You Tell Me: When Do You Quit A Series?

You Tell Me: When Do You Quit A Series?

Posted by on Apr 23, 2013 in You Tell Me | 27 comments

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.

    27 Comments

  1. I did give up on Mortal Instruments at book 5. I loved 1-3, tolerated 4 and was bored when I started 5. One day I will read it and 6 but I’m in no hurry.

    The one thing that stops me from reading sequels the fastest is if you end one with a happy ending. If I feel good with where the characters are I will not feel the need to read the next book. I just finished a NA novel like that. I didn’t even know there was a #2 until I finished and I will probably never read it bc I was totally content with book 1 and cant for the life of me figure out why the author decided to tear the main couple apart and add issues in #2. Write a cliffhanger or leave me with lots of questions and I will HAVE to read on bc I hate not knowing the outcome.

    • That’s a great point Michele. I can see how it’s difficult to continue when everything is wrapped up nicely with a bow, only to find out the story isn’t over.

      I’m kind of on the same page as you with endings as well. That’s not say I want to read a six book series with five cliffhanger endings, or five unhappy endings, but I don’t want full closure either. I want enough answers that I feel something has been accomplished, but I still want questions burning in my mind. That’s a sure-fire way to get me to jump right in to reading the next book. Otherwise, I might take a break and forget I have more to read.

    • I’m with you Michele! In book 4, I was like ….what? I didn’t even want to read 5, though I did.

  2. There are only 2 series I’ve stuck with that go past 6 books and the later books are hit or miss. Sometimes the story is amazing and other times I think, meh. But I enjoy the characters and the storyline and stick with them.

    • At least you still enjoy the characters. Maybe there is a point where things just become diluted?

  3. I only give up on series when it becomes apparent that the author has no clue where it is going and they just need to sell sequal. The game of thrones has hit that point with me and I won’t read another.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Charla! I am on board with you on the need to sell a sequel part. I haven’t started the GOT series yet, but that’s a little discouraging. I do love the show though! 🙂

  4. What a great post. You are right. Sometimes the expectations overwhelm the actual release and sometimes the story jumps shark and your like, “Whaaaa?” I have one series I have stuck with for over 26 books. The last 2 have been rather soft in terms of story line and development. I’m hoping the next release brings back the magic that captured me at book one.

    • 26 books!?! Whoa! Now that is some serious commitment. I guess if they’ve kept you going this long, you can’t let one or two lead you astray yet. Hopefully that next one really makes up for the last two!

  5. I enjoy series that have a beginning, middle and end. I lose interest very quickly with series that go on and on — especially if they are all based around one character. I find that the main character in these types of series end up driving me nuts. Sookie Stackhouse is a good example of this. I loved her in the first 4 or 5 True Blood books, but by the 9th or 10th I wanted to kill her myself!

    With a few exceptions, I prefer series of 4 or 5 books and I enjoy it when there are a bunch of interconnected main characters. Lack of growth/development in an MC, and no real plot direction will be enough for me to move on to another series. There are too many fantastic books out there for me to keep reading books in the hope a particular series will pick up.

    • Hey Kristy! I’m a big fan of the shorter series myself. 3 – 5 books seems about right for me as a reader. the interconnected characters are so much fun. As a writer though, I’ve found those larger casts can be extremely daunting at times. The last thing you said about there being too many fantastic books out there is dead on. I couldn’t agree with you more! Although I do try to stick it out for a few books. I wouldn’t let one bad book ruin it for me.

  6. I have given up on 3 series in my life. The first was The Mortal Instruments. I quit reading after book 3. I loved the way she ended it and I didn’t want to ruin it by reading book 4. After all, book 3 was supposed to be the ending anyways, and that is how the series was written. I gave up my second series because of the same thing.

    The third series I quit because it seemed like the 2nd book was totally different from the first. I felt like the author changed the story in the 2nd book and I was so mad that I quit reading it.

    So I guess I can say that I give up on a series when it seems like the author has ended the series and there is no real reason to continue, when the author changes the story so much it doesn’t resemble the original story line or when I feel like the author is writing the series just because they have too. I have a series I am reading now, that if the author doesn’t end it soon, I am going to end it, the series is on 19 and I am beginning to get the feeling that not even the author wants to write the story anymore.

