Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Party Of One: Stand Alone Novels Deserve Love Too

For this post I decided to figure out where I stand on the whole stand alone novel versus series debate. And frankly, at first I was stumped. So, I decided to do a quick check of my book shelf to see what types of books I most frequently buy. After several minutes spent dissecting the considerable stacks, it turns out that while I own lots of book series, I tend to buy stand alone novels at least seventy percent of the time.

After thinking about it a bit, I now know why. For me, there's nothing better than cracking open the cover on a brand spankin' new story. And if that story is engaging, the characters fully realized on the page, and it's beautifully written, it's a lot like first love. It grabs my heart, takes my breath away and occupies my every waking thought. And honestly, even if I read a stand alone and it's not quite first love, it's still pretty satisfying. There isn’t that sense of formula that can sometimes emerge in a series. I get goosebumps when I arrive in a world I never knew existed or see a situation from an entirely new perspective. My reaction is more visceral. And I love every minute of it.

Then, when I reach the end, I'm rewarded with a parting scene that's free of unresolved conflicts and characters who haven't found or even figured out what they're looking for. I don't have that disquieting need to know what happens next. I have closure. And more often than not, I need that in my day, especially considering the fact that I write for a living and my WIP often feels like a neverending saga. When I'm reading, I want all of the excitement and none of the long term commitment. Basically, I want a literary one night stand.

Below are some of my all time favorite dalliances:

Old Loves:

Lord of the Flies by William Golding
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
It by Stephen King

New Loves:

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce
The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
Don't Breathe A Word by Jennifer McMahon

(obviously, there are TONS more, but in the interest of brevity, I've just listed the ones I thought of immediately and that in some way or at some time rocked my world)

So, what about you? Where do you stand? Are you pro series, pro stand alones or a little bit of both?

Over the years Amy has been, among other things, a doll maker, a fondue waitress, a fifth grade teacher, and a stay at home mom. Now she writes contemporary young adult novels full time when she isn’t tackling the Mount Everest of laundry piles and refereeing smack downs between her two very lively daughters.  Her book, THE SILO,  about a girl whose grown up in an aprocalyptic cult and the last few months leading up to what might be the end of the world will debut with Random House in the fall of 2013.

Find out more about Amy here or here or here.


  1. Definately a bit of both - but a series has to be really good to make me read on, so often they fall flat after a couple of books.

  2. nice post.

    i've always been a standalone girl -- probably because i read primarily contemporary lit (i was late to fantasy/sci fi and now read a bit of it). i just reread LOOKING FOR ALASKA and love HOW WE LIVE NOW and THE BOOK THIEF, of course. My book splurges last week were all standalone:


  3. I'll read anything that ropes me into a story and doesn't let go--stand alone or series, doesn't matter.

  4. I write interlocking series books and family/town sagas, so I love reading series and sagas as well, and following characters, families, and towns over many years, even many generations. But it is nice to read a good standalone.

  5. I'll read both stand alones and series as well. I think it depends on my mood :)

  6. Kate-I agree. I'll love a series if it's strong enough.

    Erica-Love your book list. Still haven't gotten to The Book Thief, but now I gotta!

    Liz-Definitely the story is the key for me as well.

    Carrie-Loved to hear your take and your series sound cool!

    Thanks for stopping by ladies!

  7. Lol, mood definitely plays a part for me too, Jemi! Thanks for reading:-)

  8. Thanks for this post, Amy! Sometimes it seems that standalones just don't get enough love. (I love both, and a series has to be really special all the way through for me to pick it up.) I think The Scorpio Races was my favourite book from 2011. And The Book Thief is amazing.

  9. I very rarely read subsequent books in series, for lack of time not lack of interest. I think I've actually completed 2 series ever: Enders Game and The Shadow Children. So I am very happy with stand alone novels. Oh, and The Book Thief was one of my favorites, too. Also, I highly recommend Firegirl by Tony Abbott and A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park. And of course who could forget Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli?

    LWReyes - Apocalypsies Author


  10. I have to admit that my heart sinks a little at the thought of a series these days - partly because of the time involved (I'm a slow reader. Yeah, I know it's not a race, but still) and partly because of the closure aspect.

    I have the attention span of a well-read three year old, and I don't think I could actually bring myself to write a series. So good news, Amy, you can have your literary one night stand with three of the four books I have on the go at the moment :D The fourth may actually have a sequel, but we'll see.

  11. Elsie, I totally agree! Stand alones deserve equal love/attention. And yeah, The Scorpio Races was HUGE for me this year.

    Laurisa, I know! It's hard to get through a whole series when there are so many great books to read and not ever enough time. I'm checking out the books you recommended. Loved Maniac Magee-I used to read it to my 5th grade class:)

    Ruth, Lol, I'm looking forward to dallying with your books. Geez, where IS my head this week...this post is turning so saucy:-)

    Thanks for reading, Ghulam!

  12. I've definitely read some series that frustrated me, structure-wise. Perhaps the first book feels like a prologue, or ends on a cliffhanger, or the second book feels like filler, etc.

    Of course, I'm also biased because my own debut is a stand-alone. :)

    Still, there's something wonderful about sequels, of getting the chance to see characters you love again -- and the anticipation of waiting for the latest book to arrive is wonderful.

  13. Agreed.If the characters are truly unforgettable I am hooked for at least another book.