ETA: 13 May: Please note, this comment thread is so amazing and interesting, but because we’re talking about series and when readers stopped reading and why (or why not), it can and does get spoiler-y. Proceed at your own risk, be ye warned, herein be spoilers, yarr.
On Tuesday at the Bosoms booksigning at the Clifton Commons Barnes & Noble, I got into a thought-provoking discussion with Sydney, Marisa, Kiersten, and the other ladies who came (who told me they lurk and never comment – I didn’t want to embarrass them but hi, folks!) about what makes us break up with a series. I realized later that I read and talked about the Bosoms for only a very small percentage of the time. Most of the hour was spent talking about romances we loved and doing that thing where romance fans get together and vacillate between, ‘OMG WIN’ and ‘OMG NO’ when talking about books. Since so many new series books have come out of late, that was a very lively topic, particularly as Jaiku pointed out at DearAuthor when you are flush with the feeling of wanting to quit, and and you just can’t do so.
The discussion spanned across a ton of series, including the latest J.R. Ward book, Lover Avenged, and Kenyon’s latest, Acheron, as well as the Anita Blake series (note: what in the name of epic ass is up with that website? I can barely read the text), Feehan’s Carpathians, the Sookie Stackhouse series, and Stephanie Plum. All of us had different points at which we did – or did not – break up with these different series.
A few people said they’d stopped reading Kenyon awhile before Acheron came out, but had to read Acheron just to find out what happened to him. One woman mentioned she loved the Sookie series unconditionally, and another couldn’t stop reading Ward, even though she wanted to. I said that I think the signal for me to stop reading the Anita Blake books came when Anita stopped being such a terrible dresser and somehow became a sexpot badass with an unending amount of personal lubrication. When she put away the fanny pack with the matching socks and polo shirt, it was time for me to stop reading.
When I asked why they’d break up with a series, the answers weren’t so far from mine. A few mentioned the “sameness” of the books, the feeling that they’d just read one of the earlier books with different character names, or the habit of reading subsequent books just to keep track of ancillary characters who would reappear in each new installment.
As I listened to the folks talking about when they broke up with a much-loved series, I think I figured out what their breakup point had in common: all of the stories we were discussing based their foundation on a lot of world building. Whether it was Trenton or an entire otherworld, the world in which the books took place played as much of a role in the early books as the characters themselves, and certainly that was part of the attraction.
But when the books became more about the characters, and less about the world, or when reader knowledge of the world was presumed by the text and therefore not built at all in later books, most of the women there, including me, started to lose interest. The world has to be as much a character that grows and evolves as the characters do, and when one is sacrificed for the other, or neither the world nor the characters evolve, the series is a lot easier to break up with and leave behind.
For example, I’m still way invested in Kresley Cole’s series because there is a larger plot facing the otherworld that develops in each book, as if that world of the Immortals is its own character. But I have stopped reading the Plum series back when it was still in the single digits because there wasn’t any evolution to the characters that I enjoyed – and what changes there were I didn’t like at all. I haven’t followed the Ward series past The Nomming of Butch By Vishous because, while often crackalicious, I didn’t care so much about the characters any longer, nor did I give a powdery ass about the Lessers, and on the whole felt that the world of the Brotherhood hadn’t changed much. I preferred to read Dark Lover again (and try to figure out WHY they can be so crack-luscious) than read any of the newer installments of the series. A few folks argued that Ward’s series was one they could not leave behind (no pun intended) because they loved the world within it so much, even as they didn’t love all the installments of the series.
Even when the author breaks the rules of that world, and breaks them hard, some of the readers I spoke with were still yearning to revisit it, either by reading older books or continuing to read the new ones. And while there was some agreement that one or two series had totally jumped the shark and kept on flying into the horizon, all of us had different breakup points with different series, especially those that seem as if they have no end in sight.
So what’s your break-up point with a series you love? Is it based on the world or the characters or a disappointment so great you’ll never get over it?