Idiosyncratic Lit List: What is up With all the Trilogies?

January 31, 2014 Idiosyncratic Lit List 58

Hey Bookworms,

This being my third Idiosyncratic Lit List, it seems only appropriate to talk about the excessive tripling that’s been going on lately… Can anybody explain to me WHY dystopian novels so rarely stand alone anymore? I mean, the cheese does it, why can’t a dystopian novel? That’s not to say I dislike trilogies, but they make me nervous. Having a killer first novel puts a ton of pressure on the next two books… Sometimes I think writers are only doing the trilogy thing because THAT’S WHAT YOU DO, not because the story really needs or deserves three whole books… OBVIOUSLY this calls for a list or two, don’t you think?


Dystopian Trilogies Doing it Right

1. The MaddAddam Trilogy by Margaret Atwood: It’s almost unfair to compare dystopian trilogies to Margaret Atwood because so many of them are YA novels. That’s not to say there’s no merit in YA novels, but the hardcore literary headiness of Atwood puts her in a different class. She’s already proven to me that she can kick butt in a stand-alone dystopia (The Handmaid’s Tale is ah-mazing), so I’m not about to throw shade on her trilogy vibe. Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood, and MaddAddam were awesome.

2. The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins: To be completely honest here, I think the first book in this trilogy is far and away the strongest. However, I thought there was enough going on story-wise to merit all three books. The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay had me hooked from the very beginning and didn’t loosen their grip until… Wait. They still haven’t. Stop strangling my soul, books!

3. The Newsflesh Trilogy by Mira Grant: A zombie apocalypse is totally dystopian, right? Whatever, I just want to talk about how much I loved these books again. FeedDeadline, Blackout . Read them, read them now.

Dystopian Trilogies That Should Have Quit While They Were Ahead

1. The Divergent Series by Veronica Roth- Divergent and Insurgent were strong books, but O to the M to the G, what HAPPENED with Allegiant? That was just a rushed mess. I don’t need “happy” endings, but I do need endings that are well drawn. The ping ponging of points of view mingled with the bipolar pace of action was just not okay.

2. The Matched Trilogy by Ally Condie- I’m not entirely sure why I read this entire series. I didn’t much care for it from the get-go, and the third book was my favorite of the bunch. Matched was kind of blah, Crossed was kind of awful, and Reached was too little too late. (Gotta give you props for the FLOWERS saving the world, though, Ms. Condie!) This may have worked out better as two books, cutting out the middle man. It just didn’t work as a three-for.

3. The Maze Runner Trilogy by James Dashner- Technically this is a trilogy plus a prequel, but I wanted to put it on my list, so pretend with me. I was completely hooked by The Maze Runner, but as the books went on, my interest waned. The Scorch Trials got a bit manic, and The Death Cure pulled a Lost and didn’t answer all my questions. I think this is a case of a book that would have done better as a single story with a nice meaty epilogue.

Talk to me, Bookworms. Any of you have a love/hate relationship with trilogies? 

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58 Responses to “Idiosyncratic Lit List: What is up With all the Trilogies?”

  1. Didi

    I hate trilogies although the only worthwhile one to read that you mentioned is probably The Maddadam trilogy. The YA has just found another way to get people to spend loads of money. The YA trilogies on the averages tend to get worse as they go on. Just me.

  2. Quirky Chrissy

    I have the 1st and 3rd trilogies in my nook. Hunger Games should not have rushed the last book. I hayed Mockingjay.

    Divergent was SUPER disappointing after 1.

    If you weren’t down, then I certainly won’t read the other two. I just got my faith in literature back.

  3. Tanya

    I know what you mean about the trilogies! Why not just 2 books? Or maybe push it to 4? I believe that book publishers have worked out some cost benefit reason for why trilogies work. It actually has nothing to do with the story being told, but with money!

  4. Adam Byerly

    Yup. I mostly agree where I have the data (haven’t read all of them). When a trilogy is good all the way thru I end up thrilled and glad to have had so much in the world to explore. But when they are lackluster, I feel committed to finishing and like I’m wasting my time, etc… From a monetary standpoint, it makes perfect sense, tho, sell 3x more, why not?

  5. Darlene

    Great post!
    Thanks for the ideas. I don’t do many series at all. I take too long to read one book, having to make it through three to get the complete story can be a drag. And I don’t read much YA. But I DO still want to read The Hunger Games, and my son wants me to too, and I have The Handmaids Tale on my list.
    I cannot wait to tackle my TBR list when I complete my challenge in April.

    And about LOST, (you knew I would go there), first, did you ever watch the Epilogue? You can find it on Youtube. It answers more questions, especially about Walt. But you know, like life, not all the questions get answered.

    • Megan M.

      My husband and I feel like we’re the only people who were not outraged by the LOST finale. I thought they answered what they needed to answer and that was that. I didn’t know they did an epilogue though – I’ll have to look for it.

