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I have a lot of series books to catch up on, both adult and young adult. And yet the books keep on coming.
What is it about series that keep us reading? Sometimes, when the previous book has ended in a cliff-hanger, it’s the need to find out what happens next. For other series, it’s the comfort of knowing what you are getting, that the story will follow a certain pattern and provide a certain outcome.
For me, it’s always been about the characters. A lot of the series I read are mysteries. While the suspense is always there to draw me in, the ones that keep me coming back are the ones where the characters have a life outside of the mystery, where they age and change and grow. It’s like visiting old friends and catching up each time a new book in one of my favorite series comes out.
I have begun dropping some of my series. I talked about that with the kids the other day when I was book talking…when is it time to give up? I asked them why they like certain series what kept them reading. Almost always it had to do with them being able to identify with the characters. Sure they like the genre or the action of the story, but mostly it was about the characters and finding out what happens to them that keep them coming back to Percy Jackson and Greg Heffley.
Most of the series I have dropped are because the stories have become formulaic and the characters, even the main ones, are static. They don’t grow and change, they are stuck in and Groundhog Day cycle of having the same things happen to them over and over and over, and never being able to move on to something new. If I can’t connect to the characters, then I can’t connect to the story. The kids say drop series because they out-grow them if the characters don’t age with them and have the same experiences they do.
Characters are the easiest way for us to connect to literature, and those characters we meet can seem just as real as the people we interact with each day. This week my Pre-AP students will write short stories to give them a break between tests, and character development will be a key component of their evaluation. I am anxious to meet some great new characters this week.