Bookish Banter: Sophomore Novel Fear

(Last Updated On: June 19, 2019)

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

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?

spacer_wLet’s go on another adventure together!


  1. Isabelle

    December 12, 2018 at 10:21 AM

    I tend to just dive right into books and hope it gets better if the beginning isn’t great, but I’ve definitely found myself underwhelmed by sophomore novels! I personally thought Vengeful was (surprisingly) even better than Vicious, but Wildcard was disappointing — then again, I read several negative/meh reviews between Warcross and Wildcard so it might’ve been influenced by anti-hype? (If that’s a thing, lol)

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      December 13, 2018 at 8:00 AM

      I definitely think anti-hype is a thing, too! I know I have gone in thinking I would hate something and either been LOOKING for reasons to hate it too or just pleasantly surprised. I usually dive in and hope things get better too, but with Vengeful and This Cruel Design I seem kind of incapable? It’s weird! I am glad you liked Vengeful a lot, though!

      1. Isabelle

        December 13, 2018 at 11:27 AM

        yeah I’ve definitely got to stop reading reviews before I start books, because I already know I’m super susceptible to being influenced one way or the other! usually it’s just noticing things I wouldn’t otherwise (sometimes good, sometimes bad) although occasionally I just inexplicably dislike it overall.

        honestly, I’ve been working on DNF-ing and cutting down my TBR (especially after I went back and added a Goodreads shelf just for the next books in series I’ve started), and I know I still struggle with letting go of books — so props to you for being able to say, okay, not now, moving on!

        1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

          December 17, 2018 at 10:55 AM

          I am the same way, once I add a book to my TBR I tend to avoid reviews and the synopsis until I read it (because a lot of times even the synopsis is misleading and makes me angry when expectations aren’t met).

          I still struggle with putting books aside, and rarely DNF but I am trying to get better about it! My slumps have been better for the effort.

  2. Tammy

    December 12, 2018 at 10:42 AM

    I agree, oftentimes second books in series aren’t as good, and it’s easy to think that ALL second books will be that way. I think maybe with Vicious/Vengeful you read them too close together. I read Vicious in 2013 and just read Vengeful, and I loved it. But maybe not having that immediate emotional response to compare the two saved me. It might have been a different experience had I binge read them together.

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      December 13, 2018 at 8:02 AM

      You make an excellent point in timing, Vicious (and This Cruel Design) were both fresh in my mind and heart, so it is easy to fall into the expectations of awesomeness! Thanks for your insight, that makes me feel a little better about just setting it aside for later.

  3. Cassie Winters

    December 12, 2018 at 10:43 AM

    This last year I realized I was having issues with any series book. I would purchase books in series, excited to read them. Then I would get nervous about readers not wanting me to read a series in a row, so I haven’t read them. I even have started series and never moved past the first book due to that fear. While not the exact same, I definitely empathize with it.

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      December 13, 2018 at 8:03 AM

      Aww yea I am always so weird about whether or not to post series reviews, and how close together, and should it just be all in one post? I definitely empathize with you!

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  5. ArestlessTraveler

    December 12, 2018 at 2:19 PM

    Totally get you! Maybe not exactly the same thing you are referring to but I have refused to read anything else by Balzac because I loved “old Goriot” and can’t imagine it being possible for him to have written anything else as good.

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      December 13, 2018 at 8:05 AM

      Oh yes, I definitely think that this can happen with an author in general!

  6. JJ @ This Dark Material

    December 12, 2018 at 4:14 PM

    Vengeful was pretty disappointing for me, so I don’t blame you for setting it aside! I always hate when a sequel doesn’t live up to the original in some way, but thankfully that hasn’t happened to me in a while. You do have me a little worried about Schwab’s Shades of Magic, though. I was going to start that series soon!

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      December 13, 2018 at 8:07 AM

      I am sorry that Vengeful didn’t live up to expectations for you, JJ! Shades of Magic… I, uh, have a very unpopular opinion so take it with a grain of salt! I actually really enjoyed book 1 after I settled into the narrative, but found book 2 to be unnecessarily long. I hope you enjoy it as much as most of my friends do!

  7. waytoofantasy

    December 12, 2018 at 5:26 PM

    I’ve talked about this a few times but expectations can really make or break a reading experience sometimes. I think it makes sense that the intense love for those first books transfers expectations onto the sequels. It’s tough because sometimes they’re not bad books, maybe just not what you as a reader wanted or expected. 🙂

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      December 13, 2018 at 8:08 AM

      Exactly, glad that you understand me!

