Google+ YA Romantics: Trending Thursday: Will YA Contemps Become the New Neverending Story?

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Trending Thursday: Will YA Contemps Become the New Neverending Story?


Welcome to this week's installment of Trending Thursday, a weekly post in which I pick out some sort of YA trend and we can all discuss. Today, I'm looking at one aspect of the YA Series Trend -- the YA contemporary story that seems to go on forever....



Sometimes, multiple books are necessary to tell a story properly. Fantasy books have typically been part of series. And I guess I've reluctantly accepted the fact that most, if not all YA dystopian and paranormal romance books are going to be parts of series from now until eternity.

But where do we draw the line? Do YA contemporaries have to be series too? Is there any end to this series madness?

YA contemporary series are not a new thing.

There was the the five-volume Jessica Darling series, which began in 2001. These books weren't technically YA, but followed sixteen year-old Jessica through her adolescence and early adulthood. The sheer scope of the story's timeline necessitated that it be told in multiple books.






There was also Jenny Han's "Summer" series, the first book of which was published in 2009.

These books also covered a fair amount of time, following Isabel "Belly" Conklin from age sixteen to college and her engagement. Again, because of the timeline -- and also that horribly wrenching brother love triangle -- one could argue that a fair number of pages were required to tell this story.




But seems to me that in the last few years, more and more of YA contemporary series are sneaking onto the shelves, to the point that I'm getting concerned that standalones will become as extinct as dinosaurs.



In 2011, there was the He Said/She Said trilogy by Kieran Scott, a series about the rocky relationship between Ally and Jake that spanned three books and included huge cliffhangers.




In 2012, I got this YA contemporary for review. It looked like the kind of book I'd like. I slogged through it -- it was pretty slow paced -- got to the end, and ... there was no end. Nope. The book was part of a series.






The summer of 2013 brought two new YA contemporary series, both set on Northeastern islands. Is there something about "summer" books that makes them series-worthy?

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2014 has brought even more YA contemporary series. These three come to mind. If you can think of more, please let me know in comments.

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I'm not anti-series. But I think this YA series trend could be getting out of hand. Sometimes readers need a story with some resolution. All this open-ended, cliffhanger-y, nail-biting uncertainty can really start to get to a person. 

What do you think of YA contemporary series? Do you love having a more of a story to love, or have you had it with the neverending angst that a contemporary series can dish out?

After you tell me your thoughts, go check out Lauren's post on Series Fatigue on Love is Not a Triangle. She makes a good point about something new I've come to be wary of: the set-up book!

38 comments:

  1. Eegad! I didn't even know some of these books were series. I think it works sometimes - especially when the character starts out younger. (The Oracle of Dating was a cute series) but nooooo it shouldn't be a trend! More unnecessary, drawn out angst.

    Do you think it's inspired by all those NA series that drag out for three or more books?

    Karen @ For What It's Worth

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    1. It could be. For me, romantic angst is not enough to drive a series, but others clearly disagree!

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  2. I'm not anti-series either, but sometimes stories only need one book. It's annoying when they are dragged out and become boring. Tbh I prefer trilogies and standalones.

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    1. That is my #1 pet peeve. Stories that really only need one or two books and are dragged out endlessly.

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  3. I so want to read the Jessica Darling series.

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  4. Gosh darn it! I did not realize "To All The Boys I Loved Before" is going to be a series, it's sitting on my shelf waiting to be read. I agree that most series are completely unnecessary. I really miss standalones and would much prefer to read a book that is twice as long if it meant it would have a true ending. Really if a book is going to be a part of a series it has to be damn good otherwise there is a chance that I will forget why I even loved it by the time the second, third, fourth book comes out. If I'm not dying in anticipation for the next book it's highly likely I won't commit to finishing the series.

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    1. I agree -- after a year passes between books, it's hard to remember what happened, especially when we are all reading so many series.

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  5. Well, I don't blame the authors for writing series - series are what is selling these days. Book deals are made on multiple books, so it's better to know that they are getting 3 books about Joe and Alice rather than 1 book about Joe and Alice and then 2 books about who knows what. That's the way the business works. A lot of authors have been upfront about this. They pitch an idea and it gets picked up as a 'series'.

