You know those books that come out and they’re a great hit and suddenly they’re everywhere, in every store, and everyone is raving about them? And for one reason or another, you just don’t subscribe to the hype–either you’re busy reading something else, or you just don’t have time, or aren’t in the mood for the particular genre–but it looks interesting, maybe you’ll borrow them from the library sometime and see what it’s all about. And then book two comes out the next year, reminding you, “Oh yeah, I never read the first one, I should probably get on that.” Then a year or two later, a few books later–maybe even the final installment–you still haven’t read the series and now the next new thing has come out, so what’s the point? Maybe it’s just me, but that seems to happen a lot.
I’ve broken down and started reading several YA series that have become really popular in their time, and maybe still are. Mostly, I’ve come to discover that the reason I was so hesitant to get into them in the first place is because they weren’t really the books for me. However, there are still some that I have a vague interest in finishing reading. So, in no particular order but vaguely the sequence I read them in, here are seven book series that I read the first book in and never went on to the rest (yet).
1. Percy Jackson & the Olympians by Rick Riordan
I must confess, I read The Lightning Thief after having seen the movie. I had liked the movie, heard about the books from a couple of friends, and thought I would read it. It was hilarious. I even started reading it to one of my sisters and recommended it to the other. I couldn’t believe how different the tone was from book to movie. And I don’t mean just the Annabeth hair colour flip. For me it was mostly the fact that they aged up the movie–a sixteen/seventeen-year-old Percy compared to a twelve year old one. It definitely showed in the content. I can only imagine they did this in an attempt to relate it to the audience that had read the series from the start–The Lightning Thief book came out in 2006, the movie in 2010, hence, the readers who were twelve-ish when reading the book would now be sixteen-ish. Perfect marketing strategy. On the other hand, what person who read The Chronicles of Narnia as a kid would have expected the movie version to age up the characters to their own age? The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was published in 1950, the first movie made of it in 1979. You can see the problem. The age of the characters does not necessarily determine identification, especially for those who already like the series. Also, ageing the character in the first movie leaves you less ways to show growth in the next installment. But this isn’t about the movie–I was talking about the book series, which for some reason I never continued. The Lightning Thief was a fun ride and made me laugh out loud, but I can’t honestly say I cared about the characters that much. Part of this may be due to how late I got into it–far past the age twelve-ish demographic, and feeling the protagonist was a little too immature for me to get invested in. Which is probably partly why I never continued with this series… or the next one, Heroes of Olympus… or the one after that.
2. Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
The Hush, Hush series was one of the first supernatural/romance YA series that made it onto my radar. And rightly so–those cover designs slay. For a while, these books were everywhere. They were the successors to The Mortal Instruments. Some of the last of the old supernatural guard before dystopian hellscapes descended on YA fiction en masse to replace cosmic battles with political revolution. But that’s just me. I heard a (very) few things about Hush, Hush before deciding to pick it up and quite enjoyed it. I was… impressed by quite a few aspects of it. Namely the functional parent imparting wisdom on the teenage protagonist in the form of identifying love as a choice. Yet, despite this and other positive impressions, I never read the rest of the series. I heard from a friend that it was good, but that the last book was a bit of a repeat due to a memory loss plot. Still, I intended to read it. Then I apparently contracted amnesia myself and forgot.
3. The Twilight Saga by Stephanie Meyer
And here we have the pivotal supernatural YA romance series that shaped a generation, conquered popular culture, and polarized people along the lines of their preference of supernatural monsters. I heard nothing good about this series (or the movies) until long after they had all come out and the hysteria died down. And I began to see a pattern in who I was hearing from, as well; namely, people who had never read the books themselves seemed to be the most scathing in their contempt for the whole production. I had finally just watched the first couple movies to see what it was about, and then decided to read the first book to see if the writing was as poor as I had heard from one second- or third-hand source. It wasn’t. It’s not a ninteenth century British novel but it is comparable to other YA fiction I have read–none of that pretends to be any kind of literary masterpiece. It’s just supposed to be entertaining, which, mainly, it is. I also noticed, point for Twilight, the vocabularly was slightly better than many of the YA books I had read. So I felt content that I had come to my own conclusions about the merits of the writing. And I remember thinking that I might read the rest of the books one day, but felt no compulsion to continue right then. I still haven’t finished them, and to be realistic about it at this point in my life, I might never do so. But who knows.
