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Delayed Reaction or Delayed Satisfaction?: When Sequels Emerge Years Later

A new publishing trend over the last couple of years is one that’s been almost under the radar. Or at least, it feels like it’s been under the radar because it hasn’t been talked about much. it’s easy to talk about trends like mermaids or books taking a new spin on Game of Thrones when you’re reading a ton of books every year. But have you noticed recently the number of sequels to books that published five or more years ago making an appearance?

Let’s take a look:

Terry Trueman published Stuck in Neutral in 2000, and the book garnered a Printz Honor in 2001. He published a companion novel to the award-winning book in 2004 titled Cruise Control, but that book was told from the perspective of the brother of main character Shawn. Now, 12 years after Stuck in Neutral, Trueman offers a true companion in Life Happens Next, published by HarperTeen last month. He discussed this book and his motivation with us in an interview last month.

Lois Lowry won a Newbery Medal for her 1994 novel The Giver. She’s written two companions to the award winner: Gathering Blue, published in 2000, and Messenger in 2004. In October of this year, Lowry will offer up a true sequel to The Giver with Son, 18 years later.

In 2002, Ron Koertge released Stoner & Spaz, and late last year year, he released the sequel to the book, Stoner & Spaz II. There’s an interesting interview with Koertge on E. Kristin Anderson’s blog about why and how he came about revisiting these characters almost a decade after he first wrote about them.

The first book in Caroline B. Cooney’s Janie series, The Face on the Milk Carton, was published in 1990 — 22 years ago. Over those years, the series has taken on a number of new looks, with the cover above being the newest repackaging from Random House. In January 2013, fans of the series will be treated with a new book, titled Janie Face to Face, and you can read a little more about what it’ll explore so many years later on the Random House website.

In 2001, Carol Plum-Ucci won a Printz Honor for her novel The Body of Christopher Creed — interestingly, the same year Trueman won his honor. Last year, ten years after the original, Plum-Ucci followed it with a sequel, Following Christopher Creed.

The time frame between Neal Shusterman’s Unwind and the recently-released sequel UnWholly isn’t as dramatic as the others mentioned, with the first published in 2007 and the follow-up last month. But it’s still a noticeable time difference, given how the current trend with series books is to have them published roughly a year apart. There will be a third in the series, to come out in the next couple of years, too, which you can read about in Publishers Weekly.

It’s hard to know what to make of this trend — is it the growth of YA fiction? The growth and popularity of sequels and series books in today’s market? Is it authors taking a long time to pen a next novel? Or is it something where the editors or readers and fans have approached favorite authors, asking for a follow up? Is it worth considering that many of these books are ones that those currently serving teens may have themselves grown up with and are familiar with and can talk about them as such?

One of the outcomes, of course, is that new readers will be exposed to older YA titles by virtue of needing to get the story from the beginning, and that’s never a bad thing, particularly when a number of these books are award honorees or “classic” titles. But will those titles still hold up today and remain relevant to teens? It’s worth considering, too, how many of the original titles may no longer exist in library catalogs and whether or not new editions will need to be purchased and what sort of repackaging they may receive (like the Cooney books).

In addition to the books getting sequels many years later, there’s another trend to keep an eye out for: repackaging of older standalone titles. Next year, for example, you’ll get to revisit Rob Thomas’s classic Rats Saw God with a new cover.

Are there any other books following this trend you can think of? Any ideas why this trend has become popular over the last couple of years?

— Kelly Jensen, currently reading Send Me A Sign by Tiffany Schmidt (an October debut)

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  1. Liana Liana

    Yes, it is strange. Having read the first book to many of these sequels back when I was a teenager it was a bit jarring to see sudden follow-up books but not unpleasant. Maybe they are trying to tap into the market of adults that read “teen” books and tempt them with some nostalgia.

    • Kelly Jensen Kelly Jensen

      I wonder about the nostalgia factor, too. I’m curious to know how well the originals hold up after all this time, as well. I know Shusterman’s does, but the others are much further out than his. I’m curious how well the voice remains the same after such a gap in time.

    • Kelly Jensen Kelly Jensen

      That’s a good example, too.

  2. Kelly Jensen Kelly Jensen

    Another one pointed out to me I didn’t add to the post: Shannon Hale’s Princess Academy. The first book came out in 2005 and the sequel — Palace of Stone — is out this year.

    • Palace of Stone is SUCH a good sequel- I’m so glad she wrote it!

      One of the really interesting things about this post is looking at the cover designed for these “late release” sequels. You can see how the artists tied the designs together, but there are some subtle changes in font, etc.

  3. My favorite was the most recent book by Ellen Emerson White — to her President’s Daughter series — my post: — and pub dates for the series of 84, 85, 89 and 07.

    I adore Megan Whalen Taylor, but wowza, she takes her time between books (and IIRC, her first was intended a standalone not a series): 96, 00, 04, 10.

    The first DARK IS RISING book, also intended as standalone, was published in 65; the second book in 1973.

