Young Adult Fiction is often plagued by two things: the ‘Genre of the Day’ (think vampires, then werewolves, then dystopia, sick lit, and the like), and the Never-Ending Series.
Genre of the Day goes a bit like this: one book sells brilliantly which happens to have an interesting selling point. For Twilight, it was vampires. Then, over the next few years, it seems like every book released also has this interesting selling point. Some books are brilliant, and give a new dimension to the mythology or lore, and are a real contribution to the genre. Others are little more than copies, with different names but the same basic plot. Then, another bestseller comes along, and the Genre of the Day changes to a new genre, and suddenly all the bestsellers are about werewolves, mermaids, zombies, ghosts, etc.
The Never-Ending Series is an affliction like no other. It usually starts with a pretty good book with pretty good characters, and then a few more good books. By the time you hit the sixth or seventh book, so much character development has happened that the series is unrecognisable – the characters have changed, half the cast have been killed off, and their motives are very different. Suddenly, the story and characters that made you fall in love with a series is gone, and you’re left with book after book after book, released mere months after the other, as beloved author starts milking this cow for all it’s worth.
The Sookie Stackhouse Series by Charlaine Harris
I first got into the Sookie Stackhouse novels when 8 had been released. I read five in one week. They’re really easy to read, with about a billion love interests, and I couldn’t wait for the next one to come out. But then, the last few weren’t so good, and they were expensive – about £10 a pop for hardback. I waited a year to read the 11th novel, just so it’d be cheaper on paperback. I didn’t bother reading the 12th or 13th (the finale) because I read the reviews first – and they weren’t good. The TV adaptation went the same way – a stellar first season, but by the fifth, I’d stopped watching.
The House of Night Series by P.C. and Kristin Cast
When I first read HoN, about five books were out in the US, and they were slowly being release here in the UK. The first three books were brilliant, and the few after that were good too, although the plot was getting a little strange, and it just wasn’t progressing. This was a series that was dragged out way too long, and I know I wasn’t the only one who stopped reading after the 6th book. There’s 12 books in this series – if you look at the reviews for the final book, they’re all celebrating that this series is finally over. This is definitely a case of a book series being stretched too far.
The Vampire Diaries by L J Smith
The first Vampire Diaries trilogy was published in 1991. They’re fairly short novels, and so they were repackaged as two books – the first book contains the first two stories, the second contains the conclusion to the trilogy, and the sequel (The Reunion). The trilogy is written from the perspectives of the series’ main love interests, Elena Gilbert and Stefan Salvatore, with the sequel written from the perspective of Elena’s best friend, Bonnie. They’re honestly not that great, but they are the source material for the CW series The Vampire Diaries, which has become one of my favourite shows, and which first premiered in 2009. To say it’s been popular would be an understatement, and so LJ Smith decided to write more books, to capitalise on the newfound interest in the characters.
First came The Return Trilogy. I read the first book, then stopped. Then, there was The Hunters trilogy, which was ghostwritten, and another ghostwritten trilogy, The Salvation. After the Return trilogy, Smith was fired from writing the Vampire Diaries books, and so she wrote her own sequel trilogy, Evensong, which is available on Amazon Kindle. There’s also six books based on Stefan’s Diaries, and three books so far based on the spin-off TV series, The Originals. That’s 25 books in total, all stemming from a trilogy which honestly, wasn’t all that great.
Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
Here’s one I didn’t give up on. I bought my copy of Vampire Academy before it was even released in the UK. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t plan on reading any more. But then the books were cheap and I ended up buying a few more (this is a very strange method of buying books that I wouldn’t necessarily recommend). I read the second book, and actually liked it a lot more than the first. By the time I hit the fourth book, I knew I had to finish the series, and so I waited impatiently for the sixth book. That was five years ago. Then Richelle Mead published a sister series, Bloodlines, which I have been reading, but haven’t quite got around to finishing (I’m on book 4, and they’re just not quite as good as the originals).
Quite often, the first book of a series isn’t an accurate reflection of the series as a whole. Sometimes that means that the first book is brilliant, and the following books just don’t quite live up to it. Other times, the first book isn’t too great, but the other books capitalise on the established world, and suddenly the plot livens up and the characters become a lot more interesting.
So what’s the moral of the story? When your fans want more (and you want to write more), sometimes just carrying on the current series isn’t the key. Expanding the universe, and focusing on other characters, can work, if done well. Sometimes, you just have to end a series on a high, and move onto something new. If it’s good, your fans will follow you.
Have you given up on a series? Or have you finished a series only to find you wish you hadn’t? Comment below or tweet me at @annalisebooks 🙂