On Reading in Order (Whether It is a Series or Not)

Saturday, August 8, 2015
This was originally going to be a review of Looking For Alaska, however I struggled to write the review.  Perhaps I will write that review one day, but let me just explain a bit… My eyes were opened to the wonderful books of John Green when The Fault in Our Stars was published.  I quickly fell in love with Green's eloquence and fluidness in his writing, but what caught my attention most was the way he wove philosophical ideas and big (often unanswerable) questions into the novels. His stories are always woven beautifully, and I look up to him as a true artist of the written word.  Discovering John Green's books those years ago truly opened my eyes to the beauty of writing (and reading).  I have always loved reading and writing, way before reading Green's books, but his books were different.  They seemed… magical.  Green is a true wizard with words.  (If by the end of my life, I somehow write a book that is as good as John Green's, I would feel accomplished.)  After discovering the beauty of TFIOS, I only recently began backtracking, reading both Paper Towns and Looking For Alaska within the past few months.


Although my love for John Green grew more after reading Paper Towns, I will admit I was just a tad disappointed by Looking For Alaska.  Don't get me wrong, Looking For Alaska is a true masterpiece and deserves the praise and awards it has received.  However, something about it was a bit… stale for me.  And it has nothing to do with the fact that the book is indeed 10 years old, it had to do with the fact that the characters, although unique and interesting in their own right, had similar flaws to those of Green's Paper Towns, that I already read.  Let me explain a bit:

Protagonists, Pudge (Looking For Alaska) and Quentin (Paper Towns), both are in love with/pining for a girl (Alaska and Margo, respectively) that they cannot have.  Pudge and Quentin proceed to believe they really know who said girl is, when in fact, they don't.  Yet they still think they love them and can somehow make the girls change their minds and stay with them.

Although Pudge and Questin, Alaska and Margo, and the overall plots of the two novels were EXTREMELY DIFFERENT, the end goal of the protagonists were generally similar in a very generic and broad way, and for some reason I also just kept comparing Alaska to Margo.  I cannot explain exactly why I felt this way throughout the book, but perhaps if I had read Paper Towns after Looking For Alaska, my thoughts would be very different.  Alas, that is not what happened.  So I must pose a question (or two):

Should we be reading authors' earlier works before the newer ones?  Is it right to judge an author's first book based on how far he/she has improved since?


I say this because 1) I enjoyed Paper Towns just a bit more than The Fault in Our Stars (for whatever reason), so in theory we are capable of liking an author's earlier works better, but on the other hand, 2) I truly enjoyed John Green's first novel, however something about it just did not quite work for me.  Everything was told beautifully and I loved the story, however I kept comparing it to his other works.  And the thing is, Looking For Alaska is significantly older than his other works.  It was his first novel, and although it was absolutely fantastic, he has been in the industry much longer now, and has been honing his writing craft further since Looking For Alaska.  I truly feel bad that I felt even the slightest bit disappointed; everything that I wanted in the book was there, yet at the same time something felt like it was missing.

This feeling of something missing happened to me earlier this year with another author as well.  About about a month ago, I started Sarah J. Maas' new series, A Court of Thorns and Roses.  It was brilliant.  Not John-Green-contemporary-brilliant, but brilliant in every way when it comes to fantasy and all that jazz.  You may know of Sarah J. Maas' popular series Throne of Glass.  Well, I am happy to say that I did read Throne of Glass (at least the first book), before reading her newest book.  However, since Maas' Throne of Glass is only the first in a huge series, with a new book coming out about every year or so (and since I am extremely behind on the rest of the series), I wanted to pick up the books again in order to catch up before the newest book comes out.  When I tried to pick it up, however, I felt myself comparing the new ACOTAR series with Throne of Glass.  Unlike Green's books, Maas' two series are written in completely different styles, and I found myself struggling to get back into the groove of Throne of Glass.  To be honest, ACOTAR set such high expectations for me that it makes me wonder whether I should just wait out on reading ACOTAR so I can truly enjoy Throne of Glass properly (since Throne of Glass is Maas' first creation), or try to balance the two series since they are coming out throughout the next few years.  It is not that there is a problem with any of the Throne of Glass books, but I just prefer the writing style of ACOTAR better, and I feel as if it may impact my opinions on the writing in the Throne of Glass series…

So, I will pose the same questions again: Should we be reading authors' earlier works before the newer ones?  Is it right to judge an author's first book based on how far he/she has improved since?  What do you think?
~Alexandra

6 comments :

  1. This is a great question - one that I don't have a great answer for. :-)
    I definitely agree that authors do get better with time, so it might be better to read books by an author in the order that they write them. Whether or not that's actually practical is a different question. And would we necessarily get ourselves hooked on an author if we read that first book and weren't incredibly impressed? Maybe it's better to read the super impressive book first? I don't know!!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

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    1. I totally agree with you there! I am not sure if I would be as interested in certain authors if I started from the very beginning. Like you said, I'm not sure if I would be hooked and want to read another of the author's books. It's such a difficult question because I feel like there are problems going both ways… Hmmm I guess I will have to ponder the question more. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! :D

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  2. If it's a series, I absolutely have to read it in order. If they are stand-alones, I tend to stick with the newer ones, just because my TBR is so overloaded and I have to limit it somehow. Unless it is one of my favorite authors, I usually don't go back to read their older works. When I do, sometimes it is hard for me, not because of the quality of the writing, but because of the difference in culture. For example, a book written in the 80s is much different from a book written in the 2010s. Not necessarily worse or better, just different.

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    1. That makes sense! I definitely agree that it's hard for me to go back and read favorite authors' older works and that my TBR is too big to go back sometimes.

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  3. I totally forgot to let you know, I featured this post on my The Sunday Post (this past Sunday!) whoops, I'm sorry :D

    Here's the link: Vet Visits, Meeting Leigh Bardugo & Lack of Motivation

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    1. Oh, no worries! Thanks for letting me know and including me in your post :)

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