I’ve come to realize something. Well, I didn’t just realize it but I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. I’ve come to understand that to me, beginnings are the best part. With books, anyway.
By this I mean that I love the first books better than any sequel or finale the author can throw at me. I may enjoy subsequent installments in a series but they never quite surpass my excitement or fondness for that very first book.
Scrolling through my list of books that I’ve read and those that I’ve reviewed I constantly notice how I have many many many first books but very few seconds or thirds or endings. And even when I have read the seconds or thirds or whatnots they’ve often never been as emotional or riveting as the first book. I might think it good, well-written, a strong continuation, etc. but I’m never raving like I do with the first book. I’m not entirely sure why that is, but it is what it is.
Perhaps it’s because the first book in a series presents an idea, a world, a cast of characters, a plot. The first book in a series is new and exciting and if I click with it then it’s extraordinary. But when I continue onto the next book I become more critical, more easily bored or dissatisfied. Too often it just feels like more of the same. It’s not fair, but it’s how I seem to be. I’ve written before about what I call “Middle Book Syndrome” where the second book in a trilogy is dragged out, dull, circuitous, etc., and serving as little more than a stretched out bridge from book one’s inciting incident to book three’s raging finale. Often (but not always) my ratings of a trilogy rate the first book the highest, the second book the lowest, with the last book somewhere in-between.
It’s a bit strange, isn’t it? Although I’m sure this isn’t an uncommon phenomenon.
I think for me I simply enjoy learning about new worlds, new people, and new possibilities. And after experiencing an entire book by their side I get a vague feeling of where I want their story to go and I grow a fear that the author will disagree. Not in detail just…a vague feeling. I’m not quite sure how to explain it. Too often to craft a story into a series mistakes or drastic decisions are made and they can taint it for me. Things such as silly miscommunication, needless drama, love triangles, pointless deaths, character/plot evolutions for the sake of tying in social/political trends or agendas, and the list goes on.
I read to block out this world I live in and submerge myself in the magic of a different world. I don’t read to be told what to think. I read to experience, to feel, to escape, to expand, to widen my mind. When books get too pointed or jump on a soapbox I shut down. Don’t tell me what to do. Don’t tell me what to think. Don’t tell me how to feel.
When I love a book I become invested in it and fear for what might happen as the series progresses. Things such as the deaths of beloved characters, gut-wrenching betrayals, or general unhappy endings (I can’t help it. My heart grew up on Disney! Haha although The Fox and the Hound really triggered the wariness I have when I start becoming too attached to characters #saddestmovieofmychildhoodEVER #iamcryingjustthinkingaboutit). That doesn’t mean I never read the rest of a series to find out, it just means that I think very hard before doing so. In a sort of naive thought process, if I don’t read it then it’s not true. 😜
Far too often I read that first book and feel complacent to leave it there. No need to continue. And it’s not because that first book wasn’t great, I just…don’t feel the need to see what is written next. Sometimes it’s honestly as simple as that and sometimes it’s likely because I’m a coward when it comes to reading the fates of beloved characters (What has happened to me?? When did I become so weak??). I may re-read that first book over and over again without ever finishing the series.
Back in middle school/high school I would always finish a series no matter what, but maybe that’s why I don’t feel the need to anymore. Way too often the endings disappointed me. Why would I pay $20 for a book to let me down? I donated a ton of books to the library last summer, most of which were sequels. My bookshelves are still filled however with several series starters that I love. 😍
And this isn’t all to say that I hate endings. In fact I prefer a solid standalone novel over a series. I enjoy endings (especially just the feeling of knowing), it’s just that more often than not when given too much time a story will get overworked and deflated from its initial inspirational inception. (Wow, I probably sound so awful, don’t I? I don’t mean to, I’m just rambling and sharing my strange thought process.)
Now if a book really gets its hooks into me then I will be there until the end or until it lets me down. If book one stole my soul then I will undoubtedly read the second book and if that one thrills me just as much then I’ll read the third book, and so on and so forth. But for the most part I remain content with book one. I have so many beloved book one’s.
Okay confession time, sometimes when I read a first book and don’t want to read the rest of the series but I am incurably curious about the ending then I’ll hunt down spoilers to find out because as much as I love beginnings I also like knowing. I know, I know it makes me a terrible cheat but I sort of don’t care. 😜
…anyway, this was a very rambling nonsensical post so if you’re an English teacher or writer then give me some leniency as this post series is called “Babbles, Rambles, and Nonsense” but this was just something I’d been thinking about and thought I’d ponder aloud via digital letters stamped into the internet.
Conclusion: Beginnings are the best part. But knowing how it all ends is pretty nice too.
P.S. There are always exceptions to every rule and I have actually read sequels and endings that I loved just as much or perhaps even more than the beginning. It’s just not often. Not often at all. And I find that a wee bit strange.
Funnily enough the day after I posted this, Epic Reads shared a link to vote on your favorite book within a YA series. I took the poll to see how my opinions lined up with others and 17 out of 18 matched up with 16 of those being the first book in the series!
Here are just a few of my answers:
(Take the poll for yourself! Save Your Fave!)
And because there’s always an exception to the rule (plus we all know that ACOTAR was really just the longest prologue ever haha)…