For anyone who doesn’t already know this about me, I am a series girl. I absolutely adore series and much prefer them to standalone books. There are so many reasons that I love series, but that’s not really what this post is about.
Instead, I want to talk about consistency among series because, well, it’s been a bit of a problem for me lately. And when I have a bookish problem, I bring it to you all! So let’s get discussin’!
Why Consistency in a Series is Important
When I find a first-in-series that I enjoy, it makes me really excited because it means that I will now have more books to read that are just like it!
So when the next book isn’t just like it, it turns out to be a major disappointment. I choose the read the second book (or the third, or the fourth) because I liked the genre, the mood, the writing style, the characters, etc. in the first/previous book, and I imagine most readers do the same. So it doesn’t make sense to then go and make the next book different from the previous ones because, as an author, you won’t have the right audience reading it. It’s like you just gained this whole audience with that first book… only to go and throw that away by making the second book something that doesn’t appeal to that audience.
But there are numerous ways in which a series can be inconsistent, so let’s chat a little bit about each other those…
I once read a book that was a very mature YA. It wasn’t particularly inappropriate, it just didn’t sound YA, and I loved that about it. But then, as the series went on, it just seemed to get younger and younger and more stereotypically YA, and my enjoyment decreased because I don’t like that stereotypical YA feel. It also doesn’t make sense to go backward in maturity since readers are only growing older as they read through the series. But it’s probably also not a good idea to do the opposite and jump from YA to adult since anyone reading YA is reading it for a reason.
One of the worst offenders of the genre switch though is when a series starts out as something “normal” only to suddenly turn paranormal. I don’t know about you, but that just feels like a cheap trick to me, an easy way to make weird stuff happen and then explain it away.
But I’ve read some series with more subtle changes too. For example, the first book in one series I read was in the paranormal genre but mostly focused on romance and character growth, but then the second one, while it was also paranormal, was more focused on a mystery. So I still enjoyed that second book, but mystery isn’t really my thing, which meant it wasn’t as good for me.
So although slight changes can work sometimes and possibly even introduce readers to a new genre or subgenre they didn’t know they liked, the changes can also cause a series to end up being disappointing.
My favorite type of book is very specific—I love books that are dark and emotional and intense. So when I find one, I get very excited and continue the series because I want more of that specific mood. Actually, I expect series to get even more emotional as I read them since I start getting more invested in the characters. So I definitely don’t want the next book to be less emotional or suddenly all happy and funny.
On the flip side, if I do find a light, funny series I enjoy, I’ll save the next book for a time when I need something light and funny and therefore won’t be happy if it ends up being depressing.
Inconsistent Writing Style
When I find an author whose writing style I like, that definitely factors into my enjoyment and is part of the reason I choose to keep reading the series, so that’s another thing I don’t want to change. If their first book has that beautiful, eloquent, metaphorical style I love, I might still enjoy the second book but not to the same extent if it doesn’t also have that beautiful style.
Now this could actually mean a number of things.
I know it’s a normal and fairly popular thing for series to feature different main characters in each book but just be set in the same world, but is that really a series? It’s just books set in the same world. One of the reasons I love series is that it takes me a while to really get into characters, and I love the opportunity series provide for me to really get to know the characters and get invested in their lives and delve deeper into their minds over the course of numerous books. So for me, it’s disappointing when the next book focuses on different characters, and I usually avoid these types of series.
Then there are books that focus on the same main character but most or all of the other characters are constantly changing. This is also frustrating for me for the same reason I mentioned above.
Then there’s inconsistent characters in the sense that the characters are the same, but they change too much in ways that don’t feel natural to the point that it seems like they’re not even themselves anymore. I think it’s obvious why this one is frustrating.
I think I’ve made my opinion pretty clear: I like book series to be consistent. The reason I choose to continue a series after reading a book is because I like the genre, the mood, etc. how it is, and that’s what I’m expecting when I start the next book. Obviously I like there to be growth, and small fluctuations in things like emotion are necessary, and sometimes new characters will be introduced or one or two might leave, but that’s fine and all a natural part of series. But when those big things change or things change too much to the point of inconsistency, I just end up disappointed.