      • Words For Worms

        My husband was more ragey about it than I was. I think they were in kind of an impossible position- with that dedicated a fandom, no ending would have been good enough.

      • Darlene

        Glad to hear this. I LOVED the show and really LOVED the ending.
        I just decided early in the last season that this was their story to tell, and it entertained, interested and moved me all along, so I was gonna accept whatever ending they wanted to give it.
        Epilogue is on the season 6 dvd, but it was also on youtube. It’s called “The New Man in Charge”.

  6. Ashley Z

    Trilogy trilogy trilogy! Ahh. I’ve read so many! They start out strong. They get you curious. They get you wondering. Then the second book comes and it answers some questions, but it opens up new ones. The third just gets rushed! Every time! But they hook you! I need to know the ending!

  7. Joules (from Pocketful of Joules)

    I actually like it going into a book series knowing that there are three (or at least more than one). That way I feel like if I like it, there is more just waiting for me around the corner. I’m a really super fast reader (if I were a pageant girl, it would totally be my talent), so I like to know that my money won’t be ‘wasted’ with just a couple hours of reading fun.

    That said, Allegiant made me angry, but I loved all 3 Hunger Games books.

  8. Megan M.

    I just commented on Epbot the other day that I now give books the side-eye when I find out they’re the first of a trilogy or series. It makes me question whether I want to spend my time on it, for sure. I’ve been complaining about books being needlessly stretched into more books since Twilight (I only read the first one and part of the second one.) I really think it’s the Harry Potter effect. As soon as publishers realized that readers would go crazy over a huge book series, they decided they would try it with everything. It’s annoying and I hate it. Especially this trend with new adult and erotic romances to be made into multiple books a la 50 Shades. Enough is enough!

    • Words For Worms

      I think the world needs to accept that there will never be another Harry Potter phenomenon. The erotica though. 50 Shades was an unabashed Twilight knockoff, and now it’s got its own knockoffs… NO MORE! GAH!

  9. Leah @ Books Speak Volumes

    I’m not a fan of trilogies. To be fair, I don’t really read, them, but I haven’t been impressed by the ones I have read. I really liked the first Hunger Games books, the second was alright, but there was very little I liked about the last one. You make a good point that the story deserved three books… I just didn’t like the silly romance in the story! And so much YA has romance in it that I just avoid.

    • Words For Worms

      That is a pitfall of YA, there tends to be some cheesy romance. I’m a cheesy gal, but I know that sort of thing is not for everybody… Plus I like to think I only like good cheese… The stinky stuff. When I hit a Kraft Single of a love triangle, I can’t even. (Except I really like Kraft Singles because GRILLED CHEESE, so my comparison has been rendered useless.)

  10. ttwardrobe

    I have such a love/hate relationship with trilogies! I LOVE that you get to delve into different stories centered on characters/places you loved the first time (Hunger Games case and point!) but I have a real problem when trilogies are recommended to me in that I don’t often have time to read them end to end and, for me, that’s the only way TO read them! So often I have book 1 of a trilogy sat on my bookcase/in my Kindle but I’m put off reading in case a)I love and the next installment isn’t out yet so I have to wait or b)I love the opening but am then scared that the subsequent books might ruin it!

  11. Helen @ My Novel Opinion

    I am loving these lists of yours, Katie! The trilogy thing is something I have often pondered upon. I think part of it is that I am impatient, I want to pick up a book, and it be complete. I want to read the ending NOW not wait for the next installment. I can definitely see it from a marketing point of view, obviously it is financially beneficially to publish a story in 3 average length books, rather than 1 mammoth book. But it is my impatience more than anything and this means that I usually wait for a final book in a series to be published before even starting to read the first.

  12. Charleen

    Oh, Divergent and The Hunger Games. Concept-wise, I liked Divergent more. I also liked that there wasn’t a love triangle, although I could have done without the romance altogether. But The Hunger Games had stronger individual books throughout the series, especially avoiding the Book Two slump (Catching Fire was actually my favorite of the three). I thought they both got sloppy near the end, though. I was disappointed with both finales, but not for the reasons that get most readers up in arms, not because of any particular thing that does or doesn’t happen… I just thought the books themselves could have been stronger.

    But I agree that authors are writing trilogies because “that’s what you do.” Maybe play with the idea of a duology or a tetralogy. Figure out what works best for YOUR story! Don’t make it a trilogy just because everyone else is doing it.

    • Words For Worms

      Yes, the lack of love triangle was definitely a saving grace of Divergent! I know soooo many people are upset with Allegiant because… Well you know. But for me, the book just kind of sucked, it wasn’t well done. We should crusade, Charleen. “Figure out what works best for YOUR story!” That should be on our protest signs!

