It’s a crazy phenomenon that I know is not a new concept… Nevertheless, we all suffer from time-to-time…
THE SECOND IN A SERIES SLUMP
So there I am. Starting the second book in a series in which I absolutely adored book one. The anticipation is killing me! But then the more and more I read, the more and more I’m let down. How is it possible that I loved Book One so much and I’m struggling so much with Book Two? What happened to the joy and excitement from the first book? Where am I going wrong here? Is there something wrong with me!? Well friends, if any of these questions sound familiar to you, I think I’ve figured it out.
WHAT’S THE DEAL?
After running into this problem many, many times with the second book in a series, I think I’ve finally figured it out. Here are some tell-tale signs that I’m suffering from The Second in a Series Slump.
1. It’s often a dystopian or science fiction-type book.
Why in the world does that make a difference? Trust me. It does. In so many of the dystopian and/or science fiction-y books I’ve read, Book One introduces us to the characters and their big issue, usually with some type of government or society (so pretty much every dystopian novel you’ve read). Our hero and main character goes through the normal trials tribulations and then HOORAY! They escape the grasp of the evil society. But wait a minute! Now that they’ve eluded the government, they know the character is out there and rebelling. Time to go into hiding! ENTER BOOK TWO.
2. Wait a minute, where are we???
Now that our brave MC has escaped the society/government/bad guy, it’s time to HIDE! Hiding, running, fleeing… These are common themes of book two. The problem I usually have with this is yes, the chase is exciting but… I’m so unfamiliar with the territory here! We spent so much time loving/adoring/fearing the world building that was so well laid out by the author in Book One and now we’re in an entirely different setting. I feel like when the character goes on the lam, I have to totally readjust and the world building starts all over again. Sometimes it totally works, but then the other times, I’m in another completely different world. I’m distracted by this new setting that it takes me a while to adjust to all these changes and I start to get lost. I have to take the existing plot and somehow connect it to a brand new place that I’m not familiar with. More focus on the world building and less focus on where we’re headed on this plot-journey.
3. Missing the Old Characters/Introducing New Characters
So now we’re in another foreign land and because our main character was on the run, we he/she had to leave the friends/family/love interest behind in order to save themself. Is this all starting to ring a bell? New setting + lack of familiar characters = Lost again. I was just adjusting to the new world! Now you’re giving me new characters too? Meanwhile, I’m still wondering what happened to the love interest/best friend/family that was left behind (as is the character). I feel like my attention is spread so thin that I’m not sure what’s the most important thing to concentrate on anymore.
4. The two young lovers are usually separated
After a narrow escape, the love interest tries to save the MC. “Leave me! Save yourself!” So they did. So often, Book Two separates our two main characters and they spend the whole book trying to reunite. You know what made Book One so interesting? THE LOVE STORY. So why did we take it out of Book Two? Why are you killing me with this!?!? I just want the love story back!!! Bring these two youngsters back together!
5. Introducing a Love Triangle
Wait, what!?! We already have MC missing the love interest that they left behind and most likely it was that love interest who set our MC running. But we have to have SOME kind of romance in Book Two, right? Enter new person: Helping keep our MC safe and of course it’s always someone of the opposite sex, isn’t it? MIXED FEELINGS. We’ve got old feelings and new feelings and it’s ALL SO CONFUSING – both for MC and the audience. I really don’t want to like this new love interest, but you know I always kind of do… NO, not another love triangle!!! What happened to the original, pure love story between the two original characters? What happens when they reunite? WILL they reunite?
Combine all of these elements and you have the perfect storm of The Second in a Series Slump. Usually it’s Book Two if we’re dealing with trilogies. If the series is longer, the storm may not hit until Book Three or Four, so be on the lookout! When it all comes down to it, it’s just too many new things all at once. Changing so many things that I loved in the first book doesn’t help me get along with the second book very well. It’s not to say that I’ll have Book Two, but it just feels like a completely different story sometimes. It’s hard to make that connection with the original and connect the two distinct plot lines.
Book Two in a Trilogy/Series:
Didn’t Hit Me Til Book Three/Four:
Now don’t despair! Just because we suffer from The Second in a Series Slump doesn’t mean that the series is over. There have been many times where Book Three has redeemed the whole series and brought everything back together! Sadly… Other times this phenomenon didn’t actually occur UNTIL Book Three and well… You lost me there. As seen above with The Death Cure and Mockingjay – Well… Those were the endings to the trilogy and a delayed Second in a Series Slump effectively created a poor ending for a series I was enjoying. When this happened in Blood Promise, it took until Book Four but then we jumped right back into the swing of things with Book Five!