    Some series aren't worth spending 3 books on. In the first book you get the setup. The second book is filler. And the third book is all action and resolution. All of these things could take place in the first book, but again with the publishers offering multiple book deals.

    I have given up on a lot of series after reading the first book. I really want to know what happens in the end, but I don't want to slog through 2 or 3 more books to find out. Give me a really good stand alone any day!

    I love contemps, but as a series I think they suck. Nantucket Blue was great as a stand alone. The story ended and Cricket had a boyfriend. Now comes Nantucket Red. Cricket is no longer with her first boyfriend, and she gets a new boyfriend. It's going to be hard for me to read Nantucket Red because I was a huge fan of Cricket and her first boyfriend and I don't want to read about them broken up and her moving on. I've found that with contemp series, it's more about off and on relationship drama and not an actual story. Angst is great, but not when that's all there is.

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    1. I think series can be good for authors, but I also think they can be not so good. Yes, they might get more money up front, but if the series doesn't catch on, they are stuck writing three books when they could be moving on to something more successful.

      I completely agree with the rest of your comment. When a trilogy is book 1: set-up, book 2: filler, book 3: conclusion, that is a perfect example of a story that only needed one book. And, like you, I often abandon series if I see this pattern happening.

      I also agree that contemporaries do not always make good series. Unless a lot of time passes through the course of the series, like in Jessica Darling, then the plot is usually dragged out with romantic angst.

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  6. When it comes to contemporaries I prefer standalones. I’m not anti-series, but all the angst and drama of these kinds of books sometimes is too much, and surely I won’t spend more than two books reading about it.
    Recently I read The Secret Diamond Sisters, which will be a series, and I don’t see why, all the shallow things that can happen, could have been solved in a single book.
    Also, I use to abandon series when I realize they have more than three books.

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    1. Oh, thanks, Lis. That is a book I also read recently and I will add it to the list!

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  7. I'm 100% with you on this! I tend to avoid contemporary series at all cost, unless they are companions, because usually they're totally focused on drama, angst or love triangles. I know the Jessica Darling series is popular (I didn't realize that wasn't YA?), but 5 books about one person if they're not trying to save the world, sounds exhausting. Of course I stayed far away from the Summer series. Nothing worse than starting a contemporary book and not finding out until the very end that it's going to be part of a series! Great trend post as always.

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    1. Yes -- that is my conclusion. Often it's relationship angst that fuels these contemporary YA series, and I'm not always up for that. Yeah, the Summer series isn't for you -- such a wrenching triangle!

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  8. I am okay with a cliff hanger here and there, but I would really like to read some great stand alone books sometimes as well. They seem to be coming very rare. When I find one I am almost excited. I know I am going to pick it up and it will finish. Sometimes I just need that. Then again there are some series I am reading and I just don't want them to end, and when they do I am a little sad. I do wish that there were not so many series out there though. It seems a little out of control.

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  9. I have a love/hate relationship with series, especially contemporary ones. I love spending more time with characters I love, (who doesn't?) but I also would like more standalones, especially in contemporary. It makes more sense in other genres than contemporary. I also think that if it's going to be a series of some kind then it needs to have some kind of ending. That was one of the things I loved about To All the Boys I've Loved Before. I felt like it had an ending and the next book was opening up a new chapter, which I'm ok with. It's kind of a cliff-hanger, but Han could also have just as easily ended it right there.

    Personally when it comes to contemporary I think companion novels are my favorite. I am getting a new story and also the pleasure of seeing some of my favorite characters, but their story is not being dragged (drug?) on and on and on. Their story still has their conclusion, I just get to see them some more. :)

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    1. Oh, that's good about To All the Boys. If there is some resolution, I'm happier. I also love companion books.

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  10. It's funny--I was just having this conversation after reading To All the Boys I've Loved Before. I was kind of shocked that the ending of that book was pretty close to a cliff-hanger which is so rare in contemporaries. I have serious series fatigue. I talked about that in a post earlier this year. I've always been partial to the contemporary novel over fantasy/dystopian/paranormal and while I love some series--like the Jessica Darling series which is my favorite--and Jenny Han's other new series Burn for Burn, I hate that even contemporaries are starting to jump onto this series trend more and more. When I see a standalone, it makes me so happy. Great post!

