Today I had someone who was building up a teen library, and she wanted popular books. So I walked her around, showing her this series and that series…then she asked, “Are there any popular books that aren’t part of a series? In case I don’t get remember to come back for the rest of them.”
Now, normally, I get the other side of the question…everyone is desperate for teen series, books they can get hooked on.
But a popular, bestselling book that isn’t part of a series? At first, I couldn’t think of a single one. Then a few started coming to me, like Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, or Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. For the most part, it seems, all bestselling fantasy books have a sequel (whether or not The Book Thief should be considered fantasy is debatable, I know…)
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that nearly all of the bestsellers right now are paranormal or fantasy. But is it essential for fantasy books to have sequels?
The case for sequels: Like I said, it’s great getting teens addicted to a series. And with fantasy, you spend so much time building up the world in the first book, you need the rest of them just to enjoy what you already know. It’s all about branding, about a character everyone knows and loves. And of course, for the writer, if the first book is successful, it’s almost a guarantee that you’ll do at least moderately well with the rest of them.
Let’s take the example of Hunger Games. It’s a trilogy, of which the final book comes out this Tuesday (YAY!!! And yes, the Orem Barnes & Noble is having a midnight release party.) Now, could the first book have stood on its own? Absolutely. The main story question was answered. Would we have wanted it to stand on its own? NO. We needed more from those characters. It wasn’t just a story we were interested in now, it was a life, a history, a world. That is a series we couldn’t live without.
The case against sequels: When it comes down to it, are all of them necessary? Or is the writer just milking a good idea for all it’s worth? I’m sure we can all think of examples of a great book or movie which was followed by sequels that were just sort of…blah. And let’s face it, these sequels give a bad name to series everywhere.
So what separates a good sequel from a bad one?
Yep, you’ve guessed it, I have some ideas. Unfortunately, as I started to write them down, I realized that it was getting too long for one post. So stay tuned for next week’s post- Sequels: The Sequel.
I promise I did not do this on purpose.