Hello Quadrilogy

Need series. Fallen series. Twilight Saga. Inheritance Cycle.

Enter the quadrilogy.

For many of us, the concept of a trilogy makes sense. Just like any story, there’s a beginning, middle, and end. It’s logical and expected. We meet everyone and get a sense of the big conflict in the first, the plot thickens in the second, and then we get handed a big finale in the third. Makes sense, right?

But lately, I’ve noticed a growing trend toward having four books in a series. There are good and bad reasons for this, I guess. Let me explain.

My first inclination is to think that publishers know that once someone is hooked on a series, they’ll buy all the books to get to the end of the story. Four books, therefore, makes more financial sense than three. I can’t be mad at them for maximizing profit. I mean, more profit means more money to publish more books. Everybody wins.

But the question I have is whether the overall story suffers from this beginning, middle, middle, end formula. Let me put it this way–do we really need four books?

In some series, many readers might say yes. Once you fall in love with a set of characters, it’s hard to let them go. Whether adding books affects the quality of story-telling probably depends more on the author’s skill than the needs of the story.

As I writer, I’m pretty happy with the trilogy. If I can’t tell the story in three exciting parts, then I feel that the story is awkward and unwiedly. But certainly there are series where the amount of information and events needed for a satisfactory conclusion necessitate four parts.

I’m not going to say whether all the series mentioned above need all four books. But I will tell you that all but one could probably have been told really well with less. Then again, it comes down to this–do we, as readers, mind when we get more out of a series we love, even if so much of it is fluff, or would we prefer a smaller amount of quality writing?

The jury, for me, is still out.

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Carrie Jones, will you be my best friend? Author of Need Series captivates with humor.

I’m a sucker for humor. But I’ll admit, I wasn’t prepared for the tongue-in-cheek writing that greeted me in Need, Carrie Jones first novel of the same-named series. By the second book, I was a total fan, and now on book three, I’m craving it. I need more Carrie Jones.

Before I continue with this author-on-author worship, let me explain that I’ve been reading my share of the lastest and greatest YA novels, and some are terrific, but generally, quite serious. For instance, Divergent, The Book Thief, Matched, Delirium, Before I Fall, Lament, and Starcrossed are just a few recent reads. This is good stuff, but sheesh, the drama is taking it’s toll.

And then I open Need and am treated to an exciting story, but one that has no problem making fun of itself. I thought I couldn’t handle any more vampire-type novels for a while, but Jone’s take on the whole pixie situation is hilarious. Oh, and werewolves. Where would we be without those? Not nearly as entertained, that’s for sure.

So Carrie Jones, you’ve won me over. I love the fact that I can read something exciting and romantic and still laugh every other page (or every page). Sometimes we just need to take things a little less seriously, you know?

Check out her website–it’s funny too!

Living in a dystopian wonderland. Is futuristic discontent replacing the vampire?

 

Twilight, Vampire Diaries, and Blue Bloods are just a few of the many, many YA series based on the supernatural creature that have glutted the market. Publishers and agents everywhere swore off wanting to see any more Twilight-type manuscripts, and yet, it seems that these books kept popping up everywhere.

But although vampires themselves boast immortatilty, their characters may be reaching the end of their life-span as the go-to YA theme. Enter dystopia.

Hunger Games. Matched. Delirium. These are just three of the popular series that feature a dystopian society. If you don’t know what Hunger Games is about, you must have been stranded on a desert island for the past few months. As for the other two series, they both focus on a controlled society that makes decisions for the population about love and marriage. And for what it’s worth, they’re both beautifully written.

I love all three of these series (well, I’ll admit some disappointment in the Hunger Games ending, but I’m one of a few). I guess the books feel so different from all the contemporary and paranormal series out there.

The question is, do editors want more of the same? Or something else? The million dollar question is, what’s the next big thing?

I’m hoping it’s mobsters😉

Utopia gone bad – The Matched Trilogy is a gentler but more subversive take on the popular dystopian theme

Thank goodness there’s one more book in the Matched Trilogy by Allie Condie. Matched and Crossed will go down as two of my favorite YA novels thus far. The ideas behind this series about a dystopian society reminds me of the concepts put forward in Ira Levin’s This Perfect Day, with the-world-is-hunky-dory concept getting blown to bits in the first book. Of course, the ever popular Hunger Games makes no bones about its dystopian world, but I like Condie’s gradual revelations even better.

The question I pose is, how important is the disscussion of dystopian themes in todays’ society? It’s not a new idea by any means (see list here), but conspiracy theorists and doomsday preppers aside, how complacent are we, and can dystopian fiction make us any more aware of giving up the freedoms we cherish?

Oh–and I love Condie’s use of the Dylan Thomas poem “Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night.” I think it’s a good reminder.

Racist comments from fans of Hunger Games a big disappointment and begs the question – are we addressing race in YA novels enough?

I have to say, I was shocked to read some of the Twitter comments by fans who watched the Hunger Games movie and disapproved (and that’s putting it nicely) of Rue and Thresh being cast as African American (see story here). I was stunned for two reasons – I never pictured them as anything else (Collins clearly describes them as dark skinned in the book), and secondly, and I really thought we were better than this! We have such a multi-ethnic country, and because Panem is based on a futuristic North America , the fact that so many of the characters are white should be more surprising.

This opens the door for discussion of larger issues. Are teen novels doing enough to integrate race (and especially interracial relationships) into the mainstream? Is describing someone as dark skinned enough? How else was Collins supposed to emphasize that these characters were not white (because in a futuristic society, the term African American might not be a racial designation)? How clear do authors need to be?

In my new book, Danny’s best friend, Reggie Allen, is black. I try to clarify this on several occasions. This creates some uncomfortable situations throughout the trilogy. First of all, the mob is not known for its lack of racism, which makes the relationship between Reggie and Danny’s godfather, Gino, pretty strained. I don’t try to sugarcoat it, although I probably could have explored it even further. Also, Reggie has the biggest conscience of Danny’s group of friends, always reminding Danny of the “right” thing to do. In fact, when Danny wonders how Reggie knows who the district attorney is, Reggie first jokes that it was because he got in trouble, and then when Danny takes the bait, he then explains he actually met him through a debate competition. In this way, I had hoped to shed some light on how our minds work. Stereotypes can only survive as long as we let them. And apparently, people are still letting them.

Long story short, the comments on Twitter were a deep disappointment for me. No one can argue that racism no longer exists in this country if people are still saying things like this.

Speak out.

Isn’t she beautiful? Amandla Stenberg did a bang up job as Rue!

Love or hate the love triangle in a novel? Vote now…

Can the genre-divide be crossed? J. K. Rowling’s new venture raises the question of whether YA and adult mainstream novelists can dabble in both

The big discussion last month was J. K. Rowling’s announcement that she will be writing a novel for the adult crowd. The question was whether her larger-than-life Harry Potter series would eclipse any future attempt by her to create a compelling story and cast of characters. But she’s not the first YA novelist to try a new market. Stephanie Myer released The Host last year, and Judy Blume has several adult novels available, which seem to appeal especially to those who grew up reading her numerous books geared for a younger crowd. Anyone know of others?

As for crossing the other direction, James Patterson, John Grisham, Harlan Coben, and Lauren Conrad are just a few big names in publishing who are now trying their hand at YA fiction. Having read Coben’s Shelter, I can give him a thumbs up and hope to see more. I haven’t read the others yet, but word on the street (or in some author chat rooms) isn’t pretty. However, I’ll reserve judgment, as always, until I can give them a whirl myself!

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