Talking Series-ly; When one book MAY be enough...

Something which has been bugging me for a while is the sheer amount of series/trilogies about in YA fiction. You know when you come across an amazing sounding book which has you drooling in anticipation, only to get to the end of the synopsis and see 'First In A Brand New Series'? It's been causing my heart to sink a little bit recently.


I'm not going to lie, I've LOVED certain series in the past. I've religiously collected each book as it's published and get all swoony at a completed set prettily adorning my book shelves. But the truth is, my shelves are FULL of half completed series and it bothers me. I can't physically keep up with some (most) of them and despite still acquiring the latest release, I'm that far behind with a few I doubt I'll ever feel motivated to pick it back up. And some don't even keep to trilogy's...we're talking 4, 5 books behind and there's still no end in sight! I've tried the 'read a series in a month/week' thing but as someone who get's bored easily this doesn't work.  

Just some of the unfinished series I own

It takes a great deal of commitment to stick to a series, and maybe the problem is I have a bit of an issue with commitment. Example: I've been blogging here over two years now...that's longer than I've kept a job EVER! (although my current one is coming up to that) I get bored and move on. Or maybe it's just that last year I started to feel a bit cheated by series. After loving first books, I was disappointed with quite a few sequels. And it annoyed me. It makes me question whether I truly loved that first book as much as I thought, maybe I'm doing the looking through rosy specs thing. 

Or maybe, like the job thing it's just down to not finding the right series for you. I was ready to denounce ALL series a couple of weeks ago, and then I read two amazing sequels that proved some series are worth sticking with (Hallowed by Cynthia Hand and A Million Suns by Beth Revis if you're interested) I would've missed those if I'd decided to wipe series completely off my reading radar. And what about series like The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Sweet Valley High (because I can not imagine my teen years without Elizabeth and Jessica no matter how terrible I think they were in retrospect) We grow up with our favourite series by our bedside and the characters become our friends, are constants when nothing else is.

So I've come to the eventual conclusion that right now, there's just far too many and trying to get in on all of them is neither practical nor possible. I'm not ready to shut the door on series books yet, but I'll picking much more wisely from now on and guiltlessly abandoning those that let me down. What I want more of this year is amazing stand alone novels, to enjoy a brief and enjoyable fling with without all the commitment. 

What about you...are you a series-oholic? Do you find it hard to keep up with them? Or are you too a bit sick of reading a book and having to wait another year for the rest of the series?

30 comments:

  1. What a fantastic discussion post!

    I have to say, it isn't just YA that experiences the series phenomena. Urban fantasy and epic fantasy are *just* as bad. I once counted the number of series that I was partly invested in and it stretched to almost 100! And that is without starting a massive number that I am interested in reading!

    I don't mind trilogies (which epic fantasy is well-known for). At least you know it will be coming to an end. I admire those who write a complete series and then stick at that - the Vampire Academy series and Harry Potter, for instance.

    What frustrates me the most are those long running series that just keep going and going - Anita Blake, Sookie Stackhouse etc. Even the great series like Rachel Morgan by Kim Harrison or the Dresden Files like Jim Butcher become a serious trial to keep up with. I want to read the series but find myself suddenly four or five books behind.

    This year, because I no longer have to maintain my blog, I am making an effort to catch up with those series that I know I LOVE.

    But then I am missing out on all those fantastic new books being published *sigh* I don't think we can win!

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    1. Thanks Amanda :D

      I haven't even tried to step into adult urban fantasty/PNR etc and it's probably a LOT to do with the series thing. Most of the adult books I read are stand alones and it's what is making them more and more appealing.

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  2. I think that if a series has really strong characters, it's nice to go back and spend more time with them, but there has to be more of their story arc to reveal, not just a retread of the earlier books. I think my favourite "series" are when the stories are standalone but are linked by the characters or world, as in Terry Pratchett's Discworld books or (to some extent) Lynn Flewelling's Nightrunners - you aren't left desperately waiting for the next installment, so it's a real pleasure when a new one does come out and you can dive back in!

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    1. Anne, I think you make a good point about series being linked by characters rather than plot. I'm always a bit excited to see a character from a book I've loved get their own story, and usually you can read them out of sequence without feeling lost.

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  3. I'm not a huge series fan, but I read three books this week that have sequels planned. Karen Sandler's Tankborn worked as a standalone, but I'm clamoring for the next one. Kerstin Gier's Ruby Red was clearly only part of a story -- very little was resolved -- but it was so much fun I want to read the others. The third book -- which shall remain nameless -- started strong but really took a bad turn in the middle and ended with an infuriating cliffhanger. Infuriating because I am really mad and no way will I read more after that writer wasted my time like that. Now I wonder if the bad turn in the middle of the novel took place because the writer shoe-horned in additional plot to turn a satisfying standalone into a trilogy. Regardless, one was enough.