In the case of Pandemonium and Fever, I still enjoyed the books and the story lines that the main characters were pulled along, but I just found it difficult to connect these new characters and this new place with what I loved so much about the first book!
Have you ever been hit by The Second in a Series Slump? Do you find that these rules apply to this phenomenon? Did you have any of the same books that I listed above?
25 thoughts on “The Second in a Series Slump”
This is a good & funny article & applies to many series I’ve read. The one exception that immediately springs to mind for me is Golden Son (book 2 in the Red Rising trilogy). All three books in this series were GREAT, which makes me so excited that Pierce Brown is writing a new trilogy set in this same world!! 🙂
I run into 4 & 5 all the time. I think it is the Twilight Therorem. We have to do something that doesn’t quite fit so we can be happy when it works out again & extend the series. Urgh!!!
This is SUCH a good post – I found this so true, particularly with Pandemonium, and I’ve never really thought about the reasons why.
You’ve obviously put a lot of thought into this though, and all of your points are so true! I’m especially bored of love triangles now…
I think Heidi’s right too, about some of it down to authors stretching to get the “standard trilogy”. What could be summed up with book 1 ending with a character going on the run, and book 2 starting with “x amount of time later”, feels instead an awful lot like filler!
Ugh, I am so with you on Mockingjay and The Death Cure not hitting till book 3. It really felt like in these cases the authors had these great exciting ideas…and not a way to end them. Totally deflated. For most of the second books, I usually feel it’s because they’re so forced! Most of these series where this happens could EASILY be duologies, but nooooooo, they really want to push that trilogy, and thus the entire book two is all of the filler elements you discussed. Terrible. I still haven’t read Reached because of Crossed. *sigh*
I definitely had that slump issue with Pandemonium! Matched was ok but I also found that I didn’t even like Crossed and it killed the series for me. I didn’t have an issue with Wither, but I have to re-read that series soon. Great analysis, I hadn’t put that together before now 🙂
Duuudee fantastic points!! I was reading your reasons and I was like omg…they DO end up running and hiding all over the place in book two!! I didn’t like Catching Fire at all but LOVED Mockingjay (I know, no one agrees) but other than that I try so hard to stay away from series because I am AFRAID!!! Glad to hear your thoughts though…I won’t be continuing the Matched series…
I have a 3rd in a series slump, Opal. Loved Obsidian & Onyx and couldn’t wait to devour but it took alot to finish Opal, including taking a break to read another book and then returning to Opal and finishing it.
You know what’s interesting? I actually really enjoyed Pandemonium and The Fox Inheritance as second books. In the case of Pandemonium, I fell in love with Julian. I was fascinated by him and his past and the relationship he had with Lena. Honestly, I like Julian/Lena better than Alex/Lena. Plus, it made a lot of sense to me, being in a new world. With The Fox Inheritance, the reason I probably had no problem with it as a second book is that I couldn’t remember anything about the first book, so I had nothing I was attached to. Also, I loved Locke. So there’s that.
I can’t think of any specific books right now, but I do have issues with the second in a trilogy every once in a while. Sometimes they feel as if they’re just filler books, instead of adding anything really meaningful to the story.
Ohhh I’m glad you don’t seem to suffer from Second in a Series Slump then! I don’t know why I have such an issue LOL. For what it’s worth, I ended up liking Locke a lot more in the third book! I felt like there was a lot more that I learned about him then.
And I still liked Pandemonium, but I was so hung up on Alex that I was just wondering about him the whole book. I think I actually TRIED not to like Julian LOL. He grew on me!
This is so true! Well, it would be truer if I read more dystopian novels. I don’t like them. But I think a good author would be able to make you appreciate the new world and the new characters.
This is probably the biggest reason I DON’T like series (despite the fact that I eat them up like they’re going out of style). I can’t stand it when we’re hit with this totally AWESOME story and then get to the second book and it’s like “really? This blows.” I mean, I get that there has to be a second book in a series if it’s a series, and that at times it maaaay not live up to the first book, but I want it to! I want it to blow my mind like the first one did. I want it to make me so excited about the story line that I am begging for the next chapter in the series. I guess we can’t have it all though, and slower, slumpier seconds in a series just make me appreciate the great seconds in series out there!
LOL I do the same thing… I get so mad at series and yet I’m in the middle of a thousand of them!
