Trilogies. How many of us shudder at the thought? How many of us miss those great standalone novels? A whole story arc in one book – imagine! On the other hand, many readers enjoy knowing that there is more to come.
In a student bookgroup meeting last week, as we discussed what to read next, I proposed Seraphina. One of the 10th graders piped up — Wait! Is it the first in a series? When I answered that it stands alone the group literally sighed in relief. It was a funny moment, eliciting laughs all around. Then we ended the meeting with an extended conversation about The Game of Thrones. Many of the students are hooked on the HBO series, and several are reading the books — more than one has read all of them up to now.
In other words, I don’t feel that I can draw firm conclusions about teen readers and series or trilogies. I do think that the many dystopian trilogies that followed Hunger Games exhausted their patience. But there are plenty of series they continue to devour. Today we review two sequels.
Following up her Alex Award-winning novel, Pure, Julianna Baggott is back with Fuse, the second in her trilogy. In an online interview with Caroline Leavitt, Baggott wrote, “A trilogy is really an enlargement of the three-act structure, in some ways…The advantage to a trilogy is to dig in and go deep, to have that grand architecture to keep it all supported, aloft.” The middle book is the chance to “upend expectations, expand the worlds (the twisted psychological terror inside the Dome and the brutal landscape on the outside), and really let loose in terms of action.”
Back in August, we reviewed Devil’s Wake, the first in the husband & wife team’s zombie series of the same name. Domino Falls continues the series, the length of which is uncertain. This is a welcome addition to the post-apocalyptic thriller genre, not only for its excellent writing and plotting, but also thanks to the diversity of its characters and because it can stand alone from its predecessor.
Adult/High School–After the final revelations in Pure (Grand Central, 2012), the mission to end the tyranny of the Dome becomes newly urgent for Pressia and Partridge. Along with Bradwell, Pressia unlocks the black box found in the charred remains of the farmhouse, which reveals more about the original Seven. This sets Pressia off on a quest to discover if there are other pockets of rebels in the wastelands. For his part, Partridge is beginning to understand the power of the serum left to him by his mother. It will be the means by which he can destroy his father, now suffering from Rapid Cell Degeneration. Partridge’s task is to enter the Dome and get close to his father without becoming a victim of Special Forces. These wisps of plot carry the storyline, while the strangeness of life inside and outside the Dome continues to be the main interest. The jolting descriptions of children melded to their mothers’ bodies carry less punch in this volume, since such horrors are now anticipated. Likewise, the passion between Pressia and Bradwell that smoldered throughout Pure is iced for most of this book, while Partridge and Lyda have a bewildering mate and run encounter. There is a disjointed feel to the narration, like pieces of short stories interwoven in a single volume. Nevertheless, teens who were entranced by the atmospheric Pure will no doubt want to re-enter that macabre world again. Readers new to the world will want to begin with the first of the trilogy.–Diane Colson, Palm Harbor Library, FL
Adult/High School–This sharp sequel to Devil’s Wake (Atria, 2012) moves further away from traditional zombie novels, focusing on the roots of the plague and the implications for humankind rather than battles and brain munching. Kendra, Terry, and the rest of the group are making their way down the California coast in their bullet-hole-laden bus, having just outrun a vicious pirate attack. They take a detour to the safe haven of Devil’s Wake and stop in Domino Falls, now called Threadville. They have heard the radio broadcasts of Josey Wales, the self-proclaimed preacher who rules over the encampment, promising it to be a secure, civilized community. Exhausted, the group approaches, passes muster, and is allowed in. They soon discover the secrets behind Threadville and its depraved link to the beginnings–and spread–of the zombie plague. Kendra is able to make radio contact with relatives in Devil’s Wake and confirms that the sanctuary there is real. Now they must decide if they are willing to take the risks and make the sacrifices necessary to escape Threadville. While moving a bit slower and more predictably than Devil’s Wake, Domino Falls does advance the plot, offers some surprises about the characters and their choices, and, not surprisingly, ends with a dramatic cliffhanger. Despite being a sequel, it reads well as a standalone. The diverse cast of young adult protagonists will appeal to teen fans of paranormal thrillers, especially those who favor more plot and less gore.–Carla Riemer, Claremont Middle School, CA