I just read an awesome blog post over at Julie’s Blog about series burn out, and it inspired me to write my own thoughts on series and stand-alone books.
There are so many series out there today that it can seem hard to find a decent stand-alone book. I think it’s easy to see why most of the really smash-hit YA and children’s books published over the last decade or so – thinking of Harry Potter, Twilight, The Hunger Games and Beautiful Creatures – have been series books. Readers get familiar with the characters, they find an author whose writing style they like, and the best authors manage to create cliffhangers that provide a partial resolution but give you a compelling reason to read the next book.
Unfortunately, like Julie, I’m starting to suffer from series burn out. Admittedly, there are certainly some series out there which have got me desperately waiting for the next installment – Michael Grant’s Gone, Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls, Curtis Jobling’s Wereworld, Rick Yancey’s Monstrumologist and Susie Day’s Pea all fit the bill there! In addition, two of my favourite books so far this year brought trilogies to a conclusion – the stunning Another Life by Keren David and the wonderful A Reckless Magick (which I’ll be reviewing this week) by Stephanie Burgis.
However, there seem to be a lot of other series out there which just aren’t capturing my attention at the moment. Rachel Caine’s The Morganville Vampires is one where I’ve got partway through and just can’t motivate myself to read on (that’s partly vampire burn out as well, to be fair to Caine!) while Rachel Vincent’s Soul Screamers is another which I’m struggling with slightly – I love the central concept and quite enjoyed books one and two but just knowing there’s so many more to read to get to the end has got me putting them to one side in my current mood.
CLIFFHANGERS GOOD AND BAD
As well, the cliffhanger ending is capable of really annoying me. It can be done brilliantly – Jillian Larkin’s Ingenue is a great example of how to bring a book to a satisfying conclusion but provide a tease that makes readers want to come back. Cora Harrison’s Debutantes is the first in a series but you wouldn’t know it from the ending, which is perfect – she’s obviously trusting in her fabulous characters to bring the readers back with no need for a cliffhanger, and it’s definitely worked for me – I can’t wait for book 2!
Too often, though, there seems to be an ending which barely resolves anything – The Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin being the worst recent offender in my eyes, closely followed by The Hunting by Sam Hawksmoor (which I believe was originally set to be the conclusion of Genie Magee’s tale, but the series has now been changed to three books – not a good decision, at least in my opinion.) The second and third books in John Marsden’s Tomorrow series also suffer a bit from this. For me to not feel at least slightly cheated by an ending, there has to be a sense of at least partial closure, I think. (There are exceptions to that rule, as well, though – Michael Grant’s Fear and JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince both pulled off endings I’d normally dislike, mainly because I was so invested in the characters that the authors seemed to have ‘earned’ the right to tantalise us like they did.)
STAND-ALONES AND LINKED BOOKS
Perhaps my favourite solution to this dilemma is when an author writes books which are linked, but aren’t really series books. Regular readers probably know all about my love for the work of Jaclyn Moriarty, whose books are all set in Ashbury High and have characters cropping up in bit parts, but each focus on a different group of students (apart from Finding Cassie Crazy and Dreaming of Amelia, which both follow Emily and Lydia as two of their main characters.) Similarly, I was thrilled to find out that Katie McGarry’s next book will see Beth, a supporting character from Pushing The Limits, take centre stage, and I loved the way that Keris Stainton followed up Jessie Hearts NYC with Emma Hearts LA, giving my favourite character from the earlier book the chance to stand out on her own.
What does everyone else think on the series fiction vs stand-alone books debate? I’d love to read your replies in the comments section!