Serialised books have always been a part of reading, especially in Middle Grade and Young Adult titles. In fact, the Babysitter's Club, Sweet Valley High and RL Stine's horror filled books (prior to Goosebumps) were a huge part of my tween reading. Sequels are written and published for a specific reason, to quench the thirst of the audience but often there are issues:
My big problem is usually the second title. Why? Let me tell you...
- Long, meandering plots that usually fail to lead anywhere or even worse, a lukewarm, supposedly thrilling cliffhanger. Unnecessarily long!
- The introduction or ramping up of the third member of the love triangle. Occasionally there will be a fourth and I would argue very few of us have been involved in love quadrangles as teens. These relationships are usually depicted as snark, snogging and....then nothing. Just an excuse for two characters to have a fight over a third character that never really had a chance to begin with (but confusingly might have due to the next point).
- Huge inconsistent character turns that contradict what was depicted in book 1 or as I like to call it "the whoa-180". Like none of us have witnessed a character we know and love do something completely against type for the soul purpose of plumping up the narrative?
- Many allusions to events that will occur in book 3 with little focus on the events occurring in Book 2.
- Mary Sues
- In paranormal/fantasy- the doubling or quadrupling of supernatural interactions/fights because who can be bothered writing some character development?
- Book 2 is sometimes a necessary evil for a great home run (Book 3.)
My point is....sometimes standalone is better. John Green hasn't written a sequel and neither has Sarah Dessen. The latter has found a great way of giving the reader a glimpse at her older characters by sprinkling them in her subsequent novels. There's a brush of information and the rest is up to your imagination. It's brilliant.
Not every book needs to be a series. Not every author should be aiming to write a series. Let's face it, that first title was probably a WIP for a substantial amount of time. If that novel is then a success, there will probably be a sequel. A not-necessarily-planned sequel written in very little time or with any forethought. Hence my higher regard for titles that are spanned out over a longer space of time- not at the beck and call of the publisher. That being said, there are sequels that comes out quickly, that are of a high standard. They are usually titles that were always intended to be part of a multi-arc series. I can blather on as much as I want. People are sure to find fault in what I am saying.
The thing is...sequels should be well thought out, well written and not published purely for the dollar. They should be motivated by the need to genuinely tell more of the story. If there isn't much more story to tell - the protagonist's journey has been concluded - then there should not be a following novel. It's after this that many of the above points come into play...specifically the artificial conflict created to extend the life of a character.When you simplify a book it's all about what the character wants ...and sometimes all the character wants is retirement.
That being said, there are many novels that I am eagerly awaiting the next title of as they are well written and there is more for the protagonist to achieve. They have been planned as a such, but should the series not be released, then the first can be fantastic as a standalone. The balance is tough and not all authors are successful in achieving this balance. But then again, there are many that are and amazingly so.
I have probably missed many ideas but what are your thoughts on sequels...