Today I want to talk about a topic I didn't really come across or think about before I got involved in the book blogging community. It's often referred to as Second Book Syndrome and the way I understand it, it basically means the inability of the second book in a series (especially a trilogy) to measure up to the first one, or to the reader expectations that had built up for its release. I think if we're talking about longer series, there is sometimes also the impression that the second book is/was the weakest one? (I'm not sure whether this is a common opinion though.)
Now why do I want to talk about this?
Well... quite often I don't see this problem. To be honest, I often like the second book in a trilogy the best! Or even if I don't like it better than the other ones, I at least don't think it's bad. There are exceptions to this of course (see below) but in general I don't understand this whole idea of Second Book Syndrome and why people seem to end up hating the second book. I'd even go so far as to say that most of the time, the problem isn't the book but the reader and their expectations, and well... you yourself are responsible for your expectations. Not the book. Not the author.
I mean, I get that it kind of sucks if you had made your mind up that a book was going to be a certain way and then it turns out completely different, but instead of getting angry I think it's better to take a step back, change gears, and get on board with the book you actually have in front of you instead of mourning the book you had made up in your mind. This is speculation on my part though, and maybe people who experience Second Book Syndrome often have different reasons for disliking book 2?
That being said, I think it's time for some examples of second books that were different from what I thought they'd be but turned out to be really awesome:
I was a bit reluctant when I realized that Demon's Covenant was written from the POV of a different character than book 1 (book 3 is from yet another), and one that I had mixed feelings about. But I turned out to love being inside her head, seeing her struggles, and I admired her strength. This is my fave of the series mostly for that reason.
When the reactions for CP started trickling in, I knew I was in for heartache. But nothing could prepare me for the perfection (and the pain) of this book. I'm not usually a fan of love triangles but here it's just perfectly balanced. All three of them love each other, it's not just two guys panting after the same girl and there's no petty jealousy and power games.
Enshadowed was different from Nevermore in that there was a lot less Varen around... which made me sad, but also allowed Isobel to develop much more as a person of herself, not in relation to some guy, as had been the case before with her ex. Generally with this series I never know what to expect, and I love it!
Now I suppose a lot of you wonder 'why Torment?' To be honest, I don't really know how to feel about this series. On the one hand, it's insta-love and YA stereotypes at their worst. On the other hand, it's like a metadiscourse or reflection on insta-love, especially in book 2. Luce mistrusts Daniel, is angry at being out of the loop, and wants to discover things of her own. His 'love of my life and my past life omg he's so amazing' image gets some serious scratches. Because she's the one dying over and over while he just goes on for another 17 years and gets his next chance, where he'll screw up again. I've yet to read book 4, and maybe then I'll have a clearer idea about the series as a whole.
There are a gazillion other amazing second books I could have mentioned here, but many of them didn't take me by surprise as much. I expected The Eternity Cure, Days of Blood and Starlight, Red Glove, and Crown of Midnight to be awesome, and they were. Oh, and I know many had a problem with Insurgent but I think it was a very realistic continuation of what happened in Divergent. I might not have liked everything that happened but it was a logical consequence.
Unfortunately, also for me there are second books that just didn't work out:
I really enjoyed Hush Hush when I read it two years ago (I got it at a signing on a trip to Ireland) but Crescendo was a big disappointment. My biggest issue was with Nora. Her behavior was stupid and irrational, and her decisions made no sense. I know she's young, but she's supposed to be smart. The magic just didn't happen this time. The book was just full of bad vibes and it really tried my nerves. Silence was somewhat better. I haven't read Finale yet.
I loved the writing in Wither. The mood and world were incredibly strong to me. While Fever was still good, the characters spent a lot of time in a place I kind of hated and that part dragged for me. On the other hand, there were developments that just had to happen and we got a bigger picture of the book's world and how it works.
My Soul to Save is not on here because it is bad, but I do think it's the weakest book in the series. The plot just never really pulled me in and I sometimes had problems with Kaylee's reactions. Book 3-7 though? Perfection.
Sweet Peril is a book I was really really looking forward to, especially with it kind of hanging in the air whether Harper would buy it at all. I wanted to love it. I only liked it. Sweet Evil had a way of completely pulling me into the story; it was really intense. Sweet Peril felt like a kind of stagnation. Anna developed some, but the plot was crawling. They're not really much further than they were at the end of book 1. I got to know the characters better and there were scenes and interactions I really loved, but on the whole I'd just expected more, also in terms of and expansion of the world building. I hope book 3 will give me that punch I kind of missed here, though I still enjoyed the this one.
Now why did I compile this second list? Because I don't think that's Second Book Syndrome. It's a mixture me having my expectations not met, them having been way too hyped up, or me having gotten more picky about books. It could have been my mood. It could have been a lot of things. I just think it's a pity if readers, from the get-go, have it in their heads that the second book is going to be a disappointment and won't measure up to the first. Because if you go into the story with that kind of expectation, you will probably find a lot of things to dislike and feel that your expectations were justified, and you might miss parts that were awesome because you're focusing on the negative.
Do any of you share some of my feelings about Second Book Syndrome? Or if you do think second books are often weak, can you explain why? Are my ideas of why some people might feel like that way off or is there something to them? This is an issue I see around the blogosphere a lot for example when there are Top Ten Tuesday posts about sequels, or also in reviews. I'd just like to hear some other thoughts/opinions/theories, so please share and comment?