Roberta R. is a senior blogger with a penchant for YA books. Her love of music has landed her a job as a host for a local radio station. Her fancy for TV series, from police procedural to sci-fi to urban fantasy, causes her to experiment wild adventures with too many fictional characters in her night dreams. Her urge to spread the love for overlooked YA novels drove her to start her blog, Offbeat YA, in 2012.
Better Left Alone: Sometimes Strong Books Don’t Need a Sequel
As a general rule, I’m not opposed to books having sequels. I understand that the world-building can dictate that, or the story may be too massive to fit a standalone, or a character in the first book may need her/his own point of view in a related story. What I don’t understand is why some great, or at least very good books, are sometimes deflated by sequels that – let’s be blunt – were largely unnecessary. Now, I’m not naive. I know it’s not always the author’s fault if a good book can’t be left alone in its glory. I know there’s a huge demand for series on the publishers’ part, because 1) they get more exposure than a single novel and 2) – let’s be blunt again – the cow has to be milked. Then again, how many times have we read a sequel and thought “well, OK but…meh”?
Book 1 in a few words: ghost girl tries to solve her own murder’s case and discovers shocking secrets, while reconnecting with an old – and equally dead, of course – crush. Written in 1989, it was probably the very first YA book starring a dead character. The sequels were sort of required by the publisher, and frankly, you can skip them if you’re not a Pike fan. Shari – the ghost girl – is reborn as someone else, while still retaining her old personality…until she does a few things that are completely out of character. And she’s not the only one…Also, the old magic and freshness are gone. Verdict: Disappointing and unnecessary.
I’m a huge Pike fan, but as far as this duology goes, I didn’t even like the first installment that much. A group of teens think they’ve murdered a man and make a vow not to talk about it with anyone (yes, I know you’re thinking about I Know What You Did Last Summer. Similar premise). After a while, a mysterious “Caretaker” starts sending them threatening letters, and someone from the group dies…Anyway, this one was a straight-up thriller. The sequel – titled The Ancient Evil, which should probably warn some potential readers off – replays the threatening-letter game from a different point of view, while throwing all kinds of supernatural and sick stuff our way. Also, like in the Remember Me sequels, the characters pull some 180. Verdict: Change of game.
You’ve probably read this one…ghost-hunting boy meets his next target and falls for her, which results in the two of them striking an unlikely relationship-alliance against a different monster. For all its small or not-so-small issues – pop culture reference galore, a few inconsistencies, the most doomed of doomed love stories – I liked this novel. But Girl of Nightmares kind of disappointed me. Despite Anna being only virtually present for most of the book, the already awkward love story gets pushed to the extreme. A characters pulls not just one 180 this time, but two. The original horror premise takes a gothic/fantasy turn. Not to mention, I found the mythology behind the athame (Cas’ hunting knife) slightly boring. Verdict: Lost momentum.
Another one most of you have probably read…girl recovering after a long coma discovers a startling truth about who – or what? – she came to be. Now,the ending of book 1 was perfect, and a sequel should have tainted it in my eyes. But I was intrigued by the idea behind the second installment, and I ended up enjoying it as much as the first one – even if the main character wasn’t Jenna anymore, but her friend Locke. For months I thought the series had stopped at book 2 – yes, an open ending, but what’s wrong with that? Then a third book came out, and of course I had to read it too. I don’t regret doing it, because you know…closure. But unlike its predecessors, this one was too heavy on the romance side for my tastes, amd what’s worse, full of clichés…Verdict: Watered down.