Standalones vs. series in recent YA — Recs?

I’ve been seeing quite a bit of talk from readers online about the prevalence of the trilogy in YA fiction these days. Talk that suggests that some people are getting frustrated with continuing stories, and would really like to see more standalone novels.

I was curious to see how much trilogies really are dominating YA right now, so I looked at a month’s worth of new releases. I found that an almost equal number of trilogy/series books and standalones were released. But there was one major separating point. Almost all of the standalones were realistic contemporary or historical. When it comes to fantasy, paranormal, and science fiction YA, it does seem that the majority of novels being published are part of a continuing story.

I can see a few obvious reasons for this. Speculative fiction is a lot more likely to lend itself to the sort of epic adventures that need to span multiple books than more realistic fiction. Building a futuristic or fantastical world, or a supernatural one overlaid with our own, can open up all sorts of possibilities for ongoing stories. And most of the successful speculative fiction YA writers may be looking to for inspiration right now, from Harry Potter to The Hunger Games, are trilogy or series books. But there are still lots of single-book stories that can be told in those genres… They just don’t seem to be being told all that often at the moment.

I can’t help the fact that I’m adding to this trend, because The Way We Fall was always just the first book in Kaelyn’s story, before I even started outlining it. But I do enjoy writing standalones just as much as continuing stories. My first novel, after all, was a standalone, and two out of the three projects I’ve been working on in between books in the Fallen World trilogy are standalones too. Which may be related to the fact that I usually prefer to read standalones. There are a few trilogies/series I really love, but I often find a story much more satisfying if it can be wrapped up in one book. And it does seem those books have been harder to find lately — I’m going back to books published a decade or more ago to get my speculative fiction standalone fix.

So I’m hoping the standalone fans out there can give me some reading recommendations! What are your favorite fantasy, paranormal, or SF standalone YA novels from the last five or so years? I’d love to check out more of the books that are breaking the trend.


Standalones vs. series in recent YA — Recs? — 6 Comments

  1. I was actually just thinking about this the other day.

    I love trilogies, or multi-book series in general, but one only has so much time and money to invest in them! I do seem to lean toward trilogies more often thoughโ€”they actually make up a big chunk of my reading from the past three years, as well as my to-read shelf.

    Although I haven’t read many, here are some of my favourite YA fantasy/paranormal/SF standalones (all read this year): THE REPLACEMENT (2010) and THE SPACE BETWEEN (2011) by Brenna Yovanoff, DUST CITY (2010) by Rob Weston, ABOVE by Leah Bobet (2012), and PLAIN KATE (2010) by Erin Bow.

    Huh, 3/5 of those are by Canadian authors ๐Ÿ™‚

    Those are really all the recs I can personally offer.

    • Thanks! I’ll check out the ones I haven’t already read. That’s actually a fairly substantial list considering they’re all from the last three years. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. A recent and huge love of mine is MONSTROUS BEAUTY by Elizabeth Fama. What an amazing novel! And I did appreciate that it was a standalone. IMAGINARY GIRLS by Nova Ren Suma is also a little paranormal. KILL ME SOFTLY by Sarah Cross. And quite a few MG like LIESL & PO and THE SPINDLERS by Lauren Oliver and NOAH BARLEYWATER RUNS AWAY by John Boyne. A few more that come to mind… CRYER’S CROSS by Lisa McMann, I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME by Lisa Schroeder, RIPPLE by Mandy Hubbard and LARK by Tracey Porter. So I think there are plenty out there, they just get overshadowed by the blockbuster trilogies or whatever. I really love my standalones. Part of that is because I read a lot of contemporary, but even in other genres it is something I appreciate. There are some amazing trilogies out there, but I do love a full story from beginning to end in one book.

  3. I do love series/trilogies, but I think my problem is with a certain type of series book. I love books like Harry Potter where it’s clearly a series with a major plot across all 7 books, but where each book also has a plot line that gets wrapped up. I like cliffhangers where the end of the book introduces something new or something further, so that you look forward to the next book, but where you still have closure on certain elements. I dislike books where they seem like the first half of a longer novel, rather than a complete book that is part of a larger story. (I see ‘The Way We Fall’, by the way, as one of the good examples where I felt like it told a complete story that COULD stand on its own without sequels, but will be strengthened because of the additional volumes).

    It’s actually hard to think of good standalone titles in sci-fi/fantasy! Looking at my Goodreads, The Scorpio Races (Maggie Stiefvater) is literally my only 5 star read that is both within those genres and a standalone. I have tons of standalones marked as 5 stars, but they’re basically all contemp YA.

    • Yeah, I dislike series books that don’t seem to have a complete story in themselves too. Something I’ve tried to stay away from (though it was trickier with THE LIVES WE LOST since I did end up having to split what was supposed to be just one sequel into two books). I’m glad you see THE WAY WE FALL as a good example! ๐Ÿ™‚

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