  8. Kelly Brigid

    December 12, 2018 at 10:49 PM

    What a great post, love! I tend to struggle with this problem as well! I’m an easily excitable person, and tend to hype up the sequels for books, against my better judgement. It’s difficult for a sophomore novel to live up to the beauty of its predecessor, so this creates quite a predicament! To combat this, I try to lower my expectations to the best of my abilities before starting the book, but it only works sometimes. 😂

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      December 13, 2018 at 8:13 AM

      Thank you so much, Kelly. I definitely need to get better about lowering my own expectations… and maybe adding some distance between reading the first book and the sequel.

  9. Kathy @ Books & Munches

    December 13, 2018 at 12:02 AM

    This is so not only you. I’ve gotten quite a few sequels these past months and I read.. one of them? I think? And that was this weekend because I suddenly felt like it [and I ended up loving it, yay!] but.. every time I see the other ones, I have this.. cringe-reaction and immediately grab for another book that is NOT a sequel. I don’t know. It’s weird. It’s not even because I loved the first book so much [honestly, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue wasn’t a huge hit for me, but I’m so curious about Felicity’s story and STILL I don’t pick that sequel up..].

    This whole sequel-thing is also why one of my monthly challenges focuses on sequels. :’) I know I’m the worst when it comes to those. I’d rather be starting new series or picking up standalones for some reason.

    Also, binge-reading a series / trilogy? I CANNOT. I don’t know WHY. Even if I want to, my brain fails me? I keep reading other books in between. It’s so weird.

    Why are our reading brains these weird alien things sometimes..

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      December 13, 2018 at 8:16 AM

      I am so glad that it isn’t only me! Ugh I wish there were more standalones in the genres that I like to read, they are few and far between and it sucks. Good plan on having a sequel monthly challenge, though, that’s smart!

      I almost feel like the marathon-reading a series / trilogy may be my downfall? I think because I had read (and loved) these two books right before picking up the sequel my soul hadn’t recovered… but too much time and I forget everything that happened! I CAN’T WIN!

      1. Kathy @ Books & Munches

        December 14, 2018 at 1:06 AM

        Gah, same. I’m always amazed when I find one of the books I’m keen on reading isn’t the first installment of a series?! They’re becoming unicorns.. Probably because authors subconsciously notice that they have a bigger shot at becoming “big” when there’s multiple books in a series or something? I feel like standalones barely get enough attention to be honest.
        Right?! Although it IS daunting to see all those owned and unread sequels on one pile, haha.

        THAT EXACTLY. Sometimes you need a breather after a certain book and then there’s the sequel but you’re both ready and not ready at the same time and.. and.. UGH.

        1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

          December 17, 2018 at 12:27 PM

          Whenever I find a standalone fantasy/sci-fi it is like a freaking treasure. I LOVE standalones and wish there were more of them.

          Definitely hoping time will help with these two reads for me!

  10. Gayathri Lakshminarayanan

    December 14, 2018 at 12:43 AM

    Rarely read series but I found myself agreeing with a lot of your points. I have found the second book often to make or break the entire series.

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      December 17, 2018 at 12:14 PM

      YES! I have not continued with a couple of series as a result of the second book issues.

  11. Kaitlin (leviosanotleviosa)

    December 14, 2018 at 12:55 AM

    I haven’t experienced this fear, exactly, but I definitely know what you mean. I’ve read a lot of trilogies that definitely suffer from ‘middle book syndrome,’ and become more fluff than plot. I haven’t noticed this problem when the series is longer than 3 books though. Hopefully you make your way back to those books and love them!

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      December 17, 2018 at 12:25 PM

      In thinking about my own experience with series, you make a good point because I really have only noticed this with trilogies! Middle book syndrome is totally a thing though and glad I am not the only one suffering. Thanks for visiting!

  12. Norrie

    December 16, 2018 at 10:09 AM

    I’m pretty bad with series… when i stop tho, i usually stop at book 1, so never even get to experience the second one. Those series i actually continued were ok 🙂

    When it comes to 2nd book of the author that is not part of a series i think i’m more lenient 😀

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      December 17, 2018 at 12:42 PM

      That makes sense, and I honestly never read so many series in my life until I started blogging?! I feel like more and more books are first-in-series these days?

