It seems like I’ve been reading noting but sequels lately. In the past couple of weeks I’ve read “The Mocking Jay” (book three in the Hunger Games trilogy) and “Linger” (book two in the Shiver series). And I’m currently half way through “Twelfth Grade Kills” (book five in the Vladimir Tod series).
Oddly, all three of these books have an other world element. Vladimir Tod is a vampire. Linger/Shiver are all about werewolves, and The Mocking Jay/Hunger Games is dystopia. It seems like once an author goes through all the work to build another world, there is more motivation to write multiple books in that world. When writers are working in a contemporary setting it is easier to develop a new set of characters while keeping the authors voice.
But I don’t really want to talk about why people read/write sequels. I’m here to talk about what makes sequels work. Since the next Harry Potter movie is do out in a few weeks, I’ll use Harry as an example. The first three books of the Harry Potter series are all stand alone books. Someone could pick up “The Prisoner of Askaban” and enjoy it without reading the first two books. But from book four on, the reader really needs to know the entire story. So if you haven’t read the first 6 books, don’t go see the movie. You wont get it!
I was totally hooked on Harry a decade ago when J.K. was taking painfully long to release each new installment. I always went back and re-read all the previous books before the next installment came out. After two years of anticipation, I never minded the re-reads.
As I mentioned before, I’ve recently read three different sequels from three different series. I didn’t re-read any of the earlier books in any of these series. But I have read the original books from all these series within the past year. I had no problem jumping back into the worlds of Mercy Falls or the Hunger Games. Since I have read the earlier books in these series, I’m not sure if these books could stand alone or not. I’m sure someone totally blind to these worlds would have questions at first, but my guess is that these new installments answer all the important questions.
That isn’t the case with Vladimir Tod. I read “Eleventh Grade Burns” last February. It ends with a huge cliff hanger. The action is totally heated, a million things are happening, and then bam, wait until book five for more info. I wasn’t quite as floored as the ending to book six of the Harry Potter series, but my attention was definitely grabbed.
Given the intensity of that cliff hanger, I’d really been looking forward to the release of “Twelfth Grade Kills”. But I didn’t bother to go back and re-read the previous novels in the series, I just started on page one of this final installment. And I’m kind of confused. Like I said before, I’m now halfway into it. And I think that I’ve remembered all the important details from Eleventh Grade by now. But the story didn’t start with any kind of refresher. It really assumed that the reader had just set down Eleventh Grade, and been so hooked by that ending that they rushed out to buy Twelfth Grade five minute later.
Now that all five books are out, newbie’s to the Vladimir Tod series can do just that. But if you’re just starting out, trust me. “Twelfth Grade Kills” cannot stand alone. Reading it without reading the first four books in the series would be even more confusing than watching “The Deadly Howls” without reading the first six Harry Potter books.