Sophomore Slumps vs Sophomore Bumps: When a sequel disappoints…or surprises

I liked the COVER of the sequel more at least...

I liked the COVER of the sequel more at least…

I just finished the sequel to The Liar Society, a book that I really liked. Unfortunately, I felt like the second book in this series made the characters flatter, the plot less interesting and less believable, and the writing more strained.

Instead of writing a Full Hack, I decided to explore the risks and rewards of sequels. It seems that conventional wisdom says that the original is always better than the sequel. But I know that I have often been pleasantly surprised by a sequel that outshines its predecessor. And I’ve also been crushed by sequels that are not just not-as-good-as-the-original, but just utterly disappointing.

Read on for my list of my top Sophomore Slumps and Sophomore Bumps. I’d love to hear about yours in the comments!

1 scissorsSophomore Slumps – when the sequel disappoints

Original: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

    Sequels: Catching Fire – I liked that it had more Haymitch, but it was a bit repetitive of the first book, and was slightly less believable. Mockingjay – Just awful – the most disappointing sequel I’ve ever read. Just totally unbelievable and unnecessarily brutal.

Original: Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

Sequel(s): New Moon – Yes, I read Twilight, and yes I enjoyed it. I did, I swear. But with its sequel New Moon, it became unavoidably obvious about how creepy Edward is, how pathetic Bella is, and how insipid Meyer’s writing can be. I don’t know if this is actually true, but in my memory 2/3 of the book was Bella moping and being a terrible friend. I can’t talk about the following books because I gave up on the series at this point.

Original: Matched by Allie Condie

Sequels: Crossed and Reached – Crossed was forgettable and boring and was obviously just a bridge to the final book of the series. I liked Reached slightly more, but was still disappointed compared to my enjoyment of the original.

Sophomore Bumps – when the sequel is surprisingly better than the original

The Queen's Thief Series_covers Original: The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

Sequels: The Queen’s of Attolia and The King of Attolia – The Thief was pretty fun, but Queen, and even moreso, King, were fabulous and managed to be both entertaining all while deepening my appreciation of characters I only thought I knew. Whalen Turner likes to experiment with her storytelling style and uses different techniques in each of the books in this fantastic series.

Curse Workers_covers Original: White Cat by Holly Black

Sequel: Red Glove – I really liked the first book in Holly Black’s Curseworker Series – I loved the world she set up and the conflicts and tensions between characters, and I was pleasantly surprised to find these conflicts and tensions even more interesting and fun in the sequel.

Azkaban_cover Order of the Phoenix_cover Original: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by JK Rowling

Sequels: Prisoner of Azkaban (#3) and Order of the Phoenix (#5) – These are my two favorite Potters because of the extra doses of Sirius Black and Severus Snape.  Both of these book also introduce evil that I found more terrifying than He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named: the Dementors and Dolores Umbridge. In both the book and movie versions, I found Azkaban’s Dementors to be almost unbearably scary. And to me,  Phoenix portrayed Harry Potter’s world as a reflection of society’s ills of our “real world”.  It gets political as it explores the societal class differences between wizards, goblins, and house-elves and reveals the deep awfulness of the Malfoy family’s obsession with mudbloods. But Dolores Umbridge’s totalitarian reign of Hogwarts represents the oppressive nature of bureaucracy  whether it be in schools or government. The first Harry Potter was a wonderful entry into a magical world; but these two sequels had both adventure and something to say.

Share your thoughts on sequels in the comments!

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