Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Sequel Slump

I told you on Monday, it's a thing.  The Sequel Slump is real.  It's very similar to the Sophomore Slump in the music industry.  You know, the first album was amazing, number one hits all around, but the second album-complete junk.  Who knows why?  It could be many things.  The band got too big too fast, or the world just got over the punk rock stylings of New Found Glory.  Whatever it is, it's a thing.

Let's take a look at the evidence.

Exhibit A:  Heist Society

In the first installment, this band of misfits steals to clear her father's name.  But the second installment seems to lose some of it's flair.  All the characters are back, but the action seems too similar to the original and it just didn't draw me in.  I think I might be the only one though, because GoodReads numbers are actually higher for Uncommon Criminals versus Heist Society-4.18 vs. 4.03.  

Moving on to Exhibit B:  The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place (maybe this one will make my point)

I talked, at length, about this series a while ago, and how it just needs to wrap it up, a'la How I Met Your Mother.  But apparently GoodReads readers do not feel the same way.  Again, the rankings are virtually the same, with a slight edge going to volume 2.  I felt that after the extreme ending in book one (in which it seems we discover some of the nature of the children's parentage) to run off to London is a step backwards.  And why do we have to talk about ferns so much?!  See, more questions than answers, and I get mad.  And seriously-how does the HMYM chick still have that one same yellow umbrella?  I can't ever keep a hold of an umbrella for that long!  Does she only buy yellow umbrellas?  It's maddening!

But I digress.  Let's move on.

Exhibit C:  Harry Potter

You've got to give me this one!  The first book was full of new experiences, wonder, and danger.  The second book still had all of that, but it didn't seem to build on it.  The rest of the books certainly built up the action, but the series kinda hit a plateau here, and GoodReads readers agree-slightly.  The ratings are 4.33 vs. 4.23, but still. And really, if you were going to go back and reread your favorite Harry Potter, you'd read book 1, because it's all about the discovery of this new world, book 4 because the Triwizard Tournament was amazing, and probably book 7, because that's where it all comes together.  I'd reread book 2 last.  It's the weakest of the series.

Exhibit D:  Twilight

Don't be like that.  You read it and you liked it until you found out that liking Twilight wasn't cool.  And don't say it's poorly written-it just makes you sound like a jealous snob.  That said, why take Edward out of the second book?  It lost some momentum there.  Got a little boring.  And Jacob was only shirtless for the second half of the book.  Throw us a bone here.  

Exhibit E:  The Hunger Games

I kept this example for last because it is the most controversial, I would say, and it most clearly proves my point.  In a trilogy, the second book is always the weakest.  The first volume was all danger and action.  The second volume was more subversive danger, but you have to admit that all of that touring stalled the book a bit.  Then volume three just came up and sucker punched you and you couldn't put it down.  I personally read it in 6 hours.  The bad thing about a trilogy is that, in the first book, the main character is in danger, and could feasibly die.  Most of time readers aren't 100% sure if there will be a book two.  By book two, you know there will be a book 3, so you know the big characters are fine, then in book 3, all bets are off, anything can happen.

And that's why the second book is usually a slump.  It's a placeholder.  It's safe.  You know the big characters will come out fine.  There's no real danger, yet.  It's a slow build to the danger that lies ahead in book 3.  Good writers pull it out.  Good writers make that last chapter so crazy you are begging for the third book.  Great writers make book two better than book one (Hello Laini Taylor!).

What do you think?  Any series, or trilogies, that started out strong then slumped?  Or would you like to disagree?  I'm open to you arguments, and I am willing to be swayed.  Leave me a comment and let me know what you think.

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