The Sequel Predicament
As both an avid reader and an author, I know how hard it can be to let go of characters that you love from a book. We want their story to keep going and we want to learn what happens to them after the plot ends. We fall in love with places that we build in our minds and don’t want to leave — whether they are imaginary worlds or real places we’ve just never been. If the book is a part of a series then we are lucky to have more to look forward to reading. If it isn’t part of a series, then I, for one, have been known to read a book over again immediately so I don’t have to let go of it just yet. (I did that with Morgan Matson’s Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour. It was so good that I finished the last page and immediately started over again on page one.)
There are several series that have gripped me from the first page: Harry Potter, Alyson Noel’s Immortals, and everything by 2013 Margaret A. Edwards Award winner Tamora Pierce have kept me going until the very last book. When I find a great series I am one happy reader. But when I come across a sequel that leaves me cold and wishing it had never been written, I wonder if maybe we’re a little too sequel-happy for our own good.
There are many great series out there, but there are also plenty that suffer from what I call the “LOST Syndrome.” I loved the first season of the TV show LOST. I was totally into it. Then season two came along and it was episode after episode about a whole new set of characters. I stopped watching because I didn’t really care about the new characters half as much as the ones I’d already invested a whole season learning to love (or love to hate). When a book sequel does something similar it drives me crazy! There are few things as heartbreaking to me as when I read the first book in a series and I love it and recommend it to anyone who will listen and then I get the sequel and … meh. The momentum, for whatever reason, is gone. The charm of the first book has been too hard to recreate and I don’t even finish the next one. This can be as heartbreaking as a bad breakup!
In September of last year, Kelly Jensen posed the question on whether or not a sequel that comes out years later is worth the wait or not. I’m taking it one step further: is having a sequel worth it at all? In many cases we’re left wide open for a sequel — the plot is clearly left unfinished, demanding at least one more book be written in order for us to come to the conclusion. The author has carefully crafted and plotted, and a sequel is perfectly reasonable, even necessary. This is why we eagerly anticipate the next installment of things like Cassandra Clare’s Infernal Devices series (I’m number 105 on the request list for Clockwork Princess). But sometimes a book is not really left open for a sequel. The story seems to have come to its natural conclusion. For example, The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron was a good book with a pretty satisfactory ending, so I was totally surprised to learn there is a sequel coming out. I thought it was pretty well resolved and was totally not expecting a second book.
I’ve talked about the “sequel predicament” with other book lovers, and many of them agree with me that a lot rides on book two in a series — perhaps even more than book one. Sometimes book two seems so forced that it is impossible for me to get into it, or it’s simply just not as good as the first book. Sometimes I get the feeling that a book isn’t meant to become a series, and it’s only after it becomes popular that a second book is planned. The conclusion I’ve come to is that I’d rather there be no sequel than a bad one!
How about you?
– Carla Land, currently reading Of Poseidon by Anna Banks