of the series I’ve started but haven’t finished yet. If I’ve enjoyed the ones I’ve read so far, maybe I don’t need to push it for more antics by the same set of characters?
I’m particularly thinking about the Flavia de Luce series by Alan Bradley.
These are fantastic books. I’ve read three this year, and have been meaning to get to the fourth. Maybe I’ll at least wait a while before I continue, so that I’m able to maintain a bit of the elements that make Flavia such an endearing protagonist.
There are a few series where I’ve read the first book and felt totally uninspired to continue: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion, The Eternal Ones by Kirsten Miller, Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger,The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith, and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.
Then there are series I’ve started and intend to continue, but haven’t gotten around to yet: The Percy Jackson Series by Rick Riordan, The Passage by Justin Cronin, and Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner.
And now there are a few books coming to mind whose sequels I may avoid in order to preserve my adoration of the original: Holes by Louis Sachar, Watership Down by Richard Adams, and The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.
What are your thoughts on this approach to books series?
My house is filled with stacks of books I have yet to read, most of which are stand alone novels or non-fiction books. I don’t think I’ll pass over one of these “new” books again in order to continue on with a series immediately. Even if I don’t adopt my friend’s approach to avoiding sequels all together, I will at least pause before moving on in a series, to make sure I’m willing to potentially ruin my experience!
Do you love plowing through a series? Will you rethink your experiences now and perhaps change your approach?