Merin’s Musings #3: Sequels, Trilogies and Series, Oh, My!


The past few Top Ten Tuesday posts have all revolved around series books and/or sequels, which got me thinking about just how many books on my read lists the past few years have been a part of some sort of series. Going through the lists (which you can see here for 2012 and here for this year), I’m practically being inundated with books that are either the start of a series, the middle book in a trilogy, or some other number of a series. Which has made me realize just how insane that actually is.

In fact, two of the books I’ve read most recently – The Smoke Thief by Shana Abe and The House of Hades by Rick Riordan – are part of a series! Going back through my read list for 2013, 25 of the 83 books and/or novellas I’ve read have been continuations of a series and 30 of them have been the start of a new series. Those are some seriously staggering numbers, but are a pretty accurate portrayal of what the YA world in particular looks like at this moment. Nearly everything you see is part of a series! Which begs the question: Where have all the stand-alone books gone?

Now don’t get me wrong: I like series. I think those numbers I’ve just outlined above speak to that. I currently have three books checked out from the library that are part of a series – Through the Zombie Glass by Gena Showalter, Thornhill by Kathleen Peacock, and Rogue by Gina Damico – so it goes without saying that I wouldn’t be reading these if I didn’t like the first book in the series, yes? So I’m not necessarily saying that series (or the more common trilogies) are a BAD thing. Please don’t misunderstand. But what I AM saying is that it’s strange that there’s been such a huge and very obvious shift TO series and away from books that stand on their own merits without being a continuation (or even a spin-off) of a preceding story.

So, I am clearly a lover of series. I’m probably not alone in this, based on how popular they’ve gotten with publishing companies. It seems like most announcements in Publisher’s Weekly are for YA trilogies and/or series. Obviously there is a market out there for them, and I would certainly include myself in that. But I also really love a good stand alone book, one that contains a single story without any loose ends or story lines or plots that need to continue over two more books before they can be soundly wrapped up. Some of my favorite books from 2012 – Breaking Beautiful by Jennifer Shaw Wolf and Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff – were stand alone books.

So that brings me to this week’s Musing question: Do you like series books? If so, WHAT do you like about them? If not, WHY don’t you think them?

Let me take this moment to wax poetically about one of my favorite series: Percy Jackson & the Olympians. That series was set up based on a prophecy that is a running theme throughout all five books. It also features one of the best narrators of all time (at least, in my opinion), in one very snarky, very funny, extremely wonderful Percy Jackson. Combine that with a plethora of Greek myths, gods and goddesses with very distinct personalities, and a well-developed, extremely colorful cast of supporting characters, and it’s easy to see why that series did so well and is so well-loved. It was so well-loved, in fact, that Riordan’s writing a continuation series, which is – at least in my opinion – just as amazing and awesome. I don’t think I would have loved Percy and co. if we’d only gotten to meet him in a single book. I think the awesomeness of Percy couldn’t be fully realized in a single 300-page installment. It’s because of the continued exposure to him that has fixed him so permanently in my brain as one of my all-time favorites. So series definitely have that going for them. The other thing that’s so awesome about Percy is that his series is an MG series, which doesn’t contain any of your typical YA-prominent story lines.

Which brings me to the downside of series books: Tropes.

I think the big knock on series nowadays, particularly in the YA world, is that they all seem to contain the same basic plot line. Love triangles, in particular, are something that seem to pop up continuously, and are something I, personally, am sick of. You also have the usual YA-paranormal romance fare – werewolves, vampires, angels – and how one person in the book finds out they’re – SHOCK, SURPRISE, and AWE – not human. Admittedly, it does get tedious, and is probably my biggest knock on series in the YA genre. Of course, contemporary books and/or books dealing with less paranormal topics can avoid some of that, although even they tend to mix in the love triangles in copious amounts. It’s the tropes that tend to get the most complaining thrown at them, and are definitely something that make people frown at series books in general.

All of this is just to say that – in my opinion – there are probably too many series books out there. It seems like we are really struggling to find something original and new and fresh, and instead authors are relying on tried and true stories or plots that have sold previous series and have proven themselves to have fans. Am I making a blanket statement? Possibly. Admittedly, I do get fed up with books that read too similarly to another I’ve read. Have I read series or trilogies that do something different? Of course. But none of that changes the fact that I would really love to see more books that are stand alones and fabulous!


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8 Responses to Merin’s Musings #3: Sequels, Trilogies and Series, Oh, My!

  1. I agree that series are getting a little out if control. One of my book goals for 2014 is to read more stand alone books and not start any new series that aren’t already in my TBR shelf. Often times I only like one or two of the books in any series, but once I start I have to finish them all.

  2. Quinn says:

    You know, I think I just read an article somewhere (I have no idea where, though) about an agent talking about what’s coming next for YA books. He talked a lot about how contemporary is making a comeback, but also about more standalone books. Yay for that.

    I mean, I like series, too, but I do admit to finding it really difficult to follow through with them. I lose interest in them waiting a year or more for the next installment. Or I get frustrated – like you said love triangles seem to pop up ALL the time in series, and I have absolutely no patience for them.

    I do wish there were more standalones, just because I want to read a book and know that that’s the end. Of course, books like Percy Jackon, HP, or something like that are great and I am all for those series!

  3. Pamela D says:

    I am trying to read more standalone books, because the number of series that I read is out of control. I just can’t keep up with them, and I feel compelled to keep reading them even after they have passed their prime.

  4. I’m not going to lie, the whole non-human main character reveal and inevitable love triangle is what puts me off the YA genre. I’ve never been a big reader of series, but it seems like they’re everywhere at the moment. So, looks like I’ve found myself in the middle of several series. Some I wish were a bit shorter, some I’m happy have as many books as they do. I think I prefer stand alones though.

  5. I do love a good standalone – and I’m far more likely to read one of those than I am a new series. True, it’s more difficult to find standalones. But the commitment isn’t the same. I can enjoy this story, this brief foray into these characters’ lives, and then move on with no regrets. Sometimes I do wish for their stories to continue, but I think I’m much more likely to find myself thinking that a series has been continued past its expiration date – that, or that there shouldn’t have been a series to begin with. One of the most frustrating things is thinking that a book’s a standalone and then realizing it isn’t. I will say, though, that my preferred genre is fantasy, and that obviously is a genre with a TON of series. But I think the viability of a series also depends on the genre – it makes more sense for a fantasy to be a series, with worldbuilding and tons of new concepts to introduce readers to – than for a contemporary to be a series. Anyway, all of this is really to say I hear you and I agree! Standalones need to be better promoted by authors, publishers, and readers.

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