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Companion Novels as an Alternative to Sequels

2013 August 22
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Over the past six months, there have been two posts here on The Hub that caught my attention regarding the trend towards series and sequels. Carla Land (The Sequel Predicament) and Hannah Gómez (Too Many Trilogies) bring to light a number of issues that can make a reader frustrated with these types of stories. I am a fan of many sequels and series, but I often find myself happy to enjoy a great book that is a stand-alone novel. There are times, though, when I am not ready to let a universe go or I think I will miss the author’s writing style for a particular storyline even though I don’t feel like I need more of the story. Carla mentions in her post that she will often reread a title immediately for this reason and I have certainly been there myself.

by flickr user adam & lucy

by flickr user adam & lucy

I have found something of a balance between my desire for stand-alone books and the fact that I don’t always want to let go in companion novels. These are independent stories that exist in a single world built by the author and often feature the main character in one story as a background character in another. The specific voice will change with the main character, but I find that the author’s style often remains with companion novels. I like the experience of characters that I know well popping up here and there. It makes me feel like they are continuing to live their lives off the pages.

Companion novels can often be read out of order as the main story changes. Due to availability, I read Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins before her debut novel, Anna and the French Kiss.  The only real spoiler for Anna wasn’t much of a spoiler if you happen to be a fan of this genre and know how these things tend to end. If you are set on not having a single spoiler, though, it is probably be best to read them in the order they are released.

The following are a few companion sets that have been noteworthy in the YA community recently.  I have listed them in release order in case you want to keep spoiler-free. Please feel free to share your favorite companion sets in the comments below!

Isla and the Happily Ever AfterLola and the Boy Next DoorAnna and the French Kiss PaperbackStephanie Perkins

 

Rose Under FireCode Name Verity PaperbackElizabeth Wein

 

 

Racing SavannahThings I Cant ForgetStealing ParkerCatching JordanMiranda Kenneally

  • Catching Jordan
  • Stealing Parker
  • Things I Can’t Forget
  • Racing Savannah (December 3, 2013)

– Jessica Lind, currently reading Falling Hard by Megan Sparks (first book in another series!)

 

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22 Responses
  1. Colleen permalink
    August 22, 2013

    I like the idea of companion novels, interesting thoughts.

  2. Dahlia Adler permalink
    August 22, 2013

    I love that companions are really becoming a thing; there’s something so nice about a fresh new story taking place in a very familiar world, and I love the glimpses into what happened to the original characters. As series are comparatively rare in contemporary YA now, I think these are a great alternative when you’re not quite ready to say goodbye to a book, its setting, or its characters after reaching the end.

    • Jessica Lind permalink
      August 22, 2013

      I think it really supports world-building. The glimpses of characters from previous stories makes me think that the author has a bigger picture in mind with the book’s universe.

      Thanks for your sharing you thoughts!

  3. Sarah Livingston permalink
    August 22, 2013

    There are also the wonderful Kristin Cashore books: Graceling (the original), Fire (the companion), and Bitterblue (the sequel). Although I would definitely read those in order of publication as well!

    • Jessica Lind permalink
      August 22, 2013

      Thanks for the reading order suggestion! Graceling has been on my radar for awhile, but I haven’t checked it out yet. Interesting to see a combination of companion and sequel.

  4. Amy Wallace permalink
    August 22, 2013

    Going old school – How about Madeleine L’Engle’s books? Vicky Austin and Poly O’Keefe and Meg Murry and their intertwined family trees. Love those!

    • Jessica Lind permalink
      August 22, 2013

      Excellent! I love pairing contemporary and classic titles with a concept.

  5. Jenn permalink
    August 22, 2013

    Looking forward to Just One Year, companion to Just One Day, by Gayle Forman. Sure it is the same characters but Willem’s POV.

    • Jessica Lind permalink
      August 22, 2013

      Good call! I am so excited for Just One Year and now I’m curious to see how much of it could be read without reading Just One Day. I wonder if Willem will retell the events of their meeting or pick up later?

  6. August 22, 2013

    I love The Duff and A Midsummer’s Nightmare. Also, Sarah Dessen often does threads characters through different stories.

    • Jessica Lind permalink
      August 22, 2013

      I didn’t realize those two were companions. Thanks for mentioning these!

  7. Molly Wetta permalink
    August 22, 2013

    I love the concept of companion novels versus straight sequels, or when a series follows a different character in each installment, ie Grave Mercy and Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers or For Darkness Shows the Stars and Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund.

    • Jessica Lind permalink
      August 22, 2013

      Thanks for sharing these companions! I haven’t heard of the For Darkness Shows the Stars companions before, but like that Goodreads says there is a #0.5 title.

  8. julia permalink
    August 23, 2013

    I know they’re not companion novels per say as they stand completely alone, but I like to think Sarah Dessen’s novels could qualify. I think because it’s her ability to add some “Easter Eggs” in all her books about previous characters. Also because they take place in either the same town or beach. :)

    • Jessica Lind permalink
      August 26, 2013

      I definitely think that these count. It’s just that little something familiar that pulls them together!

  9. Leslie C. permalink
    August 23, 2013

    I’m not sure how to label companion books. Do I mark it as #2 though it’s not really a sequel, but I want the students to know the order it was released? Sometimes a “real” sequel is published after the companion book and it really gets confusing. I also have a problem with prequels. I prefer to read them first, but sometimes they give away information about books in the series that were published earlier. I just started putting Prequel instead of #1 on the label and let the students decide for themselves.

    Any suggestions regarding companions/sequels?

    • Jessica Lind permalink
      August 26, 2013

      Personally, I like to read things in the order that they are/were published. One example that comes to mind would be the Mortal Instruments and Infernal Devices series. Technically, either series could be read first. I like the idea of reading things the way the author thought about them within a larger context though. There are always certain nods to the companions that I think mean more if you read them as they were published.

      I wouldn’t think to label true companion novels, though. In theory, they should not require a strict reading order. There are times when I think spoilers are stronger (I think that ROSE UNDER FIRE had subtle references that I was really glad to have read CODE NAME VERITY first), but overall spoilers should be pretty minor (see my example in post about reading LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR before ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS).

  10. Diane Colson permalink
    August 25, 2013

    Also old school-ish – Ender’s Game quintet and Ender’s Shadow series.

    • Jessica Lind permalink
      August 26, 2013

      Companion series! This is similar to the Mortal Instruments / Infernal Devices series that I mentioned in another comment response. Some authors just create universes that are bigger than a whole series.

  11. August 25, 2013

    Great to hear someone talking about companion books in such a time of trilogies! Another good duo is “Ship Breaker” and “The Drowned Cities” by Paolo Bacigalupi.

    • Jessica Lind permalink
      August 26, 2013

      Great additions to our growing list here. Thanks for the comment!

  12. Alissa Bach permalink
    August 26, 2013

    One of my favorite companion novels is “Wisdom’s Kiss,” companion to “Princess Ben,” both by Catherine Gilbert Murdock. Wisdom is NOT a sequel, but has the same setting, involves familiar characters, makes reference to familiar events/situations. You don’t have to read one to understand and enjoy the other and each can act as a stand-alone. But having read Ben, it was certainly a happy surprise to pick up Wisdom and say to myself, “Hey, I know that character!” and so fourth.

    I hope the companion novel becomes the new “IT” trend in YA literature. No sequels to keep track of, no frustrating cliffhangers. You don’t absolutely *have* to read the next book or the previous book or even read them in order. Just enjoy revisiting old favorites in a new adventure.

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