Thursday, May 1, 2014

LET'S DISCUSS: Series Fatigue, Endings & First Book Set-ups

Series Fatigue

I've been feeling a tremendous amount of series fatigue these days. It seems like everything written is being turned into a series, even many contemporaries (check THIS post by Jen @ YA Romantics). I used to try to finish every series I started, but now I've been (a little) better at giving up ones that are not working for me. I even used to try to finish series that unexpectedly introduced love triangles in later books, obviously that backfired on me. A few second books I'm already mourning not reading this year because of that, but it's better for my sanity to move on without even starting them. I'm also trying to be more selective about what series I start, which is hard for me, because I like to read books when everyone else is reading them.

Three series ends that disappointed me this year (the third not as much as the first two) 

Part of my issue with series stems from the fact that I've read several disappointing series ends this year. I never would have predicted this when I started those series, and that has left me second guessing all of my book choices (see three examples HERE, HERE and HERE). It's not a good feeling at all. I'm not sure how to manage my disappointment levels in the future. I don't want to turn into someone who's completely fatalistic about everything I read, but I don't handle crushing disappointment in once beloved series well. I just need to work on my emotional attachment to books, or become better at choosing the right ones from the start. But that's easier said than done.

When a first book feels like a set-up

Second, I feel like I've been using the words "set-up" a lot to describe first books in series recently, as if they're more like prologues before the meat of the story begins in the next installment. I don't know if this is a new thing, something I'm noticing now, or maybe it's just in my head. But so many first books these days feel like they've really just gotten the story going when they end. I doubt that would bother me as much if I read the series back to back, but when I read series books as they release, I often wish the author would give me a little more in the first installment.

Obviously, you have to start somewhere. And I understand that authors need to pace out reveals. Plus I think series as a whole work better when they are planned in advance, especially once you get to the final book. Authors don't want to give away too much early so that the story peaks too soon and has nowhere to go, or get caught scrambling to fit pieces together in the final book. But, recently, I've felt like many have given away too little at first. A few times, it hasn't been until the end of the first book that I've felt a burning desire to continue reading. 

 Three recent reads that I enjoyed overall, but which also gave me the series set-up vibe at times. 

I'm not sure how to quantify this at all. But to me it's the difference between A) feeling like the purpose of the first book in a series is to prepare you for something to come, and B) feeling like the first book is entrenching you in the story right then, which inherently makes you wish for more. Basically, I want to feel enchanted by what is happening right now and not like I am mostly being led to something bigger that I'm being promised is going to happen later. In instance A, the book usually wouldn't stand on its own without its sequels, and it's not supposed to. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, because I do love many series that work this way, and I've loved many series that got better for me after the first book (The Lunar Chronicles, The Queen's Thief, His Fair Assassins to name three). But often the stronger ones for me pull me in all along the way, and each book stands out on its own. 

With everything being turned into a series these days, I want to be blown away in the first book, so much so that I'm compelled to keep reading. I also want to re-instate my campaign to put Love Triangle labels on books, because that would help me out tremendously too. I feel like I'm constantly navigating a minefield of books with triangles. 

Some favorite first series books. I have many more of these! 
Also, for the two series I've read in full (Fire and Thorns and Lumatere Chronicles), I love book 2 even more! 

 I'd love to hear your thoughts on both of these topics!

*I'm a failure at banner making. Please forgive my attempt here! 


  1. I agree with you, it's becoming increasingly difficult to find a book to read that is not a series. Even contemporaries, like To All the Boys I've Loved Before, which caught be by surprise when it ended in a cliffhanger. I do have a love/hate relationship with series because if I love it, I want to read more. More about that world, more about the characters. You get to know the characters so well. But I do feel overwhelmed and exhausted by how many series I'm currently in the midst of reading.

    And yes! So many first books are reading as introductions. Half-Bad is the perfect example. Did anything actually happen in that book?? I actually loved Kiss of Deception, so I didn't feel that way about that book for some reason. The best series are the ones that have a clear plot that is resolved in each book. Like Vampire Academy, Bloodlines, and Harry Potter. There are always things that are not resolved, but you feel like you read a story where something happened and there was resolution.

    And it is sad when you're emotionally invested in a series and then it ends in an unsatisfying way. Ignite Me…don't even get me started. Allegiant…I feel like I need to create a support group.

