The announcement of Netflix’s John Stamos-produced “Fuller House,” a spinoff or sequel series to the 1980s/1990s classic family sitcom, is one of many similar such announcements in the TV world these days. “The X-Files” will be back for a few weeks next January, and there are rumors of a second/fifth season of “Arrested Development” arriving to Netflix sometime soon. And let’s not forget the long-awaited “Veronica Mars” movie last year, which was entirely made up of winks and nudges to the series’ patient fans.
The literary world is following suit. In 2011, Francine Pascal dusted off her pen and caught us all up on the happenings in Sweet Valley, California, with a look at the famous blonde twins Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield ten years after graduation. Published under an adult imprint, Sweet Valley Confidential was a nostalgic gift to the 20-, 30-, and even 40-something original fans of the series. Ann Brashares gifted her now-adult Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (2002 Best Books for Young Adults, 2009 Popular Paperbacks) readers with Sisterhood Everlasting in 2011 as well. And Meg Cabot will be following suit with a completion of her Princess Diaries (2001 Best Books for Young Adults, 2001 Quick Picks) series for adults, titled Royal Wedding.
But if all of these are gifts for former teens, what about current and future ones? Brashares presented 3 Willows: The Sisterhood Grows, about a younger generation of friends facing a summer separation, but it didn’t quite catch on. Is it possible to reignite a successful YA series with a younger version? Does it even make sense to think that a beloved teen character would interest a younger reader who doesn’t know the inside jokes? Or is it better to go adult? Should you just take minor characters and make them major? Does any of it work?
I’m not sure of my opinion yet, but so that you can make an educated decision yourself, here are the spinoff series you need to know about. (NB I did not include books that were originally standalones and later got companion novels, à la the Hold Me Closer to the original Will Grayson, will grayson or Rainbow Rowell’s upcoming Simon Snow novel to appease her Fangirl fangirls and fanboys. I also didn’t include YA series with YA spinoffs. This post is on only spinoffs that span audience levels and move either up or down.)
Original adult series (with such YA appeal it’s now assumed it was originally published as such, but no!): Jessica Darling series (2003 Quick Picks)
Spinoff middle grade series: Jessica Darling’s It List series
Author: Megan McCafferty
The original series spanned ten years of Jessica Darling’s life, starting from age 16 when her best friend Hope moves away. The spinoff takes place in middle school, so we get to meet the famous Hope and catch glimpses of everyone’s favorite fictional boyfriend, Marcus Flutie, as a young teen.
Original YA series: Blue Bloods (2007 Quick Picks, 2011 Popular Paperbacks)
Adult companion series: Beauchamp Family
YA spinoff novel: Wolf Pact
Adult spinoff novel: Vampires of Manhattan
Television adaptation: Witches of East End
YA spinoff from television series: Triple Moon: Summer on East End
Author: Melissa de la Cruz
I know, I know. I’ll try to lay it out. The first is about vampires in New York City. The second is set in that same world but on Long Island, where witches who are reincarnated Norse gods live. Then we have another YA spinoff with some werewolves, plus some grown up vampires next. Then the Lifetime series that took the witches but got rid of the Norse gods, and now that the series has sadly been canceled, de la Cruz is picking up her pen again to finish it up, incorporating the original series AND the TV show. Easy as pie!
Original YA series: The Princess Diaries (2001 Best Books for Young Adults, 2001 Quick Picks)
Adult conclusion novel: Royal Wedding
Middle grade spinoff novel: From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess
Author: Meg Cabot
Mia Thermopolis kept a diary when she learned she was heir to the throne of Genovia. She also wrote a romance novel, apparently. Now she’s getting married, but before she does, she’s tracking down her father’s love child, a biracial fellow journal-keeper living with her aunt and uncle.
Original YA series: Weetzie Bat (1996 Best Books for Young Adults)
Younger YA prequel: Pink Smog
Adult conclusion novel: Necklace of Kisses
Author: Francesca Lia Block
The lyrical, magical realism classic went on for four books. Then we met a younger, preteen Weetzie. And then Weetzie was 40.
Original adult series: Temperance Brennan mysteries
Television adaptation: Bones
YA spinoff series: Virals
Author: Kathy Reichs
Keep it in the family. Forensic mysteries for adults become similar TV episodes, with the added meta element of Temperance Brennan, the star of the series, being a writer of novels about a forensic anthropologist named “Kathy Reichs.” The spinoff stars Brennan’s niece Tory and adds paranormal elements to the game.
Original adult series: Parasol Protectorate (2010 Alex Award)
YA spinoff series: Finishing School (2014 Amazing Audiobooks, 2015 Amazing Audiobooks, 2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2015 Popular Paperbacks)
Second spinoff series (New Adult, maybe?): The Custard Protocol
Author: Gail Carriger
In alternate Victorian England, werewolves and vampires are as real as manners and corsets. Proper ladies in fancy dress hide secret agendas and general badassery. The only change between series is the starring characters’ ages.
Original adult series: Myron Bolitar mysteries
YA spinoff series: Mickey Bolitar mysteries
Author: Harlan Coben
Another solid adult mystery series gets a YA reboot thanks to a convenient family tree. Myron Bolitar is a sports agent who always seems to find himself in a mystery. His nephew Mickey comes to live with him when Myron’s brother dies, and then Mickey takes on his own series. Add a touch of high school drama but basically the same high stakes and conspiracies.
Original YA series: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (2002 Best Books for Young Adults, 2009 Popular Paperbacks)
Adult conclusion novel: Sisterhood Everlasting
Author: Ann Brashares
Four books make up the original series about four best friends who grow up together and spend their first meaningful summer part – but connected, thanks to a pair of jeans that magically looks great on all of their very different bodies. Years later, they’ve done what many friends do – stayed vaguely in touch but grown up and apart. Then one girl sends the other three some plane tickets, and they’re back together again…or so they think.
Original adult book: Sex and the City
Television series: Sex and the City
YA spinoff: Carrie Diaries series
YA television series spinoff: The Carrie Diaries
Author: Candace Bushnell
A journalist who wrote about sex came up with a story about a journalist who wrote about sex and then they made a TV series. Amplifying the fashion, New York City, and glamour elements and underplaying the sexual escapades, the YA prequel is a name-dropping romp.
Original YA series: The Immortals
Spinoff middle grade series: Riley Bloom
Author: Alyson Noel
The original is a Twilight-esque paranormal romance about a girl, Ever, who meets a boy she just can’t take her eyes off of…until she learns of his supernatural origins…and her own. A series about reincarnation and destined love spins off into one about a dead girl (Ever’s sister) who can’t bring herself to leave the living world or join the dead one, so she stays in between.
And some oldies, likely out of print, but goodies:
Original (young) YA series: The Baby-sitters Club
Middle grade/chapter book spinoff: Baby-sitters Little Sister
Slightly older YA spinoff: California Diaries
YA prequel novel: The Summer Before
Author: Ann M. Martin
Original YA series: Sweet Valley High
Younger YA spinoff: Sweet Valley Twins
Middle grade spinoff: Sweet Valley Kids
Adult conclusion novel: Sweet Valley Confidential
Author: Francine Pascal
Confused yet? And did I miss any?
–Hannah Gómez, currently reading Threatened by Eliot Schrefer and Proof of Forever by Lexa Hillyer