Thanks for commenting!!! I’ve loved hearing people’s thoughts about this 🙂
This is SO funny, and SOOO true! I’m so glad I am not the only one who feels this way. It’s gotten so bad that I’m starting to fear the second book! Luckily Scarlet by Marissa Meyer did not fall victim to this, but I totally agree with Pandemonium! This is the reason I can’t wait for Requiem. 🙂 Love this post!
Thanks, Jana!!! I’m hiding from Scarlet reviews until I read it (hopefully soon!!! I’m borrowing from someone) but I’ve heard so many great things and can’t wait to get to it!!
Agreed – I’m hoping that Requiem ties everything back together and the series feels a little more cohesive again. I enjoyed Pandemonium but was just let down a little after how much I LOVED Delirium.
Thanks so much for commenting! So glad you enjoyed the post!
I don’t think it’s much of a secret that I was REALLY disappointed by Insurgent. That book suffers from almost all the issues you mention except the introduction of a love triangle. And then there was a lot more moodiness from the main characters, which I had trouble resolving with how they’d previously behaved. I’ve been avoiding reading Crossed, even though I liked Matched because I heard it was such a let down. So I definitely know what you mean about second-book slumps… my only solution is to give up on the series. Maybe I’m missing out by doing this, though!
It’s tough!!! Crossed was the beginning of the end for me with Matched (I didn’t even finish Reached), but with Pandemonium/Delirium, I still enjoyed book two, but it was just so disconnected from one that I was having a hard time enjoying it as much as the first.
I was kind of so-so on both Divergent/Insurgent, but I agree – The characters took a turn in Insurgent and I was like “What!?!?”
BUT with the VA series, book four slumped for me, but totally picked up in book five. Sometimes it’s worth sticking it out… but you never know!
Thanks for a great comment 🙂
I seriously love this post. You are soooo right!!! I always get nervous right before diving into the sequel. After an awesome first book, my expectations are extremely high. I feel like this years sequels are sure bringing it more than previous years, though! Through the Ever Night, Everbound, and Asunder are sequels that I actually enjoyed MORE than the first book. 😮 Craziness! I love that authors are finally doing what they need to to make the sequel great!
I totally agree!!! I forgot to mention that, probably because it’s only recently that I’ve been liking the second book better than the first – I was the same way with TTeN and Everbound too!
thanks so much for commenting 🙂
You definitely have seen the problem with second novels in a trilogy. It seems like the second book is a big set up for the grand finale in the third book. Could authors avoid a second book slump by preparing to write 4 books?
I actually am in the minority that I really like Mockingjay (though I do understand why people were disappointed. It was unexpected and it wasn’t until my 3rd re-read after I’d been away from the series for awhile that I actually enjoyed the book), but I think for the most part you hit the nail on the head with some of the factors that contribute to the second book slump. It’s so true: Normally book 2 is spent running AWAY from stuff, while book 3 is spent running towards freedom and fighting the government/oppressive system. I definitely felt 2nd book slump BIG TIME with Pandemonium.
I really never read dystopian novels – they freak me out way too much. But I get you about second book slumps. Sometimes I think it has to do with already knowing the characters. I mean, when we first meet these amazing, interesting characters in book one, it’s all new and fresh. But in the second book, it isn’t quite so new.
Also, I love the OTH gif! Brooke was totally a favorite character of mine. 🙂
And lastly, I HATE LOVE TRIANGLES. Really, really hate them. I will often avoid a book if I think there is going to be a LT. Ugh!
Great point! I never thought of that point, that we already do know the characters so now we have to learn new things. Maybe it’s not as exciting!
I loved Brooke!! I was a Peyton-hater LOL
As much as I loved the Hunger Games, Mockingjay was probably the worse series ender I have ever read 🙁
A for book 2 slump-I throw Linger right up there. I was so not feeling it that I still haven’t brought myself to read book 3 nor any of her other books. This has never happened to me! But the beautiful lyrical poetic feel of Shiver was erased in Linger and I felt tricked and was so mad!
This is so true! From experience, this happened to me with the Uglies series, but in book 3… I still haven’t got through it! In The Delirium and Matched trilogies, I haven;t got past book one.. I don’t want the books to ruined for me.
You hit the nail on the head. Great discussion post!
Thanks for commenting! I still love the Delirium trilogy, but book two was just a bit disconnected. I still really enjoyed the story though and gave it about 4 stars 🙂
Hope you don’t run into any more books to put you in a series slump! 🙂