  13. Heather

    I have wondered this myself. 9 times out of 10 it seems like the second book is unnecessary filler. Like half of it could have been in the first book and half in the last book.

    Now I feel the need to get back to Margaret Atwood’s trilogy. I get the feeling she rocked it?

  14. Kelly

    I am sooooo turned off by trilogies nowadays. I just don’t want to commit to an entire series of books. Can’t you just write one good one? And if I like it, I promise I’ll read your other books. But they don’t have to all be related, really.

    I agree with a lot on your lists too…especially Divergent and Matched. Matched was exceptional to me because usually if I start a trilogy I can’t stand to not finish it, but Matched was so bad, there was no way I was wasting time on the other 2.

    • Words For Worms

      I think I finished the Matched trilogy because I was feeling snarky and it made for easy pickings. I might be a book bully. That’s not a good color on me.

  15. kristinshafel

    How about that, I just read MaddAddam and just put up my post on it! I had my issues with the series, but overall I loved it and it will stay with me.

      • Kristin

        hahah now I just want to call them the goonies. Okay, now… I just want to watch The Goonies.

        I agree with Kelly in a previous comment that trilogies in general are not attractive to me—I just don’t want to commit and it seems like the majority are YA (not interested). The MaddAddam series was an anomaly for me.

  16. April @ The Steadfast Reader

    Yessss… I was a little disappointed with the final ‘MaddAddam’ novel but it was a good wrap up.

    I never got beyond the first book in ‘Divergent’ or ‘Matched’, glad to know I’m not missing anything.

    I guess I have to shuffle over to Amazon and try out ‘Feed’… I keep hearing it’s insanely wonderful.

  17. LuAnn Braley

    New subscriber via the Estella Society. I’ve noticed the proliferation of trilogies and series of books in general. Makes it hard sometimes because you if you enjoy your first installment. Do you read the rest of the series then, or move on to something else and come back?

  18. Amanda R.

    I *hated* the Matched trilogy. I read it because my teen was reading it and I thought we could have meaningful discussions. I felt bad for not liking the series as I met the author and she was so nice and an absolutely wonderful person.

  19. Elizabeth

    So I finished the Newsflesh Trilogy sometime last week and OH MY GOD IT’S THE BEST EVER!!! I am SO glad that I had all three books with me because I seriously would have just died waiting between books. I’m also a huge Margaret Atwood fan, and I’m hoping to start her MadAddam trilogy this year. The Handmaid’s Tale is hands down one of the best books I’ve ever read and it knocked 1984 off its pedestal for favourite dystopia. And of course I loved The Hunger Games as well.

    I like to think I’m just over the whole series thing now but…there’s a sort of comfort in the format of the trilogy. That being said I WISH books (like the Ruby Red trilogy) that were clearly not meant to be trilogies would just be set out to be a book. There is nothing wrong with standalone books (Handmaid’s Tale case in point). In fact I would LOVE to read more standalone books! I think I read like…2 last year. Everything is a series! Grrrr

  20. Melinda

    I must still read Catching Fire and Mockingjay. I also plan on reading the Divergent series.

    The one trilogy I LOVE is the Millenium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson. Really enjoyed that! (and maybe I’ve read Twilight Saga too…)

  21. Ashley F

    I hate it when an author doesn’t live up to the potential of the first book in a series. The fact that even with movies nowadays almost everything is a trilogy or series it just screams money grab to me. I mean the fact that Harry Potter, Twilight and the Hunger Games all split their last instalment into 2 movies is wrong to me. Harry Potter was the only one that had enough content to actually support 2 films and even then the first half was a tad slow.

    And can we also do a list of authors that have an ongoing series that needed to end like….5 books ago.

    • Words For Worms

      YES! And don’t even get me started on splitting The Hobbit into 3 movies. I have heard it’s all about the appendices or something, and since I don’t particularly care for Tolkien, I wouldn’t have read them. But c’mon. It’s one book. One short book. Just… No.

  22. Sarah @ Sarah Says Read

    I’m definitely at the point when I check to see if a book is part of a series/trilogy first, and then debate whether or not I want to dive in. It’s definitely an annoying trend, but even MORE annoying the the movie industry turning trilogies into 4-movie series. Making the last books of Twilight & THG two movies each is just ridiculous. OMG and don’t even get me started on turning The Hobbit into 3 movies.

  23. Jennine G.

    Good post idea. Definitely agree about the Maze Runner series. It started out great, but then was nothing. It suspense without any answers. I never even read the prequel cause I don’t care enough now.

    And I heard there may be a fourth Divergent book? But couldn’t find anything certain after I first heard it a month or so ago.

  24. Bonnie @ For the Love of Words

    Marie Lu’s ‘Legend’ series, Tahereh Mafi’s ‘Shatter Me’ series, and several other YA dystopians also belong on the ‘bad’ list. The dystopian aspects all seem to be put on the back-burner in favor of the romance.

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