I used to be a dedicated sequel reader. If I liked the first book, I HAD TO read the rest of the series. In my mind, the story wasn’t finished until I read the whole thing. There was even a time I wouldn’t start the first book until the whole series was out, assuming I knew ahead of time.
In recent years, I’ve become less committed to reading sequels. Here’s why:
- The first book is usually the best. Especially in the case of trilogies, the second book often seems like filler, and then the third finishes the story, but not always in a way I wanted.
- The first book tells a complete story. Most first books don’t have huge cliffhangers. Knowing what I now know about the publishing industry, they wait to see if there’s going to be an audience before they commit to the others in the series. If I liked the ride in the first one, why keep going?
- If there’s a romance in book one, there’s a break-up (or at least lots of conflict) in book 2. I like happily ever afters (or happy for nows). Usually, the romantic conflict in book 1 makes sense. In book 2, it often feels like the author said, “Okay, I need to add conflict in this relationship so here’s this random thing to arbitrarily break the characters up, only for them to make up by the end of book 2 then split up again in 3.” It causes me anxiety I don’t need. I’m an unrepentent shipper.
- There are often plot holes or continuity errors. It’s really hard to anticipate every single thing you need to put in a book. So if the entire series wasn’t plotted out before book 1 was written, sometimes things get lost.
- Resolved conflicts often get rehashed. At the end of book 1, everything seemed great. The antagonist was vanquished, the character arc was completed, birds sang and flowers bloomed. But in book 2, forget all that. The character is backsliding and the villain wasn’t really dead. I know in real life, change doesn’t always stick, but if I wanted real life, I wouldn’t be reading, would I?
- Often I like the ending I pictured for a character better than what happens. Where a book ends changes it’s meaning. In real life, couples break up, good plans go bad, and happily ever after isn’t simple. But a book, depending on where it ends, can freeze a wonderful moment in time. The sequel has to introduce conflict and sometimes ends up going in a direction I don’t want to see happen for a character I love (or hate).
- A character changes… too much. There are some series I loved. I loved the character and their arc that crossed several sequels. But then the character started to change in ways I didn’t like. They went in directions I never wanted to see. So at some point, I just stopped reading. I kind of wish I’d stopped before things went so wrong.
I don’t hate every sequel, of course. I loved all the Harry Potter books (because I’m not dead inside) and I will follow Jojo Moyes anywhere. It’s just that… there are too many books out there for me to live with the disappointment that sums up most sequels.
What’s your take on sequels?