    • I cannot relate to feeling like a sequel was completely different than the original, but I do understand leaving a series where it ends, and not picking up when authors try to continue it. I’ve done that with one of my favorite series. I loved it, it was perfect for me, and I don’t want that to be ruined. Since that specific author had managed to ruin one series for me before, I was perfectly fine leaving it where it should’ve ended. And now I can look back and say I still love that series!

    • Hi Danielle,
      Same! Mortal instruments was nice until was it city of glass? i just counted in the library, it’s now more than 5 right? yuck
      another example is yasmine galenorn. she just continues with vol 12 and add more husbands and boyfriends. like c’mon, it’s pushing too hard alr. :p

  7. I won’t say I ‘quit’ series, because I do have every intention to see them all to the end but there are some I am more willing to wait on than others. The ones that spring to mind are the longer series where the author kind of veers off from what I loved about the series or they become stagnant and repetitive. I want an evolving story, not something that has the same exact formula each and every book. I don’t want to open up the next in the series and instantly end up bored, but at the same time I don’t want the characters to become someone they clearly were not before. There is an odd balance between consistency and change that I think has to be maintained in order to have a series come out on top in the end, and a lot of series seem to have some trouble with that.

    • Wow, that’s a really good point, Michelle. I think you’re right and there is a very fine line that needs to be walked. From an author’s perspective, I see it both ways. On one end, you want to amp things up and make sure the series climax is everything your readers hoped it would be, but then on the other side you don’t want to go too far and lose the readers.

      Since I’ve only written one series and the final book isn’t out until this summer, I can’t say I know how to walk that line. Staying true to the story is probably the best way to go, and then just hope that readers receive well.

      As for the series veering off course. I can relate to that far too well. And I think the biggest problem (and this is just a guess), is that when you get into a long-running series, the author risks forgetting where they were going specifically, and they just start running with the characters. I know I’ve been let down on numerous occasions, and most of them were the stories that ran with a lot more installments than the 3-5 book series I’m used to reading. Maybe there is a fine line between too many books in a series too?

  8. This is such a great question, M.R. and I’ve enjoyed reading the comments.

    I was just thinking about this earlier because I’ve read a lot of 1st books in a series and really enjoyed them, but don’t feel like I MUST dig into the next book right away. I still haven’t gotten around to reading the sequels of City of Bones, Divergent, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and Delirium – all books I liked a lot.

    I stopped after Sookie Stackhouse #4 last month. They’re fun, but I don’t HAVE to keep reading them. I only made it to #2 in the Night Huntress series. She gets the “guy” in book 1. What’s left to read? LOL Made it through #4 in Game of Thrones, but feeling annoyed like other readers that they aren’t getting anywhere and the characters keep dying.

    The biggest exception at this point is Karina Halle’s Experiment in Terror series. I will buy book 7 the moment it’s released and put all other books on hold. Not only is it suspenseful and fun, but she teases out the relationship between Dex and Perry. It’s so agonizing yet brilliant. I keep coming back for more.

    • Karina Halle is pretty badass! I’ve heard some amazing things about the other books/series you’ve mentioned. I’m surprised to hear you weren’t drawn in to read more right away!

  9. I usually, good, bad or indifferent, finish a series once I start. I won’t go for the series that are undefined.. By that, I mean, after I’ve done a little research (and before I even start a series) I like to determine how long the author has in mind for the series. If I can’t, I may wade in if the series seems appealing. I complete almost every series that I start, including Malazan Book of the Fallen, knowing full well it was 10 books and a billion pages per book… On another note, what keeps me involved in a series are the characters & the storyline in each book (in Malazan, Karsa Orlong stands out, in Protector it’s Chase, Rayna, Willy ;)..) If the characters I enjoy change or fade out of a series that is long, I tend to get frustrated with that. (like Drizzt series) I liked the continuity of Owen Deathstalker and John Taylor in Simon R. Green’s work. I liked the whole Weather Warden Series… and the way it ended too… even though I would like to see Rachel Caine write ‘one more’ book in that series. The whole John Norman Gor series tended to fade for me after about the 10th or 12th book when the initial characters faded away. Good luck with the conclusion to the Protector Series and no matter how you wrap it up, I’m sure (well pretty sure) that readers will still want more from you. One thing that no on really mentioned is that once a reader gets hooked on a particular author’s ‘style of writing’ that is the thing that draws them into tha authors next series… well, for me it does.

    • Hi Mark!

