This week’s blog may seem a little bit far-fetched but I need you to hear me out. I’ve made a discovery that I believe may prove the existence of dark voodoo magic in the book world. Maybe. It’s just a theory, and feel free to yell at me down in the comments section but it would be morally wrong not to let you in on such a major scientific revelation.
So here it is: I believe that the third book in every dystopian series is cursed. I really do think that there is some kind of mystical nonsense going on here because no matter how untouchable an author may seem, as soon as they release that long-anticipated third and final novel, the entire series seems to just crumble into the dirt.
Okay, so maybe that’s a little harsh. But seriously, I haven’t in a very long time read the third book in a trilogy and thought: ‘Yes, that was brilliant. That met all of my expectations and more!’ Every time I get my eager trembling hands on that final book the same thing happens: I buy it, so ridiculously enthusiastic to embark on what I am sure will be the most glorious, eye-opening, heart-stopping adventure I have ever been on and by the time I’m finished all I can think is… Meh.
But, this wouldn’t be science without a little evidence now would it? Well, sadly I can provide you with quite a lot. The best example I have of this would be Suzanne Collins’ ‘Hunger Games: Mockingjay . The series had so much promise. Everyone was talking about it! When the second book came out the whole world was setting itself alight with ‘Catching Fire’ excitement. Walk into any high-school during the hunger games craze and I can guarantee you would see at least five three-finger salutes, seven Katniss braids and two furious battles over who was best: Finnick, Gale or Peeta? But sadly, after everyone had finally blazed their way through the third and final book there was an overwhelming sense of disappointment.
The book wasn’t bad by any means but, let’s face it, it wasn’t great. It wasn’t the shining golden trophy of a book that everyone had been waiting for, more a 3rd place bronze medal. Bronze is okay, it’s still winning, but it isn’t exactly… desirable. At first everyone was shell-shocked. How could this possibly be? We began to grieve. Pretending it hadn’t happened. Denying with all our might that the book might be anything less than wonderful, amazing, golden. But, now that some time has passed, I think we can accept it – it really wasn’t very good.
Why though? Why wasn’t it very good? Lauren Oliver’s ‘Requiem’, Veronica Roth’s ‘Allegiant’, Scott Westerfield’s ‘Specials’, Malorie Blackman’s ‘Checkmate’, Ally Condie’s ‘Reached’… The list goes on. How is it that so many promising series’ could plunge so horrifically into mediocrity?
Maybe there is too much pressure on the writer to finish well? Once you’ve written two of the most astounding books you’ve ever written it must be very difficult to muster the same incredible amount of writing-brilliance from inside to do it for a third and final time. How in the world do you come up with an ending that will do the series any justice? Everyone’s watching and waiting for you to write a book so good that it could compete with the bible in greatness. How the hell do you do it? You don’t. Maybe it’s impossible.
But as I professor in the science of reading I have done my research and I know that this just doesn’t prove true. No, the blame for this book-based tragedy should not be placed on the writer but, in fact, on us, the reader. It is our fault. We just get too darn excited!
We can’t help ourselves, especially with the dystopian genre! It’s new and modern with juicy plotlines and gorgeous love-interests. When books are this good, how can we help ourselves? Besides, it’s fun to get all hyped up! Dystopian fiction seems to be able to create a buzz like no other genre. Entire communities are formed in appreciation for the series’, stocked with enough fanart to put London’s National Gallery to shame.
But we get so carried away with all our excitement that we accidentally give the series impossible, unreachable expectations. Two great books is enough to pull down the galaxy and put stars in our eyes. If the first and second books were that good then the third book has to be even better! The third book will be the book to end all books! Right?
Wrong. It’s our greatest downfall. We fall in love with a series so deeply and passionately that we inadvertently destroy anything that could possibly come next. We crown writers as royalty when really all they are is just a few normal chaps and chapettes who quite like writing stories.
We are the voodoo doctors who inflicted such a terrible, terrible curse. And we are the only ones who can fix things. We have to stop ruining things for ourselves. I’m not saying don’t get so excited, I’m just saying, put it in perspective. Realise that what you want may not be the same as what the writer imagines and try and accept that. And if it really is awful that doesn’t have to be the end - Re-write for yourself! Fanficiton is the ultimate way to both get excited over a series and get exactly what you want out of it! It’s fun too!
And with that, I close my scientific case. The research has been done, the experiment carried out and the evaluation written. It’s time to take my lab-coat off and put up my feet. But next time you start a new dystopian series be careful. Only you can save us from the terrible, frightening, Three Book Curse.