The other day, BookEnds agents got into a lively discussion regarding our thoughts on a couple of different YA trilogies. One of the things that a few of us noted was that one trilogy in particular was very difficult to follow. A few of us read the first book when it came out and had to wait a year to read the second. When we finally did we had a hard time following the stories and the characters. Had we read them one right after another that probably wouldn’t have been the case.
I think series writers get in the habit of skillfully introducing the characters and the series with each book. It’s an art. It has to be done in such a way that you don’t lose your dedicated series readers to boredom, but that allows new readers to dive into the story and follow the characters without feeling like they’re missing something.
Trilogies are different though. Trilogies are often designed as one story. Which means that while each book needs to stand alone in some respect, the three books are intrinsically linked in not only characters, but also the main plot (not just a secondary plot like often happens in a series). The problem with that is introducing a reader without impairing your rhythm and pace. This is also a skill, but one I find is more difficult for writers.
When I have the luck of falling in love with a trilogy at the end of its success (like I did with Hunger Games) I have no problem reading the stories. In that case I bought the first two books just as the third was coming out and sat down and read them back-to-back-to-back. Since it was like reading one big book there was no problem following everything that happened. With other successful and popular trilogies I got in earlier and waiting for the next book was hard. Once I got it in my hands I was disappointed (and in some cases turned off enough not to buy the third book).
A year is a long time. I don’t and won’t remember all of your characters names or who they are and I need a bit of a reminder of the plot. I mean, we’re talking YA here so maybe I’m just old and the younger readers can do what I can’t (remember anything), but I kind of doubt it.