Serial Series: The Problem with series that just won’t quit.

Posted March 30, 2014 by Cristina (Girl in the Pages) in Bookish Thoughts, Books, Discussions / 10 Comments

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I recently moved last summer, and in the long process of unpacking and setting up my new living space I’ve acquired three lovely new bookshelves and a neat loft area to serve as my at-home library. In the process of unpacking, purging, and organizing all of my beloved books (which I generally find to be a soothing activity), I’ve noticed a rather growing (literally) trend on my bookshelves: series that turn into twelve book monstrosities that I lose interest in halfway through. This is really quite a shame, because I’ve invested money in and no doubt enjoyed the premise of these series, but after a time they trail off into oblivion.

The problem with series that start to trail past the four, five, and six book marks (in my opinion) is that they slowly disengage with the reader. For instance, if a series only has one book coming out every year or two every eighteen months, I’m probably going to have to go back and reread the entire series over again every time the next book is released in order to refresh my memory enough to enjoy the story, which is a chore. Often times I tend to outgrow a series, such as if it’s a middle-grade series that spans over several years when I’ve moved from middle to high school, or that are even still being published when I’ve enrolled and/or graduated from college (The Clique and the It Girl series come to mind). It’s a sad thing, because I’ve invested several books worth into these characters, and their plots often become so stretched or changed over the course of the books that the initial spark that drew readers in has long since extinguished (this is what happened to me with the House of Night series; I read the first four books my senior year of high school and was totally enthralled, however it’s dragged on so long that I eventually stopped keeping up with the book releases and now have no idea what’s going on, and as the series progressed, the original framework of the story that drew me in had been all used up and pretty much milked for all it was worth, and there were all these new characters and silly things going on….sorry, ending my rant now).

I’m sure authors and publishers have many reasons for prolonging series, from wanting it to stay relevant for a new generation to simply continuing a formula that’s proven to work (hey, I’ll admit, I would certainly not be complaining if JK Rowling announced she wanted to do Harry Potter 8-12). I actually like Cassandra Clare’s approach with her Shadowhunters universe where she compromises by writing multiple series with new (and some old) characters and new plot lines within the same universe (The Mortal Instruments, The Infernal Devices, and the upcoming Dark Artifices). But it becomes a drain on readers, financially and intellectually, to keep up the thread of a single, chronological series that spans so many books, leading to many unread books that collect dust for years after while readers gravitate toward new, shorter trilogies and stand-alones that are more relevant to the current trends and time.

Do you have this problem on your bookshelf? Have you ever found yourself giving up on or “breaking up” with a series that has just run its course for far too long? Do you think it’s just a marketing ploy to bring in more sales? Or do you love 10+ installment series. Let me know in the comments! I love hearing feedback and engaging in discussion!

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10 responses to “Serial Series: The Problem with series that just won’t quit.

  1. Ah, I also “broke up” with the House of Night Series. I don’t mind a long series, if the story remains engaging, but many authors continue with stories long after they should have been put to bed. I was afraid that the Vampire Academy books would go the same way, but thankfully, they did not.

    • That’s good to know! I haven’t picked up Vampire Academy yet but I know that it’s been around for a while, and I’ve been meaning to read it in the future. Glad to know there’s not a decline in quality to anticipate!

      • I hope you like it. I am thinking about focusing on Young Adult Fiction for my Graduate Studies in Literature. I am thinking about using the Vampire Academy books for a project. They are brilliant in a lot of ways. Enjoy!

  2. Sometimes I can find it difficult just sticking with a trilogy never mind a series. It seems to be rare to get stand alone novels particularly if it’s fantasy. A friend of mine had her novel published. It was successful so the publisher asked for a sequel. It was never her intention to make it into a series but she’s onto book 3 now. Perhaps for many authors they are writing at the behest of the editor or publisher.

    • I definitely agree that it’s probably often times a push from the publisher to continue to write once a single book has been successful. I agree, stand alones in fantasy are so hard to find now…perhaps they tend to lead to longer series because of the unique world building that provides material for so many more characters/plots/ideas?

  3. Amen, sister! I encounter this problem far too often. It seems that nearly every book is part of a series these days and I find I almost have to actively search out stand alones. The House of Night books are always the series I use as an example when talking about this too. I swear it was supposed to finish at book six, it seemed like the natural place for it to end and yet they are still churning out books. You are braver than I to give up on them however, I have followed them for so long now that I feel the need to discover what will happen, even though the books drive me nutty. I think I’m approaching book 9 now. Save meh!

    I’ve actually made it one of my New Years resolutions this year to try and finish off the series I have started because of this very problem. Once I’m up to date I will be much more careful about plunging into long series. πŸ™‚

    I’m glad you decided to post about this!

    • I totally agree with you about HON- book 6 would have been a perfect natural ending! That’s a great goal, I’d love to finish up all the loose ends of series I’ve started as well, the problem is that I need to find the time to go back and reread the previous books in the series in most cases because it’s been so long! And the problem is often not knowing you’re plunging into a long series- what starts out as a supposed “trilogy” ends up multiplying upon your shelves, and you’re already invested.

  4. I agree with your delemmia – series that drag on too far depart from that vital essence that attracted you in the first place (as do many television series). I got bitten by investing my limited funds in series when I was younger only to outgrow or lose interest before the final book. So I don’t buy long series any more. I have, like you mentioned, bought authors like Cassandra Clare who write in the same universe as previous editions.
    Some authors get stuck in the the world and are hesitant to say goodbye to the characters they’ve created, but all good things must end and you never know what incredible thing could be dreamt up just around the corner!
    I’ve now amassed a room full of books in which I love to sit & write, and am thankful to author everywhere for being my best friend growing up. πŸ™‚

    • That’s such a good way to describe it, authors being your best friends growing up, although I find myself more attached to the characters as if they were real people than the authors! I’ve definitely had the problem of investing way too much money on a series I ended up not completing or loosing interest in. I wish I had exercised my library card out more when I was younger! The problem is now when you don’t realize how long a series is going to be when you buy the first or second book!

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