Sequels, whether in books or movies, have a tremendous amount of pressure attached to them. Not only do they have to compete with its predecessor’s sales numbers, but it also has to compete with the audiences expectations. Those expectations are very steep for a sequel in the book world. Not only does the first book have to end in a way that leaves the reader wanting more immediately, but the sequel itself also had to be captivating enough for the reader to continue reading. In a world filled with dozens of new books a week, it becomes extremely hard to keep track of different series, and in what priority they should be read.
There are many series out on the shelves right now, and no other genre knows more about series than YA. What makes a good series, or a good sequel? Here are five elements I think help a sophomore book succeed.
- Good Timing. If the first installment releases with success, then it would be very smart for the next book to be published as soon as possible. This might sound easier than it actually is, considering the writing process, as well as the editing that is involved with creating a great sequel. Take for example, Veronica Roth. Her debut novel, Divergent, was released in early 2011 to great success, yet Insurgent, her sequel was just released in May of this year. In reality this time frame is extremely fast considering how many pages are inside the book. In many instances the writer begins writing the second book almost directly after the first book is done its final edits. That way there is less wait time for readers. For a series, timing is everything, the harsh reality is that if the second book takes too long to reach its audience, then the readers might forget about it and move on.
- Intrigue. Here is where things can get interesting for some authors. They need to create a plot line that sucks the reader in, yet doesn’t repeat what happened in the first book. Here, an author can create conflict between two characters. This is the most common of plot lines, especially in YA. It could come in the form of a fight between best friends, or a couple. Or it could even be the inclusion of a love triangle. This last example can be a very risky move for YA authors, because their characters are usually so beloved by fans and they have created such a bond between these characters that it is hard for readers to see another person enter the picture. (*Spoiler alert*) An example of this in YA is the recently released Dreamless by Josephine Angelini. She decided to take the risk and add a second love interest for the lead protagonist Helen. This came with a lot of backlash from fans that were devoted to the relationship that she created between Helen and Lucas. When I read the book last week, I honestly didn’t know what to expect from this plot twist, but I have to say it added a lot of character development to the novel, and you saw different sides of different characters. It worked really well.
- Logic. The sequel has to take the next logical step in the plot. If the Hero beat the Villain then what’s next? Out of all the possible scenarios, the most logical one must reign supreme, or else the author might lose some readership. If the story leads the reader into something that is unbelievable it damages the authority of the writing and it might deter some readers from reading further on into the series. I know I have read books in the past that deter from the plot line I thought to be the most logical and have since stopped reading that series. Without logic readers feel disconnected with the setting as well as the characters. By staying logical, it helps readers maintain a connection, and helps create a good sequel.
- Stay True. A sequel should always stay true to the first book. This element is very similar to the previous point because, by deviating from the original, readers will disconnect with the story and stop reading. Everything about the story, including the plot, setting, and characters has to stay true to what the reader feels is believable, otherwise the author is putting the reader into a sort of limbo. This is where confusion on behalf of the reader can set in, and it begins to affect their connection with the series. This element is extremely important. Without this, the reader would be lost in a world they do not understand and it would deter them from continuing with the series.
- A Surprise. A sequel should surprise its readers. There is nothing better than reading a book and getting so shocked that you want to throw the book at the wall. This happened to me while reading Lauren Oliver’s Pandemonium. I will not ruin the ending, but let’s just say that my wall had a scuff mark after I finished. Being surprised is the best part of reading a book, let alone a series, and if an author can continue to surprise us time after time then, by all means makes a series as long as you want!
So there you have it, my 5 elements that make a good sequel. There are many things that attribute to a series being successful, and I am not saying that it is only these five things that create a good series. One can also say that character development, writing style, and reader chemistry are extremely important as well. I love reading series, and it seems that every book I pick up is the start of a new one. If a series really grips me I will always read them, no matter how long in between books, or how many love triangles appear. Some just stick with you forever.
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