Skip to content

The Sequel Predicament

2013 February 13
  • Email
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • RSS

amy and rogerAs 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!

clockwork princessIn 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

Share and enjoy

  • Email
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • RSS
3 Responses
  1. Dawn Vogler permalink
    February 14, 2013

    It’s too bad that blockbusters like Harry Potter, Twilight and Hunger Games have set the sequel disease in motion. It seems the entire YA publishing industry is simply silly over sequels, despite that fact that 3/4 of them don’t deserve a single publishing, much less multiples! I’m weary of sequels. It’s like Alien 5 – been there and done that Hollywood – so please stop now.

    I can’t remember what’s happened a year later when the next book finally comes out. I finished Ruby Red and loved it, but when Sapphire Blue finally came out, I couldn’t pick up the plot from Ruby Red. And you needed to pick up that plot! Okay, so I can read it again, right? WRONG, it’s checked out and you’re 20 on the holds list and you have to get Sapphire Blue back because it’s on the hold list too! UGH. Is the secret to wait 5 years til they are all out and you can read in succession once the fervor dies down? This might be my future strategy with all sequels, as it was with The Hunger Games.

    I liked Matched and Crossed, but I’m not sure Reached is worth it. At some level, I cease caring when made to wait. There are so many other books to read, but then you feel almost obligated with sequels. Of course, I was in ecstasy when I discovered that The Pox Party by M.T. Anderson had a sequel. I never would have guessed and though it wasn’t as fabulous as #1, I didn’t want to leave Octavian Nothing behind. The sequel wasn’t necessary – it was more like bonus tracks on your favorite album. Perhaps if you really love the characters, you are more willing to withstand the sequel sucker punch? That’s how I felt when I found out Ruby Red ended on a cliffhanger with a sequel coming out – who knows when!?

    Another case in point recently, Libba Bray’s The Diviners. I really enjoyed that book, but it should have ended at the denouement of the heroine escaping with her life from the disgustingly haunted house. END of a good novel, period, that’s all she wrote. Instead, it lingers on so it can pick up more story line for you guessed it, a sequel.

    Heck yeah, I vote no sequel rather than a forced one!

    *sequel sigh*

    • Carla permalink
      February 14, 2013

      Glad to see I’m not alone in thinking this! A great stand-alone is just as satisfying as a great series (and is way more satisfying than a series that drags on and on!) ~C~

  2. February 17, 2013

    My problem is with trilogies, which might well be stories that take more than one novel, but often they are published and feel as if someone just pressed “Print” at a random point and called it a book, and yet there isn’t a satisfying narrative to call each portion a “novel.” Book 2 in a trilogy often feels like the author just saying “Here is all this cool stuff I will tell you about a year from now when book 3 comes out!”

Comments are closed.

Email
Pinterest