Let me get one thing clear before I get into the main body of this post: you do you. I am not a book blogger who thinks that there is one correct way to read, and I don’t confuse my personal preferences for universal rules. As with most things, a little subjectivity goes a long way, so whenever I say that I’ve been doing something correctly or not, I mean that purely within my own context. It doesn’t matter if you prefer an ebook or a physical one, a hardback or a paperback, to read multiple books at the same or not, to read YA or fantasy or poetry or erotica – if you read, then I think you’re awesome. For the record, I prefer physical magical realism/fantasy/dystopia/sci-fi paperbacks read one after another, but that’s just me. Anyway, to my point.
For the last year or so, I have been reading series wrong (for me). By this, I mean that I’ve been reading the first in the series, and sometimes I’ve even bought the rest of the series, and then moved on to other books, before finally getting around to the sequel, and realising I couldn’t remember half of the first. This has usually been because I have a tonne of books on my TBR (I also went to Foyles today and bought a load more books, which I shall also write about soon), and I want to get through as many as possible. However, it stands to reason that if I like the series, and I have the rest of the books, I should actually read them! But then, what should you do if you don’t like the first book, or if you’re on the fence? In general, I’ve tried to trust my gut, but defying it has brought me both good and bad reading experiences recently. First of all, the good, cos we all know that the bad is far juicier, and should be saved until last.
As has been made apparent in some of my early posts, I didn’t much enjoy The Magicians by Lev Grossman, and I only gave it two stars, which is pretty rare for me. I really liked the magic system and the world, but I found the main character Quentin to be intolerable, and a lot of the other characters were pretty unpleasant. I didn’t have the rest of the books in the series, and I had no intentions of buying them. However, roughly one year later, my best friend (who is also one of my flatmates) asked to borrow a few books to read while on holiday. I lent him The Magicians, A Darker Shade of Magic, and Ready Player One, and when he came back he bought the rest of The Magicians Trilogy and read them in succession. He encouraged me to give the second book a go, and I avoided it for the next nine months or so. Eventually, I decided to give it a go, and was pleasantly rewarded with an interesting plot, very accomplished writing, and excellent female characters (seriously the series should have just been about them – Quentin is such a whiny man-child). All in all, I was very happy about this outcome, and while I still maintain that Quentin is a ridiculous Mary Sue character who does not develop or deserve the rewards heaped upon him, I’m glad I finished the series.
So we should give all series a chance, right? Unfortunately no, as I discovered when I read Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. Now then, I know that some people love this series, so let me make one thing clear – this is not an attack on you if you like it, and just cos I didn’t doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. As I said at the start – you do you. However, I detest this series. It is dull as dishwater, badly thought through, and Riggs’ writing is as weak as the Internet’s collective attention span. I realised this after the first book, but stupidly thought that the series could improve. This was partly due to the fact that I thought that the premise of the story could have been very promising, and because I had requested the books for my birthday, and thus had the whole trilogy. This was time badly spent – I slowly grew resentful of the books throughout the trilogy, and I now actively hate it. I slogged through the last book willing it to end quickly, and got absolutely no joy from the ending. The plot was dull and lifeless, the characters were one-dimensional and I honestly did not care at all what happened to them, and the ending was too convenient. I wish I hadn’t spent my time slogging through something I knew I wasn’t enjoying, and I could have focused my time and energy on many of the great books on my TBR shelf.
So, how do you know which one is which? Well, I can’t give you all the answers (obviously), but here are three top questions to ask yourself to help you decide whether to carry on with a series you’re uncertain about:
- Analyse why you didn’t immediately want to read the next book – are these issues that you think could be fixed?
- Do you think the author is capable of fixing these issues, or do you just have a strong objection to their writing?
- Can you justify spending the time and money on the rest of the books, or do you have other books you want to priortise? How much energy are you willing to invest in it?
In saying this, it’s also important to acknowledge that some things are unpredictable – a great first book can turn into a terrible series, and authors can betray your trust, it’s the risk of being a reader. However, I think we can all read a little more enjoyably and save ourselves some heartache if we think critically about the books we like, which should hopefully mean that we can then find similar ones. Also, it’s not admitting failure if you deicde to give up on a series, no matter where you are within it – you are under no obligation to finish something you dislike!
Anyway, let me know if you’ve had experiences like mine, and how you decide whether to continue a series or not. Until then, may your plots be satisfying and your characters get what they deserve.
P.S. Check this photo I took of some hardback classics in Foyles – so beautiful, I wanted them all!