    Norma Johnston did some interlocking series that may fit: with one series done in the mid 70s/early 80s and the follow up written about five years later.

  4. Heather Heather

    Make Lemonade (1993), True Believer (2001) and This Full House (2009) by Virginia Euwer Wolff.

    I feel like the potential popularity of these three suffered from the gap, which is a real shame.

  5. Some classics: the last LHOP books (in the Laura sequence only) were published w/ a 20 year gap. At least when I was reading in the 70s/80s, THE FIRST FOUR YEARS was treated as part of the series despite that gap.

    For ALL OF A KIND FAMILY, books are about 2/4 years spaced, w/ six years between the last and next to last books.

  6. Bitterblue and Eona both came out three years after Fire and Eon.

  7. M.T. Anderson’s The Game of Sunken Places came out in 2004, followed by The Suburb Beyond the Stars in 2010 — followed by two more sequels in 2011 and 2012, respectively.

  8. My favourite example of this is Melina Marchetta. ‘Saving Francesca’ was released in 2003, and followed a group of friends about to approach their final year of high school. It was written as a stand-alone. But Melina has said that some years later, a male character from ‘Francesca’ spoke to her one day, while watching a documentary about bodies being unearthed in Vietnam, and she swears she heard him say “That’s my family story.” So she wrote a sequel of sorts, ‘The Piper’s Son’ in 2010.

    In my review of ‘The Piper’s Son’ I did say it was like catching up with old friends who’ve been away for a while, but we always knew they’d return to us eventually. I loved it. I loved that Melina didn’t force a sequel, she waited until the characters were ready to come out again and had a story to tell. And I loved that ‘Piper’s’ was very much a companion to ‘Francesca’, illustrating that although these characters are a little older they’re not necessarily wiser, and that belief (hope?) you have that everything in life will sort itself out as you move towards adulthood is smashed to bits.

    Love it.

  9. Kelly Jensen Kelly Jensen

    Hattie Big Sky — published in 2006 and 2007 Newbery Honor — has a sequel coming out next year titled Hattie Ever After.

  10. Maybe I am unfair, but I feel that publishers are only interested in these projects because of the sequel craze. With already known and acclaimed novels you have an audience built in, most of the time.

    There are, however, authors who generally write very slowly, like Megan Whalen Turner. Her I wouldn’t even put on this list. But many, I believe are encouraged to revisit their originally stand-alone novels to take advantage of the interest in sequels or certain genres. With Shusterman, for instance, what would be chances of him writing a sequel to Unwind if dystopias weren’t so popular at the moment?

    • I totally agree with you on this one. I’m not a fan of sequels, since I’ve pretty much forgotten the first book by the time the next one comes out. Thus, this “sequel trend” makes me want to automatically discount reading books that are going to be part of a series UNLESS there’s something that absolutely calls out to me in a summary of the first book.

  11. A slightly older, but even more striking example was Parasite Pig by William Sleator, the sequel to his book Interstellar Pig, published 18 years apart.

  12. Kelly Jensen Kelly Jensen

    Another one pointed out to me — Smoke by Ellen Hopkins (September 2013) will be a sequel to Burned (2007).

  13. I think the publishers have a lot to do with it. They’re roping another generation into the franchise. When the sequel comes out generally new readers will want to go back and read the first book, so I’m sure the publishers will have special two packs or redos of the first book.

    And another example is the Sweet Valley High book that came out last year. I think that was more for nostalgia sake since I don’t think they’re going to rehype those books anytime soon.

    • Kelly Jensen Kelly Jensen

      That reminds me of the release of the prequel to the Babysitter’s Club books that came out a couple of years ago, too. And the adaptation into graphic novels, too.

  14. Laura Laura

    What about the Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner? The Thief in 1996, Queen of Attolia in 2001, King of Attolia in 2006, and Conspiracy of Kings in 2011.

  15. KatieC KatieC

    This is a trend I’ll never understand. The teens who read the original books have – dare I say it? – grown up! These sequels are likely not on their radar at all. And as for trying to get teens now to have to read a 10 year old book before they can read the new one they liked that looked interesting? I’d guess less than half will make that effort. I haven’t bought many books for my collection for those reasons, not to mention that if I don’t have the first book, I’m not spending money on a 10 year old book plus the new book when I could buy 2 new books for my collection instead. Just my two cents!

  16. I love when authors do this. Even in my years between high school and libraryland, I followed a few authors and scooped up whatever they did. That was well before HP made YA cool for adults, so I’m sure current post HS readers do this, also. (Did you see this? … maybe part of what drives adults buying & reading YA is continuing stories.)

    I figure, I enjoy the created world and characters, and if the author also does, enough to revisit, or be inspired, years later? Why not? Perhaps a situation like Vampire Diaries (owned by a publisher so more business driven) is different, but say Beverly Cleary revisiting Ramona after five, six, ten years, why not?

  17. Terry D Terry D

    Will Weaver just came out with “The Survivors,” a mere eight or nine years after “Memory Boy.”

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