The Suckage Of Sequels: And Why I Wrote One Anyway

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Sequels suck. I get it. And if they don’t suck, well, they pale in comparison to their predecessors. Oh, people may argue against this. They will point out The Godfather and The Godfather 2 (the movies, not the books) as a Glowing Example of the second surpassing the first (they will never mention the Disaster That Was The Godfather 3). Or maybe The Empire Strikes Back over Star Wars (which I disagree with; Star Wars was better, and those first three prequels, don’t even get me started. Jar Jar Binks. Really?!) But these are the exceptions, not the rule. So why in heaven’s name would anyone go out and write a sequel? Especially to a book that initially wasn’t planned as a series? To a book that didn’t seemingly need a sequel? To a book like If I Stay?

Gayle Forman

Trust me. I asked myself this question plenty. When I finished writing If I Stay, I had no plans to keep going with the story. And by the way, if you haven’t read If I Stay, maybe you should stop reading this post because it contains spoilers. That’s another thing. What kind of moron writes a sequel that is essentially a spoiler for the first book?

Oh, yeah, right. Me. Hi.

So, after If I Stay, I started working on another book, an entirely new book, but here’s the thing: I might’ve been done, but the characters in If I Stay weren’t. They kept waking me up in the middle of the night, yelling at me. They didn’t want to be left where I’d left them. They wanted their story seen through. They demanded that I think about what would happen to them, and once I did, I felt pretty bad about it -— a lot of sucky things -— and then I skipped over those sucky things to a few years later when it wasn’t so sucky, and then the story was just there. It was a new story, Adam’s story. A new arc, a new voice. So even though it was a sequel, the continuation of Mia and Adam’s story, it would also be its own thing. I tried to call it a duet, but maybe that’s because I know that sequels are dangerous and I was just trying to skirt the label. But you can call a pig a princess, put it in a tiara; it’s still a pig.

Not that I’m calling my book a pig. I really liked Where She Went in the end. I may have even liked it more than If I Stay, though that’s possibly because every book is the favorite (and most loathed) as you’re working on it. But after it came out, a funny thing happened. Some reviews said it was good but not quite as good as If I Stay, and other reviews, like Publishers Weekly, said it was equally if not more powerful than If I Stay.

That same argument was going down with readers, in blogs, in conversations, and even to me. Some readers confide to me that they liked Where She Went more than If I Stay. They tell me this apologetically, as if they’re copping to stealing my favorite slippers, as if I might be upset about it, when in fact it is music to my years. More often, they tell that they were surprised that they liked it so much. Because they are wary of sequels. And they were wary of this sequel, in particular. I get a lot of: "I didn’t think there needed to be a sequel, but there so did." Which makes me happy, because that’s exactly how I felt. It’s exactly why I wrote Where She Went.

I hold no illusions that that my books will go into the pantheon of duets where number two bested number one. No!!!! But if it can go into the lesser pantheon of Sequels That Did Not Suck, then I will have done my job.


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