      That’s a great point! I know when I finish a series that I love, the first thing I do is go looking for something else from that author. Once they rope me in, I want to read everything they have to offer!

  10. If book 1 intrigues me, I’ll read the 2nd. If I don’t like book 2, and there are more than 4 books, I’m done.If I get to book 3 don’t like it but liked 1st two, I’ll read another. Basically I’ll keep reading as long as I enjoy more books than not in a series. If it’s even, I’m off to find something else.

    • That’s a fair assessment, TL. If I like the first two but dislike the third, I’ll still read more. I need to be let down a few times before I give up on a series. Especially if there was something about it I truly loved in the beginning. In fact, I probably go on longer than I should in some of the cases that I ended up walking away, but I like to keep the hope 🙂

  11. For me, it happens when characters take directions that don’t make sense to me. There is this series (I’d be screamed at if I mention the name) where the love interest changes mid-way though. I couldn’t deal with it. First few books – clearly with hot guy but he made a mistake. Next thing we know she’s with his brother. I’m like NO. Stopped reading it.

  12. i was thinking which series has 6 books? hint?
    Like someone above, i also like Drizzt, the earlier 8 books (i think) until Wulfgar decided to be a dumbass :p Drow gets disillusioned and has new allies but i hate the name Dahlia! it’s awesome that drizzt taught me plenty of values and morals. My favorite dark elf!
    Now i seldom get thru even a trilogy, esp if the first 2 have my favorite cast killed. I check out any story with elves or fae in them, also to widen my exposure to myths and different creatures. Humans are super boring to me, the purpose is to find out abt other more perfect races. lol, anyone agrees with me here?
    If you’ve read any of the chronicles of raven series, those fans liked the blood and gore even though by book 4, the pain and angst piled up. It was final straw for me when my favorite elf died. To me it was confusing/ illogical why/how everyone got slain. Normally i check out reviews after i read… and compare with my own muse. I can’t stand it when the people i am beginning to journey with… are suddenly eliminated. Coz fantasy is Supposed to take me away/ relieve my boredom/ increase my passion Not remind me death is near. shitty.
    Had vehement protests when a man wanted to make me read his war stories…

    Proud that i’ve never wasted a dollar buying disappointing series. And after comparing opinions, i will join some communities to discuss. the author is a gentleman, he didn’t mind me pointing out the flaws and my arguments. So thumbs up for that.
    Oh i think on one of yr posts u said even if readers like you, doesn’t mean they’ll give a good review that they like what is put out. =) and the new series of JB has even more blood, catered to men’s market.
    And after i finish a series, i;ll wonder how did i ever like it in the first place? ^ ^ I celebrate memorable and well loved characters, keep them alive inside me/ narnia/ alternate parallels Always! Drizzt, Lestat de Lioncourt, Hellboy and the reason behind my nickname…

    • Hey Ikar!

      So do you always quit a series once a favorite character dies? As much as it saddens me when that happens, I still continue one. Unless the death is completely illogical, and then that’s a different story. Sometimes death ups the stakes. I mean, if the bad guy is constantly making threats but never delivers, that’s not much of an antagonist, is it? There has to be that risk. That challenge that someone might not make it. That’s what builds up the tension and puts you on the edge of your seat, biting your nails and cheering on your favorites. Well, at least that’s how it is for me.

    • Hi Merrick,
      yay a reply!! 😀 thank you.
      if bad guys die, it’s awesome. some baddies never die, yuck. Yes i’ve quit a couple of series that cause what i perceive as ‘unjust death’ I normally root for the sidekicks lols… i don’t alw like the main character. Like for yours, i was excited abt Rayna and the others. Percy jackson i didn’t like him, and ilkar is kind of main, but the author focus on hirad which is boring.
      Lestat far surpasses all the vampires in the whole series so he’s a protagonist who’s awesome.
      For example of unjust death: if my fav character suddenly gets cancer becomes like real life <:((( So sad. i don't cry but i get mad. Too cruel! with exception of nonfiction doggie/ pet books, for those i will cry when i read to the end. I read Norton the cat. So it's not that i am against tragic endings but for fantasy i want it to be a distinction. 🙂 do u get me? hehe.

      Do post more photos of your cat! meow i posted on an older entry on rejection, was feeling quite blue that day.

  13. I love reading books that are made up of more than one book but if there is more than 6 books it gets a bit boring after awhile.

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