    I've rambled for awhile, but I'll stop now. But those are my thoughts. Great post! ~Pam

  2. You know, I made the decision to never read Allegiant because of how disappointed readers were by the ending. I feel like with certain series, the ending can either validate the experience of reading the books, or destroy it. With both Divergent and Ignite Me, I feel as if the action-packed plot lines and complex romantic set-ups were steadily leading to a larger conclusion which left readers -- mostly -- upset. With DoGaM, though, despite aspects of disappointment, I don't regret having read the series because each book was so emotionally gratifying on its own.

    And that's why I haven't picked up an unfinished series in a loooong time. I've either been reviewing stand-alone ARCs or ignoring my ARCs of books like Kiss of Deception because the first book, as you said, is merely set-up and I hardly know whether it will go in a direction I like or dislike from that point on. I've become so wary of reading newer books precisely because of these phenomena. I never feel as if I can grasp the true nature of a book with its introduction now, simply because they're wrought with so much explanation and world-building that I don't feel connected -- or cognizant, really -- to the larger storyline. Like you, I prefer those series wherein each novel stands (more or less) alone as it makes the reading experience far richer.

    Anyway, I'm not a fan of these trends, any more than I'm a fan of love triangles, but I feel as though these are here to stay. I'm going through my TBR and finally reading older titles, now, since newer releases are disappointing me if they're part of a series or I'm just too wary of them. Until these series near completion, I'm not ready to throw myself into them. After all, there's only so many times one can deal with disappointment.

  3. I agree with the set-up book comment. You and I have discussed this, and I'm frustrated by it too. My opinion is that, as an author, you should want to start a series with a really strong book -- a book that has a compelling main character and story question. I feel like with a series, the first book is your chance to grab readers' attention and you want to make the most of that.
    Set-up books make me worry that there might not be enough material there to make a series, and if they don't really grab me, I might not make time to read further....
    Jen @ YA Romantics

  4. The most difficult part for me is trying to decide what series to start and what series to wait on. Like you, I want to read them along with everyone else, but more than that, I don't want to waste my time, invest in the characters and the relationships, and then come to find out the second book has a love triangle. That's a huge blow. But how do you prepare for that without hearing the author directly say there won't be one? So I've had to be aside a lot of series starters because I'm just not sure, whereas some I feel pretty confident about and others I'm making a gamble.

    I've had good luck this year as far as series endings - Into the Still Blue, The Bitter Kingdom, Infinite, Banishing the Dark, etc have all been more than satisfactory! Granted, I completely skipped reading Allegiant. I'm trying to think of what other series are ending this year off the top of my head - Opposition should be great, since I know JLA likes her happy endings.

  5. Gosh, Lauren. I've been talking about this with Siiri for some time now. A lot of series endings have been so disappointing lately. I'm honestly wary to read a final book because I fear the crushing disappointment. Do you know what I've resorted to doing now? Reading spoilers and reading the last page. In the past 4 months, I've had 5 series end badly. 5! It makes me angry too, you know, because I've invested not only time, but also my love into a series only to have the author destroy me by the end (by killing off someone I love).

    I was just telling Rashika @ The Social Potato how this killing off of the main character/love interest has become a trend in YA series and I'm honestly not happy about that at all.

    However, there have also been a couple of successful endings for me like Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi. And I'm hoping a few more series will end well (His Fair Assassin!).

    I also agree that a lot of new books are starting to look like an introduction and don't really have plots. I've read multiple books like that this year. I recently read The Taking where basically nothing happened in the first book until the end and then the book ended in a stupid cliffhanger. -_-

    Anyways, great post, Lauren! You and I share very similar thoughts when it comes to series.

  6. I'm glad I decided not to read book 2 and 3 in the Divergent trilogy. I know what happens in the end and I would not have liked it. I was also disappointed with Ignite Me. Can't say I was surprised, though after reading the novella from Adam's POV. The thing that really gets me is when book one and two depicts a character in a certain light then suddenly out of nowhere he changes, I just feel like I've wasted my time and energy on the the series when that happens. :(

    Like Danielle, I've been lucky in that most the trilogies I've finished this year (Ruins by Dan Wells, Shattered by Teri Terry, Into the Still Blue, Three by Kristen Simmons, The Bitter Kingdom) have been thoroughly satisfying.

    "I also want to re-instate my campaign to put Love Triangle labels on books, because that would help me out tremendously too."
    ^ YES, to this. I wouldn't have to waste my time getting invested only to find out there's a damn love triangle.

