Thursday, September 15, 2016

Novel Sequels

Sequels. It seems like everything is part of a series these days. Harry Potter was seven books, eight movies, and a play. A Song of Ice and Fire fans are patiently waiting for books six and seven as HBO’s Game of Thrones surpasses the novels this year. Sue Grafton, who started her Kinsey Millhone mysteries in 1982 with “A” is for Alibi, is nearing the end of the alphabet with X (expect Y in 2017 and Z in 2019). Frankly, keeping up with these never-ending series can be exhausting.

What happened to good old fashioned novels, I find myself asking…myself? Well, actually, most of the books that come into the library are standalone stories. But sometimes characters resonate and you wonder what happened to them after that final page. Occasionally authors have the same feeling and that’s when we get unexpected sequels. This is a list of continuations to books that aren’t part of lengthy series. But writing the unexpected sequel can be tricky business. Sometimes the story comes as a natural progression, enhancing the original story. Other times, it reads as a shameless cash grab, making you completely question your judgment of the first book. Authors, tread carefully.

Here are some recent sequels that you may (or may not) want to check out:

Glory over Everything by Kathleen Grissom (2016, sequel to 2010’s The Kitchen House) I read The Kitchen House with my book club groups here at the library, and that book was a very powerful read. Set in the late 1700s, a young Irish immigrant is taken in as an indentured servant, and raised by the slaves on the property. We grew with her over the course of the book until she is a married adult, seeing how harsh pre-Civil War south was. Glory Over Everything follows a character introduced in the first book, Jamie, who was born to a slave and her master. Years after the events of The Kitchen House, Jamie is living in Philadelphia, passing as white and struggling to keep his past a secret. But as you can imagine, it comes back to bite him since America in the 1830s is still not very accepting. Not your average sequel, as you could quite easily read this without the other, but a satisfying glimpse into the characters’ lives from the first novel. ~CW

After You by Jojo Moyes (2015, sequel to 2012’s Me Before You) – With the film version of Me Before You just out of theaters, I hesitate to give too much of this story away. Let’s just say that Clark struggles to readjust to life after the events of the first book. Clark’s maturity in the sequel makes for an appealing compliment to the original book. ~MT
First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen (2015, sequel to 2007’s Garden Spells) Allen’s books exist mostly in the same world, so you’ll occasionally catch a glimpse of a character from Garden Spells in The Peach Keeper, but First Frost is her first proper sequel. Ten years after the events of Garden Spells, we check in with the Waverley sisters whose settled lives might be upended by the appearance of a mysterious stranger. ~MT

Hostile Takeover by Shane Kuhn (2015, sequel to 2014’s The Intern’s Handbook) The Intern’s Handbook was a breezy thriller with a fairly definitive ending, making the appearance of a sequel somewhat surprising (see review here). In Hostile Takeover, John Lago is back at it with his “special” skills. In the first book, John is dictating instructions to a new “intern” (read: assassin) about how he got to where he is. The second book finds him working closely with someone from the first book who we don’t entirely trust. Friend or foe? ~MT

Stand-Off  by Andrew Smith (2015, sequel to 2013’s Winger) I found Winger to be an unexpectedly poignant YA novel about a boy, Ryan Dean West, finding his place among his classmates at a private school. I know John really connected with it. So the sequel was a little bit of a letdown. Rugby was a large part of the first book, but didn’t play too much of a role in Stand-Off to the detriment of the story. It also seemed like Smith didn’t have as strong a handle on his characters as he did in Winger.~MT

The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion (2014, sequel to 2012’s The Rosie Project) Here’s an example of a bad sequel. The Rosie Project was an unexpected delight, a bestseller in Australia before being released in the US. The Rosie Effect, on the other hand, was literally one of the worst books I’ve ever read. Every character acted like they had recently received a lobotomy. The Rosie Effect makes me physically angry just thinking about it. Hard pass. ~MT (although CW 100% agrees)

The Love Song of Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce (2014, sequel to 2012’s The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry) I loved The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (you can see how much here), so I was pleasantly surprised to see a sort-of sequel to this story. Instead of a traditional sequel, taking place after the events of the first novel, The Love Song of Queenie Hennessy takes place in the same timeline as Harold Fry, just from Queenie’s perspective. I wanted to love this book, but in revealing Queenie’s past, I felt like I lost a little bit of the magic from the previous book. (full review) Even so, if you liked the first book, the second is sort of a necessary read. 

Have you read any unexpected sequels that we've left out? Good or bad?  

~Meredith and Cailey

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