Friday, November 12, 2010

Where Have All the (Stand-Alone) Stories Gone?

As  rule, I'm not a big fan of sequels. Sure, there are a few really great sequels, trilogies, and series that I absolutely love, but I'm always hesitant to pick up a book that I know is going to turn into a series.

Especially if it's contemporary.

Sci-fi and dystopian (especially dystopian) is different; lots of times the story contained in a dystopian novel is too big to tell in one book. These books have world-building, good guys and bad guys, epic battles, and, very frequently, world-changing events. The need a lot of space. A lot of pages. More than one book.

But contemporary novels? The stories in them, more often than not, are one-shots. They're about falling in love or falling apart or finding yourself or losing someone else. They're about family, friends, school, life - and the events that change us, shape us, or make us. These stories are incredible, but they fit in one book. Much of contemporary YA is writing about a person, event, or time, that really matters to the protagonist. Someone or something that changes them, teaches them, or makes them into someone better than they were before. Oftentimes it seems like turning these fabulous stand-alone stories into series just diminishes the impact. It drags out a story that shouldn't keep going. A story that works so great alone.

And it makes me sad to see so many perfectly wonderful stand-alones being turned into or planned as series. Yes, there are fabulous contemporary series; there are stories that need more than one book to be told and worlds where, even if the story can be contained in one book, it's such fun to read more. But there are also a lot of series that shouldn't be, and personally I'm not averse to reading the first book and - even if I love it - stopping there. Because sometimes that's what needs to happen.


  1. I completely agree. I've been a confused about the sequel-hype that seems to be spreading throughout the YA section. I don't understand the appeal of these trilogies and everything. I'm more open to continuing the series if the sequels are more of an unplanned thing and take longer lengths inbetween to publish; when two or three or four or more come at me at once, I lose interest quickly.

  2. I struggle with this, too. There are a lot of books being published where a sequel or trilogy is planned, but I don't understand why. What I'm noticing is that this can actually be a detriment to the novel. You're right about it diminishing the impact that a story can have.

    Some of the books I've read this year would have been stronger as stand-alone novels, but sequels are planned. Amanda Howell's The Summer of Skinny-Dipping is, apparently, going to have a sequel. It doesn't need one.

    As much as I love the Scarlett books by Maureen Johnson, I don't know how I feel about that story continuing indefinitely, either.

    Are there specific titles that you have in mind? I'm curious about what books you'd be happy to stop reading after the first.

  3. Clementine Bojangles - OMG AWESOME NAME.
    I loved THE MOCKINGBIRDS so much that I'll probably read the next one just to see if it stacks up, but honestly I don't see why that book needs to be part of a trilogy. It's an absolutely fantastic stand-alone and unless it's done really well I feel like a trilogy will just take away from that. I also think (though I've read all three that are out so far) that the Ruby Oliver books could have stopped after THE BOYFRIEND LIST... that was a great novel that didn't really need to be continued. It works so well by itself. And, even though I liked the sequel to TOP 8 more than the first book, it wasn't a story that needed to be continued like that.

    I agree with what you said about the Scarlett books too -- I love them and think that because there's such a fun cast (ahem, SPENCER) they work as a series... but they definitely didn't need to be a series. The first one was so great by itself.

  4. We really did blog about the same thing. Funny :)