  7. Agree so much about the set-up thing. I actually thought the same thing about Half Bad – I found it quite bland and kind of pointless for pretty much the majority, then right at the end (literally) it started to get interesting. It was definitely a book written solely to set the pace for the next one in the series, and I hated that.

    And do not even get me started on disappointing series endings. Requiem, anyone? If I stick with a series for three books (or more), I want it to end satisfyingly. Not lazily or ridiculously!

  8. I've definitely read several books recently where I felt like I was just repeating myself in my reviews by saying "this felt like a prequel rather than book one". So frustrating when that happens. Half Bad definitely felt that way for me. Kiss of Deception not as much because I felt like a lot at least happened even though clearly big things are on the horizon, but I can see how you got that vibe from it for sure.

    Aside from Gods and Monsters I haven't read too many disappointing series endings lately. Oh wait. That's because I haven't read any at all for fear they'll be disappointing ;-)

  9. Great post! I've been taking a break from reading YA series for a few weeks and I thought I would have missed it but I really haven't. I've been doing more historical romances and I've read a few that have been really good. There have been tons of disappointments in YA that I've read and I had to give it up for a while. I was even 85% done with a very popular YA book and stopped reading because of the potential for a love triangle in the next book. So I'm waiting until all the books are out.

    I so get what you are saying about the set up first book. The last YA book I read before I took a break was called The Mayfair Moon. It was like nothing happened in the whole book. The whole series is out, and there's no love triangle, but I really didn't want to continue with the series because I just didn't care anymore. It was basically a set up for the other books.

    Don't get me wrong, there are PLENTY of YA books and series that I adore. I've just been in a YA slump and I need something good to get me out of it.

  10. YES! This. Completely this. I was just thinking that the other day when I read yet another review of someone who was disappointed in a series ending (see, it's not just you!). I'd only read the first book in that series, as I've found myself doing more and more (and way too often) and had absolutely no desire to read the next book, even though I'd liked the first. I'm burned out on trilogies. (Now, I can read the hell out of urban fantasy series...why is that?)

  11. I feel you Lauren! i feel like a lot of series enders have been disapointing me lately or others are REALLY GOOD but they just miss...something. I feel like my herat strings werent played enough or i wasn't fully invested in the story and it just sort of fell flat somehow.
    I've also read a lot of reallly good series starters, (THE WINNERS CURSE WAS PRETTY FANTASTIC) but this has me serouisly worried for how book two is going to go! Hopefully it tops TWC because my heart can't handle if it doesn't!
    Great discussion post Lauren!

  12. It's always hard for me to decide to invest in a series! Sometimes, I get really lucky because I try the first book on a whim and find myself immensely sucked in (like Cinder, Throne of Glass, Incarnate). And then I continue on and find that the series stays strong for me (read: I still love all three of these series until now)! It's really an investment though, because that's THREE whole books (mostly, although some are longer, I know) to be reading.

    Right now, I generally only pick up series firsts if (1) the author is already a favorite or (2) the concept is really irresistible. Otherwise, I usually wait until more books in the series release or it's complete and then try to reconsider if I want to read the series or not!

  13. These are all excellent thoughts and questions. I think the best place to start is by taking the pressure off yourself; no matter how much research you do, there is no way you can predict which series will turn out well and which won't. Even authors you love can write a flop of a series ender. Which means all you can do is, as you said, work on your emotional attachment to books. Definitely not easy, but being less personally invested in stories you (unfortunately) have no control over helps. Or you can write fanfiction and write it as it should have ended! :D

  14. I abandoned almost all the series I was reading about a year ago. I had stopped counting at 43 and of those about 80% were love triangles and I realized I was forgetting plot/characters between books.

    Of the ones I start now - like The Winner's Curse (which I loved) - I don't get crazy for the next book anymore. I almost read it as a stand alone because I don't trust that second book will be a) necessary and b) won't introduce a love triangle. I just enjoy it for what it is and check out reviews for the next books first.

    It does take away that OMG I can't wait for the next! book fun from reading but it let's me calm down enough to enjoy reading again.


