An interesting conversation with a friend led me to today’s topic, and it really got me thinking. I’ve read standalone books, trilogies, and long-running series. Some of them I’ve enjoyed entirely, while other I ended up leaving in the dust. And it got me to wondering, why?
It’s true that often times we find ourselves reading a book series, and some books aren’t as good as others, but I think that’s to be expected. One of the reasons I believe that is because we grow attached to the characters we’re reading about, and often times we find ourselves waiting months, if not a year, for a sequel or the next installment. That gives us time to let our imaginations go to work. I know that for me, sometimes I get the next part of the series built up in my head to be one thing, and then it goes in a different direction. Sometimes that direction is even better than I imagined, but other times it leaves me disappointed. That isn’t always the book’s fault. Sometimes my expectations and imagination get the best of me. Maybe it’s not even possible to live up to that expectation. But regardless of why a book fails me, or any other reader, it still leaves me to ask the question: When do I call it quits? And nine times out of ten, I’ll finish it off. My love for the characters and the books will carry me through. But that isn’t always the case.
There’s one series that stands out in my mind, and I won’t name it, but I will say that it made me fall in love with reading. My wife bought it for me, I devoured it and every book in the series I could find afterwards. The disappointment started when, as I said above, I had certain expectations of things that were building up, and they never got cashed in. In this case, that wasn’t entirely my fault, as the author led me to believe for multiple books that this was building up to some crescendo of awesomeness. However, the climax never came and as such, it left me disappointed. However, I trusted the author and so I kept the faith. I kept that faith for five more books, until the things I loved about the series slowly drifted into the background and became noise. A few books later, continuing without my faith, but primal hope instead, the story I thought was being told vanished completely, and the series became something completely unrelated. That was when I called it quits. I read about sixteen books in that series, and then I gave up. That’s really the only series I’ve ever started, fallen in love with, and then let go completely. The desire to know faded.
As time goes on, we grow as people, as do authors and the stories they are telling us. As such, sometimes our visions and/or our tastes change. This is to be expected. The point is, I loved that one series to a point, and even after that point had fallen off, I gave it the benefit of the doubt. If there was an end in sight, I might have continued reading just to see how it all played out, but even now, years later, it doesn’t look like that will ever happen.
I think this is where the shorter series have a better chance. If I’m to read a five or six book series, and I love the first three, but four and five disappoint me, I’m still going to get number six or even seven just to have a sense of closure. When you start running into ten books or more, the stakes change. I’m not willing to commit to that kind of reading when I’m already feeling disappointment in the earlier installments. That, of course, is just me.
So my question to you, dear readers, is when do you give up on a series? Is passion with the first book enough to carry you through a few more to see resolution, and hope the magic returns? Is there a specific checklist before you decide it’s not worth finishing? What makes you say enough is enough?
I know there are a thousand different variables that contribute to this: how long the series is, when the disappointment starts, etc. But gives us a few examples and let’s get the discussion going from there.