4. Lorien Legacies by Pittacus Lore
I had to look up the official title for this series because it’s so under my radar–I just know it by the first book in the series: I Am Number Four. And fittingly, this series is number four on my list. Like The Lightning Thief, I saw the movie first. And I quite liked it for being a teenager-tries-to-fit-in-at-a-normal-highschool-while-saving-the-world plot. The bad-guys were sadly un-scary and campy, but the rest of the characters and effects were decent. But I was going to talk about the book… or was I? To tell the truth, this is the only series on this list that I didn’t even finish the first book of. I read probably a good two-thirds of I Am Number Four, getting a fuller understanding of the actual lore (see what I did there?) surrounding the alien protagonist and his guardian… but mainly, it was pretty much exactly the same as the movie. And where they did change things, I could see the reasoning and sort of sided with the movie (except with the campy villains, but let’s be honest, the environmental-terrorism aspect of the book villains was sort of lame, too). So I decided to spend my time reading something else. On the other hand, I always kind of had the idea I might read the second book, The Power of Six, just because they never made a second movie and I liked her (Six’s) appearance at the end of the first one, but I have no solid plan on that.
5. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
I actually came into this series decently early compared to the others on this list. My local library got the first book just after its release and I saw it, was interested, and borrowed it in quick succession. And then I read it. And… meh. I hoped the brothers-sister dynamic would be fleshed out: then they killed off my favourite brother; I hoped they wouldn’t go the predictable route with the twist: they did; I wanted clever politics: I got an unsubtle beheading. Basically, every aspect of Red Queen just missed the spot for me. I can’t remember one trait of the main character besides the fact that she’s a “red” and can do electrical–but special abilities do not equal a personality. It was just… forgettable. I didn’t much care about anything by the end, and never intended to read more of the books, cliffhanger notwithstanding. Because of my complete disengagement, I am still surprised the series is still going every time I see a new book come out.
6. Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
I remember first seeing Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children in the bookstore and looking through all the pictures. It was pretty fascinating, but I never came across it at the library until the second book was out, and at that point I wasn’t sure if I wanted to commit. The title of the third book, Library of Souls, did rekindle my interest a bit, though. Then I heard about a recommendation of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children from a friend, and finally decided to read it once and for all. By then, I think it was too late. I’d waited too long, my interest had waned since the novelty of the cover and concepts caught my attention at the bookstore, and I just didn’t love it. It was all right, but by this time in my reading life I had been increasingly abandoning YA for adult books and finding them more compelling. So I never continued the series. But may I just say, the complete switch of characters they did in the movie adaptation (which I saw later) did rather boil my blood on behalf of all those who really liked the books; such disrespect!
7. The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer (look at that, another Meyer)
And finally, another book of which the cover caught my eye in the bookstore, Cinder. Thinking about it, Cinder has the strongest cover design of the series because of its juxtaposition of fashion and robotics. None of the other covers have that distinctive science-fiction element to them. So, good job on the first cover for hooking interest with the graphic design. That being said, I think the cover is easily the strongest part of this book as well. I finally read Cinder after having interest simmering for years on the back burner of my book-radar, but within fifty pages I was over the writing style… and the main character… oh, yeah, and the plot. I’m not going to go into to that all here, as I did write a Goodreads review of it that I might post in the near future with more details. Suffice to say, I’m not champing at the bit to read the rest of these. (And can we all agree that Meyer not calling the series The Lunar Cycle was a missed opportunity?)
And that’s all for YA series I never got into after reading the first book. There are many more in which I haven’t even gotten that far, and still think about trying sometime; but that may be fodder for another post. Have you read any of these series? Which would you recommend I finish? Let me know in the comments if you have any strong feelings about my giving a particular series another chance!