Off the Shelf – March 30

Listen here.

Enough with the sequels already.

So I have decided that I have a pet peeve: sequels. It seems like more and more young adult novels have sequels or are part of a trilogy and it irritates me…and I can’t quite figure out why.

My most recent experience is with a book that I started reading last week called Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne. It was actually a pretty decent book, if you are into post-apocalyptic fiction – which I am not, btw. So, it’s the story of brothers Dean, who is 16, and Alex, who is 13, and they live in a town called Monument which is about 50 miles outside of Denver. On their way to school, there’s a freak hail storm – only the hail is like pieces of rock. They manage to take refuge in a huge Greenway Superstore and their bus driver tells them to stay put until she can bring back help. There are 14 kids all together – thus the name of the book Monument 14 – ranging in age from 5 – 18. Turns out, the hail storm is actually a byproduct of a volcano, which set off a megatsunami, which caused chemicals to be released from a nearby government facility. Total page turner. In fact I had so much fun reading it, I went out and bought the sequel, Monument 14: Sky on Fire before I was even done the first book. The second book…same as the first, really. Teens in peril because the world isn’t safe anymore. Again, I had fun reading it because, of course, now I am invested in the characters. I want to see how they survive, if they have any chance of being reunited with their parents. But when I got to the end of this book I felt…less excited and more sort of annoyed. The third book is called Monument 14: Savage Drift and I guess I will purchase it eventually, but I am happy to leave Monument behind.

So, this was the impetus for me to think about sequels and why there seems to be so many of them in YA fiction, particularly speculative fiction. I don’t think we can totally blame Suzanne Collins for the recent popularity of trilogies, but here’s where I make a confession. I loved The Hunger Games, but I haven’t read either Catching Fire or Mocking Jay. I did a little digging, and it seems that I am not the only person who is suffering from trilogy or sequel fatigue – okay, not an actual condition, but lots of other avid readers feel the same way I do about trilogies.

In 2013, Publisher’s Weekly was already talking about trilogy fatigue. I think at one time in the not too distant past it was easier to get a book deal if you were selling a trilogy, but publishers aren’t looking for dystopian fiction as much as they are looking for realistic fiction these days…so trilogies, hopefully, will be on the decline. Thank God – because, honestly I can’t keep up.

That said, as a person who spends a good portion of her time trying to encourage students to read – a series isn’t a bad thing to hook a kid. If you can get them to invest in one book, if they like it – then there’s a good chance they’ll stick with the series.

On the other hand, there’s a lot to be said for books that just finish – even if it seems like there might be the potential for more, like Holly Black’s fabulous vampire novel The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, which, sure – she could have carried on. Or Courtney Summers’ This is Not a Test, which I talked about a few weeks ago – totally left itself open to a sequel (and there is an e-sequel which I will never read because the ending of that book was perfect…even though I will have to imagine what happens to those heartbreaking characters)

Still, if series are your thing, here are some worth checking out:

Top of my list Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking series, three books: The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Ask and the Answer and Monsters of Men. I’ve talked about these books before. I recommend them all the time in my classroom and I’ve had very few complaints.

Ilsa J. Bick’s Ashes series: Ashes, Shadows and Monsters (I’ve only read the first book – see what I mean, I can’t keep up) but students have been regularly checking this series out.

Kelly Creagh’s Nevermore series: Nevermore, Enshadowed and a third book which hasn’t come out yet, I think it’s called Oblivion.

Simone Elkeles’ Perfect Chemistry, not really a series but three different novels about three brothers: Perfect Chemistry, Rules of Attraction, Chain Reaction