I read a lot of series books. I like the continuing storylines and getting to spend so much time with the characters. I enjoy seeing characters grow and change as they face different situations and learn from past mistakes. Series books are similar to my favorite television shows in that way but instead of getting to watch week after week I often get to check in only once a year as a new book is released. Unfortunately, I’m finding that series books are developing another factor in common with television – the cliffhanger ending.
Now I expect a cliffhanger ending each season on television. After all, we only have to wait through the summer months and then we anticipate the start of the fall television season knowing we will get a resolution. With books it is a different story however. Unless an author has multiple books in the pipeline, I generally see one new book a year in each of the series that I read. Then there are the authors who take longer to produce books (Hello George R. R. Martin!) so there is even more of a gap. I get very frustrated when these books have a cliffhanger ending. I’m not talking about the ending in which most of the book is resolved but something is left open ended to facilitate another storyline or even introducing a new factor near the end of the story that will continue the storyline into the next book. I’m talking about books that simply don’t resolve anything.
I’m not going to name names here but one of my favorite authors for adult books also has some young adult series going. I read the first trilogy and enjoyed it so when the first book in the next trilogy came out I got it from the library. I’m reading along and the characters get into a very intense situation and I’m turning the pages wondering how it is all going to turn out… What? That is the last page?! But, but, but… what happens to them? Swoosh – Thud! The book goes flying across the room and hits the wall (okay, not really but I was tempted). The book ended without the main characters finding out much about their situation and what they did discover they didn’t really understand. The only reason that I understood some of what they found was because I had read the first trilogy.
Essentially this author is writing a trilogy in the truest sense because the entire story is being split into three parts. The first book in the trilogy is similar to the first act in a play. It sets up the characters and the story with an introduction but doesn’t actually resolve anything. This is a valid stylistic and literary choice for the author but as a reader I have issues with it. If these books were going to come out quickly (say all three within the period of a year) then I would only have to wait a bit between installments and would be more easily able to transition between books. However, when there is a year between the books I have read a lot of other books in the meantime. I have forgotten the little details of the story and only retain the bigger picture. It is most likely that I have forgotten exactly how the story ended so when the next book picks up exactly where it left off I am confused. I have too many books waiting for me to go back and reread each book in a series before picking up the newest one.
I’m at the point that if I know an author is writing a series this way, I won’t even start reading it until the last book is out. I will wait until the end then get the books from the library and read them straight through. Well, maybe not one right after another if it is a longer series but that is easily done for a trilogy. This may mean leaving some of my favorite authors by the wayside for a while until they complete their latest series but the bright side is that I get to explore more new to me authors in the meantime.
What is your take on series books? Love them, hate them? Are you seeing more cliffhanger endings than you used to?
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