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    1. That situation with your third book is so annoying. It does feel a lot of books are stretched to make sequels.

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  4. I feel the same way, I look at my TBR shelf/books to be reviewed on Kindle and about a half of the are series, and another quarter are the furst in series and I struggle to keep up. I really don't have a problem with trologies, though i have lost interest in a lot, but The House of Night/Morganville Vampire kind of series - with like 10books, I couldn't be interested in those characters for that long.

    Fantastic post!

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    1. I think I bought the whole 9 Morganville books I have in one go in a 3 for £5 deal...and before I even started one there's another one or maybe two out. I have FAR too many other books I want to read to catch up so I probably won't be starting it at all. It's a LOT to ask of a reader!

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  5. Writers have a reason for liking series (even Terry P :). If you are writing somewhere other than in the real world, you have to build the world. For the speculative fiction writer, being able to set more than one story in the same universe saves an *awful* amount of work creating new worlds. Most of my books are either SF or a variant of urban fantasy. When I was outlining 'Aphrodite's Dawn', at least as much time went on the worldbuilding as it did on the characters and story. It has to, to create an infrastructure that is believable and stable. I have an outline for the sequel to Aphrodite's Dawn (but only one) and if my new book 'Warrior Stone' is well received, I have at probably two more tales to tell in that world.
    I don't think that makes me lazy as a writer - I tell myself I'm being 'efficient' :)
    But, I can so agree with the comments above about series that just don't seem to have an end, that keep churning and churning. Robin Hobbs springs to my mind, and the way David Eddings seemed to recycle characters and plots in the latter end of his output - and in both cases taking the edge off of early work that was very high quality. I can't say I approve of asking a reader to join you on a journey when you apparently don't have any idea when or where the journey will end

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    1. I can see why building complicated worlds might need a series (and sincerely hope this post doesn't come across as criticising series authors as lazy, definitely not where I was heading...more about acceptance we realistically can't keep up with them all!)

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  6. I used to be a series fan 'till my so-called favorite author disappoints me-Honestly, I don't like the feeling, it's like a bad break-up :( I can't move on. lol

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    1. My favourite authors probably write more stand alones, so I've never been in that position but I imagine it hurts after a long relationship!

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  7. There are some series that shouldn't have been going on for so long - Morganville Vampires and House of Night is just one example. Kitty Norville has pretty much otlived itself already... I think 5-6 books in the series I can live with, anything bigger? I would struggle, especially if I have to catch up. I just won't pick these books up.

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    1. That's the conclusion I've come to. I have to face facts...I'm NEVER going to catch up now so why start?

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  8. I like series books, I like revisiting characters that I loved in earlier books, but I agree I've started so many series and only have the first book and then due to the amount that I want to read and time I end up leaving the series after one or two books.

    That said if a book in a series can stand on it's own two feet without knowledge of the previous (and without a lot of backstory worked into the plot) books I don't really mind.

    I'm not a fan of accidentally picking up book 2 or 3 without realising it's part of a series (I've done this a few too many times lol)

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    1. That's a major problem Jesse and usually how I get behind. Then I have a load of series I need to catch up on as well as other books I really want to read. Keeping the amount of series I read to a minimum instead of wanting them ALL seems a good way to go.

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  9. I used to try really hard to stay away from series because I know I'd inevitably stop reading them. Now it's nearly impossible because everyone is writing series. So far, the only series I've ever finished is the Harry Potter series. The Twilight series is going to be the next series I finish but it's taken me almost four years to read the books- I've spent over a year on book 4, and I'm only half way through it! As much as series like Vampire Diaries pique my interest, I know I'll probably never touch the series because there are like A MILLION books in it! (with the exception of Harry Potter) usually after book three I'm worn out on the series. And, I also find that the longer the series is, there is a greater chance that I will discover a dud in the series, and that's usually when I put the books down and never pick them back up again.

    I wish I was like those people who are series-aholics. I wish I could waiting, biting my nails for the newest book released. I wish I could look forward to reading about X, Y, and Z's newest adventures. But I don't.

    OH! And, the most disappointing thing? Picking up a book and reading it all the way through thinking it's a stand alone novel, only to discover that you've picked up yet another series. Sometimes I don't even bother reading the rest of the series after that realization. Most of the time the book ended where it should have ended, and to read beyond that point, to read book two would almost ruin my reading experience. Like, I recently read Hollowland by Amanda Hocking. I thought it was a stand alone, and at the very end realized it wasn't. I liked the story a lot, but I doubt I'll pick up the second book because I thought the problem had already been resolved.

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    1. I've never even got to Breaking Dawn yet. Part of me feels I should..for closure ha! But the other part knows I hated each book a little bit more, so why put myself through it? Too many books, too little time.

      looking at all my favourite books last year. Mainly stand alones.