  13. Thannya

    December 17, 2018 at 7:28 AM

    Sadly, I’ve hyped a book so much to myself that my expectations got in the way. Just last week, I finished A Curse So Dark and Lonely and I believe I was so disappointed by it because of my high expectations.

    Tânia @MyLovelySecret

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      December 17, 2018 at 12:47 PM

      Oh nooo, I am so sorry to hear! I feel like I get myself into similar situations sometimes with my own hype and it sucks.

  14. Sophie Li

    December 19, 2018 at 8:22 PM

    Hey Kaleena. I agree 100% with Vengeful! I loved the fast pace of Vicious and I loved that this first book in the series had a clear plot and the characters had clear goals in mind. However, Vengeful’s pacing was much slower and I wasn’t sure where the story was headed most of the time. i couldn’t help but feel that Vicious was great as a standalone book and that Vengeful perhaps isn’t needed.
    I agree that sometimes I also hype up “sophomore” books in my head and sometimes it’s not so good for me 🙂 Great post!

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      December 23, 2018 at 9:07 AM

      Oh wow, I am glad that I am not alone on Vengeful! I read about 160 pages of it before setting it aside and definitely agree with you. I dug the heck out of the beginning with Marcella and then got kind of bored. I am sure I will read it and love it eventually, though, but probably not as much a Vengeful – it could have worked as a standalone.

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  16. Bookish Rita

    December 28, 2018 at 10:44 AM

    I couldn’t agree more with you! Usually I stay away from series precisely because I know the second book will probably be a letdown… There aren’t any exceptions I can think of actually! This year I saw so much hype for sophomore novels (The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy, Vengeful…) that I realized how much I thoroughly despise series… Awesome post!

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      December 31, 2018 at 9:43 AM

      I am glad I am not the only one that struggles, I just wish that standalones in my preferred genres weren’t unicorns! I CAN tell you that I just finished reading Gemina, which is the second book in the Illuminae Files trilogy, and it was actually better than the first book. So it can be done well. Thanks for stopping by and happy reading!

  17. Grace

    December 28, 2018 at 12:13 PM

    I completely agree! Second books usually aren’t nearly as good as the first.
    But what I fear even more than second books are (insert dramatic pause) prequels. Prequels usually are really disappointing, especially in comparison to the book they’re (supposedly) providing more background for. I mean, if an author’s book is popular enough that she’s writing a prequel, why don’t they just leave their good book alone?
    Anyway, wonderful post. Standalones are great.

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      December 31, 2018 at 9:50 AM

      We want more standalones 2k19!

      Honestly I haven’t read many prequels but I can totally see that. In my mind the author is probably trying to milk a good thing rather than adding much of value to the overall story/world. Kind of like how I hate it when series go on forever past their prime.

      Thanks for stopping by, Grace!

  18. Katie Jane Gallagher

    January 3, 2019 at 12:44 PM

    I wonder if one of the reasons for this is the push for authors to publish a book a year if at all possible. A debuting author can work for years on their first work, perfecting and polishing it, but then there’s an expectation once they’re published to churn out something new as fast as possible. Sarah J. Maas’s books, for example, are in my opinion on an overall downward slump in quality–they just need more editing, but I don’t think she has significant time for significant and thoughtful revision.

    Anyway, just my two cents, and curious to know what you think.

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      January 9, 2019 at 8:23 PM

      You bring up such a valid point that I hadn’t considered! I definitely think that has something to do with it, especially very popular series. One of my other pet peeves is when a series’ quality just goes downhill the longer it goes on and it is drawn out because it is popular. It happens a lot with tv shows too, and it almost always sours my opinion of the whole thing as a result.

  19. jamsu

    January 15, 2019 at 1:07 PM

    I’ve been burned by second books so many times (like Worldwalker series, Angelfall, Hush Hush, Passenger, The Dark Elements etc) that after finish a book today and loving it I was like– should I even order the next one? What if it’s gonna disappoint me too?

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      January 16, 2019 at 9:10 AM

      Yea I definitely feel you there, and I have found myself avoiding/de-prioritizing them unless the first book ended on a cliffhanger and I NEED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED. Like honestly, I wish I treated ADSoM as a standalone.

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