Kernels of Nonsense, #6: The Death of the Standalone Novel

Kernels of Nonsense (2)Kernels of Nonsense is an originally weekly post here at A Kernel of Nonsense where I ramble about different book-related topics. I had another topic ready to go but after reading what I had written, I found that it lacked focus, so I decided to tackle this topic instead. Today I will be lamenting about the death of standalone novels in YA literature.

I read a lot of YA, not exclusively but I’d say a good 90% of the books I pick up belong in this genre (I hate calling YA a genre, but that’s probably a topic for another time). With the success of series like Twilight, The Hunger Games, and Divergent, it seems that every author is writing trilogies or long series these days.

What happened to standalone novels? What happened to being able to pick up a book, finishing it in one sitting and afterward feeling completely satisfied without having to wait to pick up the next book? This doesn’t seem possible anymore. Instead we are forced to wait and spend on absurd amount of money for one story.

I love plenty of series out there and am eagerly awaiting the release of new books in several series coming out this fall. If I told you how many book releases I’ve pre-order for this upcoming season, you’d be shocked. I’ll spare you the surprise and me the embarrassment. I love spending time with characters I’ve fallen in love with and being able to continue the journey with them. Reading a series can be equal parts agony and joy. Sometimes the long wait between books can take away from the whole experience. I often find myself wrapped up in other books when the second book in another series is released, but by then my former excitement seems like a distant memory. It then becomes necessary to reread the previous books or take the risk, plunge into the new book and hope the details of the first or second book come magically flooding back.

You ever play the card game Uno or Crazy Eights? If you don’t have a card to put down, you have to keep picking up from the pile until you have a card you can play. Ever run out of luck and nearly pick up the entire deck and suddenly the cards in your hand are slipping because it isn’t possible to hold all these cards at once? This is what it feels like when I’m trying to keep track of a ridiculous amount of series.

Sometimes you get the feeling that many series could have worked better as a standalone novel and I’m not sure if it’s the author’s desire or the publisher’s that pushes them to write three books instead of one. You can tell a complete story in one novel, you can create memorable characters and a reader can become just as emotionally invested than if you were to write a series. There’s a small part of me that wants to say that you risk losing readers if it takes you more than one book to tell your story. I won’t say this definitively, but I have given up on a few series midway because the second book fails to match the first in quality.

Standalone novels are becoming a rarity and I for one like the feeling of picking up a book and knowing when the last page comes the story will be complete, a year will not pass before I get to find out what happens to these characters, and down the road I will not have to pray desperately that my memory will work when a new book in the series is released. I just took a look at my bookshelves and it’s clear that I need more standalone novels in my life.

Here are three of my favorite standalone novels from my shelf that I highly recommend to anyone who gets tired of the endless number of series:IMG_20140823_163516

1. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

2. Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken

3. Chime by Franny Billingsley

What do you think of the disappearance of standalone books in YA literature? And if you don’t read YA , is the standalone novel becoming extinct in adult and middle grade books as well? And please, if you will, share your favorite standalone novels in the comments below.

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10 thoughts on “Kernels of Nonsense, #6: The Death of the Standalone Novel

  1. I totally agree. The series idea in YA is totally overdone. I’m sick of having to wait years between finding out what happens, and sometimes, one book is good enough. I really did not want, for example, the Diviners by Libba Bray to be turned into a series, I felt it worked well enough as a standalone novel.

    YA definitely needs more of them- not everything has to be a series, half the time it feels like the publishers just want series for the almost-guaranteed cash cow they will be. ugh. I think standalone books are more more common in adult fiction, and as a result, I am gradually reading more and more adult fiction.

    Some good ones I have recently read include: Longbourn- Jo Baker, Gone Girl- Gillian Flynn, The Girl with all the Gifts- M R Carey, the girl who chased the moon- sarah addison allen and Forgive me Leonard Peacock- Matthew Quick

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    • Doesn’t it feel like every new book that comes out is only the first book in a trilogy? I really enjoyed All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill and thought the book wrapped up really nicely. I thought it was the end of the story, but it turns out there is another book coming out and because the story had a really good resolution, I can’t quite figure out where the story goes from here. There are only a few series that I absolutely must buy and others, like this one, I’ll just wait to check it out from the library but in all honesty, if too much time passes, I just may lose interest.

      Thank you so much for the recommendations. I am going to go check out all of these books. 🙂

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  2. I completely agree with you. While I used to like series, I’ve now become emotionally invested in so many…and to be honest, I haven’t completed a series since Allegiant came out I think? I do like trilogies because the wait is a bit shorter and you know what you’re getting yourself into. I am also really enjoying companion novels instead of series. One of my favorite standalone books of last year Not A Drop to Drink, has a companion novel coming out next month. I plan on reading it but I love how there are SEPARATE stories and you can read one without the other. I’ve seen this happening a little more lately, so maybe things are changing? Great discussion! 🙂

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    • Series and trilogies require years of emotional investment. Think about that. These publishers and authors want readers to hang on to a story for years. It’s really sort of an outrageous amount of time. Companion novels are the easiest, for sure, because it gives you a choice to continue a story. Not a Drop to Drink is on my TBR list, so thank you, I will definitely be picking this up 🙂

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  3. I feel like I may be in the minority here, but I love series! The majority of the books that I read are series and I like that because when I get invested in characters in a book, I usally want to read more than one of them and with series, I automatically have something new to read the next year. I do like standalone books too though, it’s nice to have everything wrapped up at the end of one novel, and I need standalones to read whilst waiting for the next book in my favourite series’ to come out.

    Some of my favourite standalones are Carmen Reid’s Cross My Heart, numerous Jodi Picoult novels (too many to list them all here), Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, Black Beauty by Anna Sewell, Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher and Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfield.

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    • There is something special about being able to read more than one book about certain characters’ adventures. There are certain series I wish would never end, but then there are certain series that I don’t believe warrant multiple books. Thanks for the recs!

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