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    1. When I get to the end of a book that I don't expect to have a cliffhanger, and there's one, I feel a little betrayed....

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  11. I don't mind series as long as there's a reason for them to continue. If the story can be told in one or two books, leave it at that. Especially contemporaries. If they span years then alright, but I don't like stories that continue for now reason other than to keep writing books.

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    1. I agree -- some stories need multiple books, but others really don't. I'm not a fan of series with lots of filler material.

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  12. Great topic! I was thinking the same thing. I like contemporary novels, but sometimes I think that many of them just don't need sequels. And that's why I often don't read them, unless I really really loved the first book.

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    1. That's the Catch-22, right? If I love a book, I kind of do want more. But still, with contemporaries, I prefer companion books to series.

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  13. I'm not usually big on contemporary reads per se, and sometimes I don't see the point on having series. Maybe if they are more like companion books exploring other characters that didn't have the spotlight in the first book. And sometimes a duology is fine, but adding more books just seems like dragging the story along...

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  14. I think the 'problem' for me is that with so many books being parts of series, I spend so much time re-reading. As a result, I will often choose a standalone, or a new series and abandon a series that is not an absolute favorite. Or, I'll wait until every book in the series is out before beginning it, which means I don't review them when they hit the shelves. Plus, how many times have we all read a sophomore 'filler' book? I agree with Pili that companion books are super nice sometimes! And I'd love to see more duolgies! I'm loving THAT trend. :)

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    1. I recently have a new policy of refusing to re-read earlier books so I can review later ones. I just can't. So if I'm confused because the book doesn't have enough recap, that goes in the review.
      Yes, companions and duologies are good :)

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  15. I'm having serious series fatigue myself these days. When I see a book is going to be a set up to a longer series, I just think, oh great I'll probably miss the second book, or it will be a filler book, and then there's like a 50% chance I'll actually make it to the end. The problem is not every author can write a really good series, but they are all encouraged to drag their stories out by their publishers. I wish their were more standalones, contemporary and all other genres. Great post!

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    1. Exactly. I think some writers must get talked into expanding their books into series. Sometimes it ends up working, but other times it really doesn't!

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  16. Great post! Hope you don't mind, I shared it on my blog. =)
    http://gobsandgobsofbooks.blogspot.com/2014/05/blog-post-spotlight-ya-contemporaries.html

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  17. When I was in high school I think I was LOOKING for YA contemporaries and they weren't marketed very heavily back then. I am personally loving the trend because it encourages reading for teenagers. But yes, it seems like everything HAS to be a series now out of necessity which is lame, because sometimes I feel like I need to read a series for continuation and completion. Even though I didn't enjoy it THAT much.

    Jeann @ Happy Indulgence

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    1. That is a really good point. When I was a kid I loved series, so perhaps I am looking at this through adult eyes. But despite that, I still think that the auto-series trend is not good for every story or every author.

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  18. I feel like I'm kind of hypocritical about this, because I prefer standalone stories, but when I read a book I love and it's over...I often find myself throwing it across the room and begging for a series so I can read more about the characters.

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    1. Yes, I think we're all guilty of being hypocrites about this :)

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  19. I don't think even fantasies *have* to be series. I've read some great fantasy standalones - and those that should have been left as standalones.
    But I do see what you mean here. At least with fantasies/all other types of speculative fiction, the authors must do a ton more work in creating their worlds and figuring things out, and that definitely can be cause for turning plots into series. Contemporary authors don't have it easier, per se, but at least they don't have to worry about world-building to the extent that speculative fiction authors do.

    I don't feel like I read enough YA contemporary to really know whether these series work/are necessary. But I will say that I always appreciate a solid standalone, regardless of genre.

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    1. Good point. To me, fantasy books are often broader in scope -- geographically, chronologically, point-of-view wise (many of them are multi-character and multi-POV) and just take more time to tell. But that's not necessarily the case!

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