Sunday, August 02, 2009

Skeptical About Sequels

Some books just do not need sequels. Most, as a matter of fact. And let's not even talk about movies at this point.

During my recent vacation I read a delightful novel called Love Walked In, by Marisa de los Santos. Very tight character development, featuring a few key personalities with whom you could really get involved. It was one of those books that is harder to put down the closer you get to the end. Imagine my joyful anticipation when I learned there was a sequel, and my assumption was that the author would take me deeper into these three lovely characters I had grown to love. This author, after all, could be trusted!

And then came my disdain that Belong to Me--part two--continued the key original characters but tried to force me to like a whole new set of other people on equal footing. The book screamed, "Care about these people!" And I just could not care.

The experience of reading the sequel was not quite as devastating as seeing Grease 2 or Stayin' Alive, but it was close. Throw in a couple of ridiculous plot twists near the end that made at least one of the original characters less likable, and the reader finds himself feeling a bit yucky and wishing Dr. de los Santos had chosen to write something else. Sometimes too much of a good thing really is too much.

My general sense is that works of science fiction, fantasy or mystery are best geared toward sequels or series. I loved each Harry Potter book more than its predecessor. Chronicles of Narnia--check. J.R.R. Tolkien's works--ditto. But for some reason--and this is just my perspective--stories about real, everyday people that touch the human heart in a profound manner are perfect just as they are. There is no need to add to or take away. Let them live forever in the crucible of a final page count.

I'm sure at least J.D. Salinger agrees with me.

Perhaps de los Santos will crank out another novel before long. She has a brilliant mind, and I would love to partake in more of her imagination. But if I read the book jacket and see the names of familiar characters, the story for that day will be John Walked Out...of the bookstore!


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