Please! No More Series Books

The Indie Girl has been trying to get me to read a new book series she’s gotten into: Fablehaven, by Brandon Mull. This is the same Indie Girl who introduced me to Harry Potter over 10 years ago, and who’s book choices have always been superb. So why I have been hesitant to start the series? I have to say, I’m a little series’d out right now. And, in the end, I’m probably going to give in and read the darned Fablehaven series, because, the Indie Girl is usually right, but here’s a few reasons I’m dragging my feet:

1. Book series books are so overdone. I remember growing up reading one-and-done books like Cricket in Times Square. Simple little, one-dimensional stories that were reflective of the kiddie audience they were written for. Then comes Harry Potter (ok, Potter wasn’t the first in-depth kiddie series, some forget The Dark is Rising series and others). Jo Rowling introduced to the reading world that kid books could actually be good. Now there’s an idea. Deep plots with classic literary themes, the works. So why do I deride book series now? Everyone thinks it’s the format, the multiple books telling the same story, thing. So now instead of one-dimensional, one and done books, we now have one-dimensional one-and-done books spread out into more than one book, just to sell it. Not good.

2. A good story should be concise. I have a friend who is writing a book series. He asked me to review his plot line, characters, etc., and I found them to be quite enigmatic and engaging. When he told me it was going to be a book series, I told him: “Sure, it can be a book series, but why don’t you just write the story as one book?” The thing is, too many authors are thinking multiple books in a story line, when they should be looking at multiple story lines in one book. A good story should be as long as it needs to be. Harry Potter fits the bill, though she could have left out a few subplots. Percy Jackson and the Olympians? ENTIRELY too long. I think we could do without books 2 and 3 frankly. The problem? Book series tend to either have too many unrelated plotlines, making the series just a ploy to make more money, or they’re just one plot line stretched out over too many books. And for all those people who think they’re selling a great idea to publishers, think again. Most publishers don’t want someone who proposes a book series, because for them it doesn’t mean multiple book profits, it means multiple books they have to worry about marketing for.

3. Copy cats are never innovators. Now, don’t misunderstand me. There are a lot of good series books out there, and there will be many to come, but most authors who write a book series now seem to be trying to re-create what Jo Rowling and other authors have done. Peruse the kiddie section of the library and book series books are being done like it’s going out of style. I think it’s time to try something new. Write a story that begins on page one and ends when you close the book. I think the one-and-done book is the NEW book series book. It’s the new black too. And the new novel. Case in point. I love Eoin Colfer books. He’s a fantastic writer. One of my favorite junior lit authors actually. But I could never get into Artemis Fowl. Why? I hated the story. I know, it’s odd. Artemis Fowl is his Harry Potter. In my opinion though, his one-and-done books are much, much better. I particularly love Half Moon Investigations. I found it at a school book sale for like $2. It’s one of my favorite books I think I’ve ever read. So well-written. Such a great story line. And the ending is superb. One of my other favorite books, Airman. Yes, another Colfer one-and-doner. AMAZING story line. He effectively captures the Count of Monte Cristo theme, innovates it, and produces something special. Both books are supremely better than his book series.

All in all, am I condemning book series? No. In fact, I picked up Rick “Percy Jackson” Riordan’s newest book 1, the Red Pyramid (in which he does the same thing he did in Percy Jackson, but with Egyptian Mythology instead of Greek Mythology). The thing is, though, just writing a book series does not make it better than the one-and-done book. In fact, more often than not, we’re seeing it go the other way around.

In the end, I’m probably going to end up reading the Indie Girl’s new favorite: Fablehaven. And you know what, I’m probably going to love it, and the next blog post is probably going to be a gushing review of it, with all the usual pictures, links, pomp, and circumstance. But that’s going to be my last book series. Of course, until Indie Girl finds another good read.

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Here come the Olympians: Everything You Need to Know About Percy

Another book series headed for Hollywood. It’s almost as if Hollywood doesn’t know how to write a good story anymore…but I digress. Following the strong showings from Potter, and that chick who can’t decide between a vampire and a werewolf, we have a newcomer: some kid who claims to be a son of the Greek Gods. As Percy Jackson hits the big screen in the Lightning Thief, undoubtedly, the America that doesn’t read before they rush to the theater, and those who are pondering reading the series now that it has some legitimacy, need to know a few things about Percy and his friends.

1. Yes, the story is eerily familiar. Ever heard this one before? A boy who comes from  humble beginnings, finds out he has a magical history he knew nothing about, ends up having to go a magical school where he learns to use his power, makes friends who help him on endless quests that involve the return of one of the most powerful nemeses to all that is good. Oh, and don’t forget the prophecy that foretells that Percy, alone, will be the one to destroy him, thereby saving the world.

Percy and Harry –  Separated at Birth?

2. And yet, it isn’t Potter. For one, the story is relatively flat. Ok, there will be those who cry foul here and say, “What about the understories of the search for Pan? The lessons of the oracle? All those cool Greek Mythological creatures?” To them I say: flat. Flat, flat, flat, flat, flat. The reason? They add little depth to the story, and little depth of sympathy for the characters. In fact, my biggest beef with the Percy series is that so many of the adventures have nothing to do with the plotline. It’s as if Riordan simply thought of every possible Greek Myth he could put into the modern day and then wrote about it. It becomes incredibly predictable and quite inane after a while, ESPECIALLY in the Lightning Thief book (and the Sea of Monsters). Also, the writing in the books is very juvenile…In fact, I don’t think they’re written that well at all. Look Rick, I get it, you’re trying to simulate the teenage experience, and the dialogue that accompanies the teenage drama, blah, blah, blah, but I find the dialogue to be, well…flat. Of course, it could’ve been worse, at least it’s not James Patterson’s Maximum Ride books!

3. Ok, Percy’s world isn’t ALL flat… There is one exception to the flatness of this story: Nico D’Angelo. I have to say,  understory. I think Nico’s inner turmoil and role in the last few books quite literally “make” the story. It’s just too bad that it took 3 books to get Nico’s character, and the incredible depth he adds, into the story…especially since he makes a cameo in book one.

4. The bottom-line. If you start the books, you’ll most likely find yourself in the same position I’ve been in the last few years: finishing the book just to see what happens. And, if nothing else, that’s what makes the stories worth your entertainment dollar: in spite of the eery similarity to that other kid with mystical powers who found himself in a long book series, the overall story does grab you in a sort of “curiosity killed the cat” sort of way…and, if you are like me and are stuck just trying to finish the story for finishing the story’s sake…well…

At least Percy doesn’t wear glasses.