& Fridays: On Reading a Series #3: When You Don’t Like the Sequel

You’ve been waiting for this for months. You have it set up as a notification on your phone, in your planner, on your wall calendar ever since you found out the date. It’s the sequel to the Best Book Ever, or The Best Book You Read Last Year. The wait has been torturous. Your parents/friends/dog are sick of hearing how excited you are for this book to come out. You get giddy thinking about re-immersing yourself back into that book world, re-acclimating yourself with the characters. If you’re like me, you have read the first book again in anticipation of this one: you want everything fresh in your mind, you want a seamless transition between the events of the first book into the events of the second.

You reserve your copy online. You are first in line at the bookstore or your mailbox to get that brand new copy in your hot little hands. You open up the book and take a deep whiff of its pages (no? Just me? Okay…). You speed race home, nearly maiming yourself by taking the stairs too quickly. You stay up until the wee hours of the morning to finish the book. Or you just sneak in pages whenever you can – your lunch break, before and/or after dinner, even bathroom breaks. Only a few days after you got THE BOOK, you finish it, close the back cover….and you feel underwhelmed.

Don’t you hate it when that happens?

Sequels are tricky things. I have read my fair share of excellent book series that have just…lackluster second or even third installments. Sometimes it feels like a betrayal: how DARE the author kill off my beloved character. HOW DARE they keep these two apart. HOW DARE THEY NOT WRITE IT LIKE I WANTED THEM TO?! You run a full gamut of emotions. In fact, let’s call it “The Five Stages of Sequel Grief

1.Despair: It is a horrible feeling to dislike a book whose first story you absolutely loved. What happened? You feel like lamenting. Is it me? Is it you? You stare at the book cover, smattered with your tears…

2.  Rationalizing: It probably isn’t as bad as you’re making it out to be. You’re looking at things through the lens of rose colored first-in-a-series-glasses. You loved that first book. This one is great too, in its own way. If you looked up reviews on Goodreads or on your favorite book blogs, you’ll see that you’re just being too quick to judge…

3. Anger: You look up the reviews. And one of two things happens:

  1. Everyone loves the book, and you begin to feel crazy for not liking it and WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU/THIS BOOK?! You get angry.
  2. Everyone hates the book, and their comments fuel your hate-fire so that as you read, you begin to yell at the computer screen: “EXACTLY!”, “THAT’S WHAT I WAS SAYING!”, and “WHY WOULD THE AUTHOR DO THIS TO US?!” You get angry. And people stare at you for yelling at your computer screen.

4. The Break Up: You put your copy of that sequel far, far away. On the shelf furthest back in your bookcase. In the guest bedroom where you don’t have to see it every day. Pitched into the backyard so the worms can have it (on second thought, don’t do that. Respect the books). You and this series need a Time Out. You just need some time to process things, to grow as a person, to really figure out what it is you want in life.

5. Acceptance/Forgiveness: Sometimes books and people – good books, good people – just don’t mesh. Even though you loved the first book, the second book just didn’t go the way you expected. And that’s okay. Chances are that someone – maybe many someones – out there liked it. And good for them. Maybe you’ll read the next book in the series, you know, to see if it picks up again. You’ll just go into the next one with lower expectations. And you’ll be fine with it if it’s not that great too. But by god, if that one sucks too….

See, lots of feels involved with series reading. On the flipside, what if you love the sequel, and were just “meh” about the first book? I’m struggling with writing reviews for that situation right now. What happens when you and your book reading friends disagree on a series installment? TELL ME YOUR THOUGHTS!

And happy weekend J



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