  15. I agree that I've been noticing more series these days as well. I'm not sure if it's because I read more and am more aware of the industry as a whole (that's probably part of it), or because I'm now more apt to start series when the first book is getting published and thus having to wait for the conclusion for years, or because more series are, in fact, being published. It could be a combination of those factors and then some I'm not aware of. I think I've made it pretty clear on my blog that I'm not the biggest fan of series. I like closure. I don't like feeling as though authors don't really have a story worth telling in three books, but are stretching it out (or adding extraneous parts) simply for money or to satisfy publisher demands.
    I'm on Quintana right now and loving it. I quite enjoyed Finnikin too, but I think that's different in the sense that Finnikin was originally conceived as a standalone. Obviously there's more about those characters and that world that Marchetta chose to tell, but it didn't have to be said, you know? In comparison to Finnikin, Froi and Quintana almost feel like one long story that was broken up into two part (but in this case I find that I don't mind).

    I am so glad I haven't read past Shatter Me in that series. I have a feeling I never will. (Or maybe I will when I have nothing better to do with myself out of pure curiosity. I'll see.) Allegiant was just terrible and is a perfect example, to me, of a series where the author decided to make it a trilogy but had no freaking idea where it would go. Divergent should just have been a standalone imo. Or a duology, splicing together parts of Insurgent and Allegiant into one book. Or something should have changed. My thoughts are the same on the Poison Study series. And Everneath series.
    And I also wasn't the biggest fan of Dreams of Gods & Monsters. As with Allegiant, I was not a fan of Taylor expanded the world so much and introduced huge new conflicts at the end, essentially. It was still good because she's a competent author and all, but it wasn't as great as I was expecting.
    Series I think are strong: The Queen's Thief (obviously), The Lunar Chronicles, Grisha trilogy (so far), Dairy Queen, Eon, Graceling Realm.
    I think I prefer my series as companion novels. Less chance of fatigue because I know going into them that the author cannot be simply trying to extend one main plot. But then the author doesn't have to be done with the characters and world after only one book. Much more chance of it being a win-win situation for all involved, I'd say.
    (And I'm sorry for this super long response. Clearly I'm not good at writing concisely.)

  16. I'm definitely feeling fatigued as well. I have to be a bit choosey about the books I read because I don't want the weight of finishing a series on my shoulders. I used to finish series when I started them but I don't have time for that anymore. It's a huge time investment and I don't want to "waste" that time on series I'm not totally in love with.

    I hate feeling set up! I'd much rather see books have their own story as well as the larger story line of the series. I hate the feeling of the book ending just when things are starting to get interesting.

    Great topic!

  17. What is so hard for me about series lately, is that I get really emotionally invested in worlds and characters. When a final book doesn't provide a satisfying resolution, it's hard on my heart. I don't feel like I get the closure I need to leave that world and characters behind. And I've found that it turns me off to that genre for awhile. After the disappointing ending to DoGaM, I have zero desire to read fantasy. I actually am on the hunt for some good realistic fiction. (And I rarely read realistic fiction. I'm a speculative fiction kinda girl.) I adored Divergent and found Insurgent to be extremely lackluster. Didn't even bother reading Allegiant (but my students also spoiled it for me).

    What I'm beginning to wonder, is if a first book in a series is successful, do they rush the revision/editing process to get the next book out to fans? Because some of these series, I think could have been a whole lot better if an editor had asked the author the right questions in the revision process. For example, with DoGaM, I would have asked Taylor why the chimaera/angel resolution was happening off-screen. Why was it being recapped? How might readers respond to this? Is there a way to involve readers more in the resolution? I don't necessarily think Taylor's vision was off, but perhaps there was a better way to finish telling the story. And perhaps she needed a beta reader or editor to question and trigger other possibilities. First books might get more care and attention, to hook readers on the series. However, I think last books should get equal attention during revision because if readers are disappointed, then it's going to affect the author's brand. I'm going to be hesitant to invest my heart in another lengthy series by Taylor if I fear disappointment.

    Lauren @ Wordy Hughes

  18. I promised myself I'd do my best not to start any new series this year, but that's been an epic fail due to great new novels like The Winner's Curse and The Kiss of Deception. Even so, I'm finding it harder to finish up some beloved series, at least when I'm afraid of the direction the final book will take...or when I've just completely lost interest in the storyline, i.e. City of Heavenly Fire. I'm so hesitant to start new series these days...especially when the first book felt like a stand-alone, then a second book is added -- with no mention of a third -- making me think it's a duology going into the sequel. I hate not knowing what I'm getting into when I start a book nowadays.


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