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    2. Oh, I felt that way too! The first two were okay. Then I read the third book and it took me forever to get through it. I actually skipped half a chapter in the book because it was boring. It took me forever to even start book four because 3 was...irritating? But I'm so close to the end that I just want to finish the series.

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  10. I like the occasional series, but generally I prefer standalone. I hate starting a series only to find I don't like where its going - its heartbreaking! But when you find a series you love, thats a different matter.

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  11. Great minds totally think alike! This has been on my mind SO much lately. I'll be reading a great book and then I get to the end and there is a ginormous cliffhanger. Which is a whole other topic in itself. I mean, can't they at least tie it up nicely for us? Can't there be some sort of resolution? No. It's always got to be the cliffhanger. So then I need to wait a whole freaking year until the book comes out. Then I'l waiting a whole 3-4 years to get the whole story. Is it worth it?! I'm not so sure anymore. I love gorging myself on a story, but the cliffhangers and the waiting are just doing my head in. It's time to stop. I'm def going to be more selective. Doing some research to make sure it's a stand alone or a companion novel. I need a break from the series.

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  12. I don't mind reading a series, but if it's going to continue for more than three or four books there needs to be a very good reason for it.

    The Tamora Pierce books namely The Protector of the Small series, were a perfect length to me. They covered a couple of years of Keladry's life, in fact the third book covered two or three years alone, with very good pacing.

    I LOVED the first two Obernewtyn books, but after that I developed a large amount of resentment for the series. I stopped reading after the fourth book because the 750 page doorstop only covered about three weeks worth of timeline.

    So for me, it's mostly about the editing. If it's been well edited, and I can tell that each chapter of a book is there for a reason and that each title in the series is driving the series forward then it's all good and I'll love it. But I get really disheartened and put off if I think the series is being drawn out to increase sales.

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  13. I actually love series. But only ones where they feel realistic. I love the Vampire Academy series for example, it feels as long as it needs to be, and that's fantastic. Same for the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy and the Strange Angels series (both of which finished recently). My problem is when a series gets stretched out past the point it needs to be, or when a standalone gets turned into an unnecessary series. Prime example of the former being the House of Night series, which just NEVER ends and the books have descended into garbage. Or The Goddess Test which was a standalone and is now a totally pointless trilogy.
    I think it's also important to remember that sometimes this is a publisher's decision, not an authors, and they might have very little say over how long their series is/whether it is a series. Problem is, they don't care whether you're reading them, only that you're buying them (which a lot of the time we are!)

    Great post though, and I totally agree with you. I stopped reading the Morganville series because I just couldn't keep up, and the prospect of catching up now is too daunting. I'd love to see more standalones.

    The Cait Files

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    1. Oh no you have lambasted my two favourite series Morganville and HoN. While I will agree with you that there have been some changes made to House of Night in its structure and to a lesser degree its style that I don't like I still can't wait to read what happens next. HoN is great because of the multiple characters that have their own plot points and character development. Morganville Vampires is a great series with a believable heroine and well worth the investment it is less like a series than one long story.

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  14. Some series get better and better with each book (Harry Dresden) and some should be retired and put out to pasture (Anita Blake).

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  15. I could probably be counted as a series addict but I have been lucky in my choices and I am very choosy about starting new series. I too have noticed that when you say YA it generally means part of a series but I guess that is to be expected as series generates revenue for publishers and are more reliable than one off novels that may or may not work. This is the same as the music industry still pimping Beatles tracks several decades after the fact, they think hey we know it will sell so why try anything new.

    This is just to show that Harry Potter and Twilight can't take all the blame but this is not necessarily a bad thing. I don't know why having too many good series would be a reason for us readers to complain. I follow a number of long running series, House of Night, Morganville Vampires, Vampire Academy/Bloodlines, Southern Vampire Mysteries, Alex Cross, Heroes of Olympus. I make time for reading them because I want to read them if you find yourself in a place where you think you'll never get to this series or that or to catch up then maybe you just don't like it enough.

    shaftsword.blogspot.com

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  16. I definitely agree, I dont mind if I know the series will only be two or three books long but it has to keep me really interested. I've not read the third Beautiful Creatures book yet because of this and I'm put off starting books like House of Night and Sookie Stackhouse because of the length of their series'

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  17. What a fab post! I've been gritting my teeth lately about the amount of books in a series. I get to the sequel and I think 'AHHH, I have no idea how the first book finished' etc and I lose all enthusiasm for the book. I definitely want to see more standalones in the YA section.

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  18. I can't get enough of series! I do read stand alones, but I love going on a journey with the characters of series, seeing them grow as the stories continue. I learn to love them! Sometimes, I get annoyed that stand alones don't have sequels, because I want more. I'm rarely disappointed with books in a series, and it's just great to pick up a book I KNOW I will like because I loved all the previous books. One of my favourites is the Morganville Vampires series, because it just keeps going, yet stays original, unique, and completely unpredictable. I can't get enough of them!

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