Bookish Banter: Sophomore Novel Fear
The past few months have been almost a weird out of body experience to me when it comes to reading. I’ve noticed something about my reading habits over the last couple of months. Something that I have never noticed before.
I’ve found myself crippled by unease & afraid to read sophomore novels
A sophomore is in their second year, either in high school or college. In the book world this can mean either the second book in a series or more generally an author’s second published work.
It started with Vengeful by V.E. Schwab. I read Vicious at the end of September and fell absolutely in love with the book. It was perfect for me and landed a spot on my favorites shelf for all of time. My review of Vicious was essentially me trying to not scream incoherently and I happily scheduled a Vengeful buddy read with Jen, excited to dive back into the world Schwab crafted that I was in love with.
I struggled almost from the get-go and slowly feelings of disappointment crept up. I fell behind in the buddy read and, as you can see, struggled to even pick up the book. I finally pulled it off of my Currently Reading shelf as “not now,” and went about my reading life. I knew that I would want to reach for it… eventually.
But then it happened again.
November brought another backlist buddy read, this time it was This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada with Taylor and Becca. We absolutely loved this book and the buddy reading experience was honestly so much fun that the Squad was formed out of our love for Cole and Hydra. Naturally, we scheduled a buddy read for the sequel, This Cruel Design as soon as our books arrived.
On the first day of the buddy read, I curled up in my bed and read maybe 7 pages before putting it down. And then began my ten-day reading slump in November: every day I looked at This Cruel Design and thanked Taylor and Becca for reading slowly so I could hopefully eventually catch back up. To this day I’ve only read those seven pages and I moved the book to my not-now shelf a few days ago. They’ve long since finished.
So what is going on here?!
The one thing that these two experiences have in common is the intense love that I had for the first book in the series.
I have also found that often times the sophomore release in a series doesn’t live up to the first book. From pacing issues to unnecessary padding, I think I struggle with a lot of sophomore books. (A perfect example for me is A Gathering of Shadows by V.E Schwab: I literally read this book in August and still haven’t finished the series because of how much I struggled with this book.) I think subconsciously when I was struggling with Vengeful I assumed that it would be a similar experience, and couple that with the fact that I was personally so excited and hyped: it was a little disheartening.
This all clicked when I didn’t even really give This Cruel Design a chance. I told the squad that I was essentially terrified of reading the book because what if I didn’t like it? I loved the first book so much and the thought that I wouldn’t love the sequel equally was just too much for me. I hyped the books astronomically for myself.
Hype is a dangerous thing. Hype builds up anticipation, and after seeing or hearing everyone you know talk about a thing being amazing – you expect that you will love it too. And more often than not I wind up majorly disappointed. I tend to be wary of anything that everyone seems to unanimously love because it can never live up to my expectations. I remember in 2004 everyone was talking about how much they loved the movie Napoleon Dynamite. My boyfriend and I at the time didn’t see it while it was in theaters but finally rented it on DVD from Blockbuster. And we both hated it so much. (Honestly it’s been 14 years and I am still so angry. I want that hour and thirty-six minutes back.)
I think of Napoleon Dynamite every time I see the fiftieth positive review for something. It helps me to balance my expectations accordingly, but it is hard to curb those expectations when they are your own. When you love a book so intensely, is it even possible to not over-hype the sequel in your head?
What about you?
Have you ever hyped up a book so much for yourself that your expectations get in the way? Am I the only person that honestly is afraid to read the sequels to books that they absolutely loved? If this has happened to you, what are some of your strategies to get over it?
Let’s go on another adventure together!