Sunday Salon: On Series

On Thursday, I put up a review that was essentially a rant about three little words: To Be Continued.

What I was trying to get at was the frustration I feel at the cliff-hanger endings that those three words represent. As a couple commenters put it in the original post, I have no problem with series where the story goes from one book to the next. What I have a problem with is books — and this seems to only happen in middle grade books — where the story, the action, just stops.

I’ve thought about series a lot since I finished Mockingjay, actually. About what makes a series good for me, especially. But also, what makes series books appealing. The second one is easy: I think a lot of it has to do with familiarity, and revisiting characters we love. There are times, true, when it’s the story that keeps us coming back for the next book — Hunger Games is an obvious example, as is Harry Potter: it’s the characters, yes, but Collins and Rowling also wrote stories that kept us wondering — and talking about — what happens next.

And yet, they are also two examples — Percy Jackson is a third — where each book could stand on its own. They’re part of a larger story, yes, and it’s best to read them in order. But each individual story has a beginning, a middle, and most importantly, and end. Each story comes to its own conclusion while keeping us intrigued as to where the larger story is going.

Sure, there are other ways to handle a series — Narnia and Wrinkle in Time are two examples that I can think of where it’s familiar characters having new adventures in each book (again: an ending!) — but whatever way it’s managed, and for however long the series goes on (though, honestly, I think if a series goes beyond say, 5 books — or doesn’t have any foreseeable ending — then it’s just the author not being able to come up with any new ideas. Is that harsh of me?), the books must — MUST — have a unique ending.

What do you think: do you have any strong opinions on series books?


10 thoughts on “Sunday Salon: On Series

  1. I have this love/hate relationship with series. I absolutely adore the fact that I get to stay a part of the worlds and characters that the author has created. It makes it feel real for me. What saddens me the most is when I have to say goodbye to a favorite character.

    However, I am such a “I want it now” kinda person. I am impatient and petulant when it comes to waiting for the next in the series. The cliffhangers? Argh.


  2. You know, I have professed over and over again that I do NOT like series books. I am NOT a series person… and yet… I can think of many series that I've really enjoyed (Harry Potter, Larklight, Hunger Games, Percy Jackson…). I think you're right that each book needs to have some kind of a conclusion, needs to be able to stand alone somewhat. But maybe I'll have to admit that I don't mind series so much after all.


  3. Have you read The Passage by Justin Cronin? It is the first of a trilogy, and the first of the series leaves the reader a cliff-hanger to die for. I found myself flipping past the last page over and over again, not wanting to believe I was going to be told nothing else (until the next book). This would normally be frustrating, but like you mentioned in your post, the story itself (around 800 pages) is so deep, engrossing, and just so creatively genius, that the cliff-hanger was not only tolerable, I embraced it. The book was so beautifully and expertly written that I thought Cronin deserved a little “to be continued.” It must be so fun for authors to write that.
    – Rose
    Rhain or Shine


  4. I'm like Abby I groan at the idea of a series, and then I end up reading quite a few and enjoying about half.

    My primary complaint: I strongly dislike reading a book to find out later, when I am wondering why the book isn't progressing toward resolution (you are running out of pages and the story is going nowhere)and then I find out it was book one in a series. It wasn't a cliffhanger really, it was just amputated and left you wondering how it might have ended if they went for a slightly longer book.

    I get tired of everything being a series and become cynical as to why. I like a series that announces when it is going to stop, like they have a plan. Just the same, the first book cannot be all about foundation work, and the second a bridge to get to the third and final installment.



  5. I agree. I think there should be an ending–I think each book should be able to stand on its own, regardless of whether the story continues or not. I understand that books can be part of a larger whole, but I believe each story can be independent within the whole.


  6. I agree, conteplatrix, that it's easy to get cynical about series. Especially ones where the ending is truncated instead of coming to a full resolution. It makes one wonder about the marketing aspects of it all.

    I'm glad I'm not the only one! Even though a to be continued ending that's okay is kind of intriguing.


  7. First of all, Rose, thanks so much for letting me know The Passage has a cliff-hanger ending. It has been on my TBR stack since it was published and now I know to wait to read it.

    I love series. I seldom read stand alone novels anymore. That is not by intent, but simply because the authors I follow tend to write in series.

    However, I despise cliffhanger endings. I remember years ago that I quit reading one author because of that. Now, so many authors use them, I would be really limited on my reading.

    A story should have an ending. Yes, there can be an over arcing storyline, but each story should have a conclusion.


  8. I love series books because they provide me the ability to see characters I've grown attached to again. Depending on how it's done I don't mind a cliffhanger but I agree when it's a dead stop it's not the best. I also think that if you are writing for a certain age (younger) doing so is just kinda mean. Adults have more patience and can wait longer for resolution but kids haven't built up that ability as strongly. I don't think it need to “end”, there can be doors left open, but there should be resolution enough to satisfy the story.


  9. I have only ever read the Harry Potter series of books, no other series at all. I have never been interested. My favourite books are books which exist as their own entity. I can't read one of the Harry Potter books without starting from Book 1 because to me it is just one very long book (I do love it though!) and I'm sure this would be the case for other series books. I want to know the WHOLE story in one go not build it piece by piece…maybe one day I'll be converted…maybe I just haven't come across the right series of books.
    The Babbling Bookcase


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