Thursday, June 24, 2010

Book Talk - The Power of the Series

Today's Book Talk post comes from Kris from Voracious Yappetite.  Kris is a YA Blogger whose blog is filled with reviews, blogger and author interviews, book news and information about the latest YA releases.  Take some time to visit her blog and experience the greatness for yourself!

The Power of the Series
Why We Stick with Series That Disappoint Us, Get Progressively Worse, or We Just Plain Don’t Even Like That Much

A few weeks ago, I was reading a review on a fellow YA blogger’s website about the latest installment in a well-known YA book series. The blogger lamented that the series started out strong and that they basically devoured the first few books -- but then things changed.

As the series progressed, the story lost its spark. It wasn’t as captivating or suspenseful anymore. The characterization was lacking. The plotting seemed forced. The latest book, the blogger said, was hard to slog through.

Interestingly, though, the blogger admitted that they would most likely continue with the series. Despite the fact that the series had gone from a favorite to a disappointment, the blogger planned to stick it out to the very end.

I realized, as I read this post, that I’ve heard other readers make similar statements. And that includes me.

Which had me marveling over the power that series have over us. How fascinating it is that a series doesn’t have to deliver with every book for readers to continue with it!

After a bit of rumination, I decided that there are a few reasons that I attribute to this strange “sticking it out” commitment that we make to less-than-stellar series:

- Positive thinking. You hope that the series will regain its former glory or improve after a slow start. If you liked the series from the beginning but the latest book was a disappointment, you hope that it was just a fluke and that the next book will be just as great as the first ones. If you didn't really care for the first book but you're planning to read the next book anyway, then the series has probably garnered a lot of publicity and buzz, been a favorite of a friend, or been widely adored by other readers. You think to yourself that maybe you have been overly critical of the first book or that the author just needs time to "come into their own," and that maybe you should give the next book a chance.

- Investment in the characters. Each book you read in a series strengthens the connection you have to the characters. The longer you spend with them, the harder it is to let them go. You become attached. They mean something to you, and even if they’ve annoyed you or let you down recently, you’re willing to give them another shot.

- The cliffhanger. We’re all familiar with the cliffhanger -- it’s that twist plugged in the last chapter of a book, or even the very last page, that leaves your mouth hanging open, eyes popped wide, heart thumping a mile a minute, all the while thinking, WHAT JUST HAPPENED?!?! It’s that breathless, nail-biting moment that causes you to freak out for the next 6 to 12 months, tossing ideas back and forth with fellow readers about what it all means and what will happen in the next book. Even if the entire book up until that point wasn’t all that great, the cliffhanger is enough to bring you back for another round.

See a theme with the reasons above? It goes like this: we “stick it out” because no matter how we feel about each individual book, the fact remains that after each book, there is no real conclusion. Regardless of whether the main conflict in each installment is resolved, the series as a whole isn’t over. So we are left to wonder: will the series get better? Is this latest book just a blip in an otherwise great series? What’s going to happen next with the characters? In terms of plot? How will the story finally end in the last book? A series’ ultimate power is its ingenious ability to manipulate our desire to know -- and that’s often reason enough to keep us coming back for more.

It’s sure worked on me, a couple of times! Has the power of the series gotten to you before?


  1. Sticking with a bad series is like sticking with a bad boyfriend. A lot of those same reasons could be applied both ways. Ha. I had the same thoughts about HON series. It just needs to be over with already. It's so true when Kris says that we stick with it b/c of positive thinking. I know I always hope that it will get better, but it never does. :( I agree with her when she says Spells was better.....very true...unfortunately the sequel being better is rare. Great post!

  2. I swear you are reading my mind about series! Haha, theres a few that I feel exactly how you described :P You're so right though, positive thinking can probably get me through a book, along with just wanting to see how it ends because of those dreaded cliffhangers! Fantastic post :) It's like once youre past the second or third book, you are at a point of no return... must. keep. reading :P

  3. I too have been sucked into the series that doesn't finish as strong as I wanted it to - and yes, it continues to happen. I am getting better at listening to others opinions (especially the book bloggers) and have found myself more able to not read "the next in the series" if I hear it is not stellar! I am thrilled to hear that Spells is better than Wings! I am looking forward to several series and am truly hoping that they are all worthy!

  4. Yeah...I'll pretty much stick with series for as long as it takes because I hate cliffhangers or not knowing the answers!

  5. I love series fiction but there are a few series that I've had to push myself to continue reading. One in particular is Michael Scott's The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel. Book one started off well, book two was okay, but book three I could barely finish. Now I have book four, The Necromancer, at home and I have low hopes for it but I will still give it a try because I want to know what happens. Each book has a cliffhanger type ending and it is going to be a long series.

    Very insightful post!


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