Thoughts On: Series vs Standalones

As some of you who follow me on Twitter may know, I went on a social media hiatus for a few months. I wrote a blog post about my thoughts about my slump and what I experienced: Thoughts On: My Recent Book Slump. In that blog post, I mentioned that I noticed that I enjoyed reading standalones and series where the individual books function as standalones more, and I said I’d write a blog post about this. This is the promised blog post.

Most of the books that I’ve been reading have been books that are part of a series. And most of these books are YA books. I’ve realised that most YA books function as part of a series and each book seems to have an open ending except for the last one. More so within the fantasy genre, than within the contemporary genre, most of these books are not complete if one does not read the whole series. This is not the case with most middle grade books, where books in a series are complete in themselves, and a reader can stop reading the series at any book, and still feel that they have read a complete story.

For myself, this has proven to be rather irritating, as I do not have a satisfactory reading experience as most books in a series end with a cliffhanger or an open ending. I want to be able to read the next book to find out what happens, but as most of these books are new releases, I have to usually wait at least a year to read the next book. This results in me forgetting what happened in the book in the mean time, and by the time the sequel is out, I don’t remember much at all.

I’m not saying that every reader will be like me. I have found myself gravitating towards standalone and books that function as complete stories within a series. What I mean by the latter is books, where a reader can stop reading at the end of every book and they will still have read a story that is complete from the first book of the series to the book they stopped at.

Thus, I’ve found myself gravitating to more books that are either 1. targeted towards adults, as these are often standalones (e.g. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng or The Rice Mother by Rani Manicka), or 2. targeted to a middle grade audience, as these are often books that function as complete stories within a series (e.g. The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan or Aru Shah and the End of Time by Rouhani Chokshi).

How do you feel about standalones and books in a series? Do you have a preference? Do you have any recommendations for standalone type of books?

11 thoughts on “Thoughts On: Series vs Standalones

  1. Great post, Sinead! I have to say that I have a complicated relationship with standalones vs series. While I love a good series, a lot of series that do exist really don’t need to be series. They could function perfectly as standalones, but since series make more money, they were lengthened out. While I love reading both, I legit believe that they should only be written as a series if the story requires it. Otherwise, why can’t they just be left as one book? There’s nothing wrong with writing a standalone.

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  2. I think that’s one of the reasons why I love Becky Chambers Wayfarer series so much? Because even though it’s still a series of books, those books can also be read as standalones because they don’t follow the same characters and there is minimal cross over between them? I used to love series as a child but I just don’t seem to have the concentration or motivation to read them now as an adult!

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  3. I’m torn on series vs. standalones. If I love a standalone book then I’m always so sad to tear myself away from the world and the writing. But a series is a commitment! Usually I limit the number of series I’m reading or try to stick to older completed series or ones with a set number of books.

    Especially reading a lot of fantasy and sci-fi as I used to, it’s mainly series. However since I switched to reading mostly diverse books for my non-work reading, it seems like diverse genre fiction has more stand-alone novels. But that’s why for example I won’t read Children of Blood and Bone until more of the series is released.

    Our family has been reading a lot of Sharon Draper books lately, and even though she wrote several series, most have a self-contained story. Another author whose books are mostly readable in one volume is Christopher Paul Curtis. Or Mitali Perkins, but I think you’ve already read more of her books than I have!

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      1. Oh I must have mixed up bloggers then! She has two elementary fiction books: Rickshaw Girl and Tiger Boy. Both good but very short. Secret Keeper is sad but very realistic YA historical fiction (TW for depression). Bamboo People about the Burmese-Karenni conflict and her newest book You Bring the Distant Near are both on my shelf and from what I’ve seen look good. Other than the First Daughter series, all of her books are stand-alone.

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  4. I feel the same way about series. The pacing doesn’t work for me and I rarely feel interested enough to continue past the first book. I definitely prefer stand alones (incidentally, I am a big fan of middle grade and not a fan of YA).

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