Series vs. Stand-alone: The Great Reading Debate

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By Meredith Veatch

I can never decide what I like to read better-a series, or a stand-alone book. There are perks and problems with each. My favorite thing about a stand-alone book is that there’s no waiting. You read it, and you immediately know what happens at the end. You don’t have to go find the next book or, horror of horrors, wait for the next book to be published. There’s no years-long, thousands of pages commitment to be made to a stand-alone book. Plus, there’s something exciting about seeing a complete story in one neatly bound package.

Code Name Verity CoverThe problem with stand-alone books is that there isn’t any more to read, even if you really want there to be. When I read the first Harry Potter book, I didn’t wish for a sequel simply because Harry hadn’t defeated Voldemort yet. I wanted a sequel because I loved Harry, Ron, and Hermione, and I wanted to spend more time with them. My favorite thing about reading a series is getting to spend those years, those thousands of pages, with the same set of characters. Unless I don’t like them. Then I really wish it had just been one book so I hadn’t wasted my time.

My least favorite thing about reading a series is, of course, the suspense. Last October, when I finished reading The Mark of Athena, the third book in Rick Riordan’s Heroes of Olympus series, I felt as though I might go crazy before book 4 was published. And then it will be another wait for book 5. You’d think that reading a new Harry Potter book within 24 hours of its publication and then settling down to wait for a few years for the next volume would have taught me patience, but it hasn’t. I think it’s made me even more anxious. On the bright side, there are many series that are already complete, and the only wait I have with them is however long it takes for my holds to come in at the library.

Seraphina CoverMy recent reads have been a mix of series and stand-alone titles. My favorite stand-alone title so far this year is Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, the story of two British girls during WWII, one a spy and the other a pilot. My other favorite book so far this year is Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman, a fantasy novel about a girl who is uniquely qualified to understand the tension between humans and dragons. Alas, Seraphina is the beginning of a new series, and book two isn’t expected until 2014. I’m glad that Code Name Verity is complete, and I’m glad that I’ll get to read more about Seraphina and her world in a sequel. Both types of reading experiences can be so rewarding.

How about you, readers? Do you prefer series or stand-alone books?

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