Mallory Dobry ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
For years, it seemed as though every book hitting the shelves was part of a trilogy of some sort. It was particularly prevalent in the Young Adult genre, with titles like The Hunger Games trilogy and the Divergent trilogy earning big screen adaptations. For a while, it appeared as though trilogies were the way to go in the realm of young adult literature.
Trilogies offer many benefits to authors, financially and businesswise, but also when dealing with characters and plotlines. A three-book series allows an author to introduce their characters, main and supporting, at the pace they wish, and immerse readers in the world.
Typically, trilogies follow a certain pattern. The first book serves as an introduction to the world, to the characters, and a central plot point for the trilogy. The second delves deeper into the conflict, with familiar characters and tone, often serving as a bridge between the first and third, and sometimes ending with a huge cliffhanger. Then, the third serves as a conclusion. It often contains the highest stakes, and often the most emotions. It’s where everything comes to a head and reaches a resolution.
This formula works very well for most YA series, where the main plot is often intertwined with romance and character relationships. It helps readers slowly become invested and feel like they’ve gone on a journey as well. Some famous trilogies within the YA genre (aside from the previously mentioned) consist of the Mara Dyer trilogy by Michelle Hodkin, the Legend trilogy by Marie Lu, and the Delirium trilogy by Lauren Oliver, to name a few.
However, it seems as though the genre may be moving away from the trilogy formula, often striving for longer series. For example, though not a newcomer to the YA genre, The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare consists of six books, though they can be split into two cycles of three books, as they focus on different enemies. Six books is a long time to give readers to fall in love with characters. Clare has also released The Infernal Devices, a trilogy set within the same universe that takes place in a steampunk England.
The Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer and The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater are also examples of longer series within the genre, both with four books in the series. In both of these instances, there is an overarching plotline, but each book within the saga focuses on a more specific enemy and plotline.
In the instance of The Raven Cycle, perhaps a four-book series could have harmed the story, rather than helped it. The third book of the cycle, Blue Lily, Lily Blue, contained few plot points and served as mostly filler plot details that could have fit elsewhere. While it set up well for the fourth book, it was thin plot-wise and did more setting up for the last book than telling another story.
Standalone books have also proven themselves as major heavyweights within the market, gaining tons of fans and critical acclaim. Writers like Rainbow Rowell, David Levithan, and Sarah Dessen have made very fruitful careers on standalone novels, though some have written sequels or companion novels to their works. These books tell a single story in their length and can be sweet or sad or uplifting, and should never be discredited for their quality.
Many YA books are still using the trilogy format to tell their story, and with the success of novels and film franchises, it’s safe to say we won’t see them go away any time soon. However, the hope is that whatever length authors choose for their books, they tell the stories that need to be told, ones that will enrich YA readers and find success at any word count.