#LetsDiscuss2020 #19 – Reviewing Sequels Out of Order – Let’s Talk Bookish #2.

ltbimagegreenThis article was inspired by the Let’s Talk Bookish topic hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion, for the week October 2-9, which is:

SHOULD YOU REVIEW A SEQUEL WITHOUT READING THE FIRST BOOK?

“When selecting ARCs do you ever choose sequels where you haven’t read the first book in a series? Do you think it’s fair to review a sequel without the context of the first entry in a series? Do you take someone’s review seriously if they mention they haven’t read the preceding books? Should reviewers even be allowed to do this?”

Disclaimer:

These are my personal opinions. I do not expect anyone to agree with anything here, and in fact, I’m certain that many will disagree and/or even hate many of the things I’ve written below. Sorry about that, but you are always welcome to express your own opinions – be they contrary or comparable – in the comments section below. With that out of the way…

#LetsDiscuss2020

Do you ever choose to read a sequel where you haven’t read the first book in a series?

As you might recall from my blog posts about reading book series, I have long been wary of committing to reading a whole series. That said, I believe there have been two books I’ve knowingly requested the ARC of second installments, knowing full-well that I hadn’t read the first ones. The first one was a book I DNF, which was “Murder in the City of Liberty” by Rachel McMillan. One of the reasons I couldn’t finish this book was that I felt at a terrible disadvantage that I hadn’t read the first one. I was absolutely certain that I was missing information that I didn’t get from this book.

The other book like this was “The Wicked Redhead” by Beatriz Williams. Contrary to the McMillan book, this one came very close to feeling like a stand-alone novel, although not totally. I have actually thought to go back and read the first one (time permitting), but again, as beautifully as this book was written, I’m not yet sure this is a series for me.

In addition, I have actually accidentally requested sequels where I didn’t know that there was a first book that I hadn’t read. There are two very distinct instances I can remember. The first of these was “The Wednesday Daughters” by Meg Waite Clayton. I am certain that I didn’t know this was the sequel to her book “The Wednesday Sisters” when I asked for the ARC. I even went back to the first book and started reading it, but it felt a bit… flat for me, and I never finished reading it (but I may do, one day). The other was “Winter Sisters” by Robin Oliveira. Regarding these two books, there was very little, if anything, that felt like I was missing something by not having read the first of these books.

Do you think it’s fair to review a sequel without the context of the first entry in a series? Also, should reviewers even be allowed to do this?

I’m combining these two questions because I think they go together. I don’t think there is anything unfair about a blogger reading and reviewing a sequel for which they haven’t read the first book, which means they should be allowed to do so, if they wish. However, in some cases, it does depend on the book, and, I think, the author. In the above noted novels, I believe there was enough backstory in the sequels that I got an almost stand-alone effect when reading them. I don’t believe that any missing details were major enough to impact how I judged these books. Therefore, reviewers can judge books like these on their own merit, and I see no problem with this.

If, however, the author assumes that all their readers have read the first book, there is a chance that they won’t include all the essential pieces of information and bits of backstory to keep from confusing the reviewer. I personally would probably not finish reading that book (which I have done, as noted above). Even if I finished reading it, I’m not sure if I would review it, because I couldn’t judge it on its own merit; its connection to the first novel would be too strong.

Do you take someone’s review seriously if they mention they haven’t read the preceding books?

Let me start out by saying that I take every review seriously. That said, this does depend on the reviewer more than the author. If they pan a book because they didn’t “get it,” and then say they didn’t read the previous novel, I would probably assume that there wasn’t enough backstory information there to clue in the reader. I would then wonder if there was a chance that the reviewer might have liked the book better if they had read the previous book. That’s when I would go back over their review to see if the reviewer talks about the writing style or the characters or other things about the book. If there is enough of that, and it is positive, I might decide that I should go for reading the first novel before reading the reviewed one. If the blogger doesn’t shape their review with that type of information, then their review probably won’t be helpful to me. Does that make sense?

So… what about you?

Do you think it is okay to read and review a sequel if you haven’t read the first book?

This post is also my 19th entry in the 2020 Discussion Challenge, hosted by Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction and Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight!

2020-Discussion-Challenge

23 thoughts on “#LetsDiscuss2020 #19 – Reviewing Sequels Out of Order – Let’s Talk Bookish #2.

  1. I think it is okay. I have trouble doing it these days myself, but I look back and realize that I started the Interview with the Vampire series on book 4. Didn’t realize it was the 4th book in the series when I picked it up and bought it. I was in college, needed a book to read, saw it at the bookstore, the only one there in that series, so I bought it and read it. Made me go back and read them all! With romance, since the books in those “series” are often different couples, it is easier to read out of order. Fun post!
    HERE is my discussion post if you want to chime in!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve been reviewing professionally for a trade journal for 9 1/2 years and, by the nature of the beast, I review what’s sent to me. Because of that, I’ve become very accustomed to reading out of order and don’t even notice it anymore for them or for my own personal reviews. In fact, any author who wants to be reviewed by any of the trade journals—Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Midwest Book Review, assorted newspapers, etc.—has to expect that the reviewer may very well have not read any earlier books.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I actually look for other reviews of people who have started mid series if I am considering picking one up at random. Especially when requesting ARCs. If I see that line ‘can be read/enjoyed without having read the previous work’, I feel very happy and pick it up. Basically, every other time I hope there is such a reviewer out there who saves me precious reading time 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Interesting topic that hits close to home. In my DarkHorse Trilogy, I took pains to establish each of the books as a stand-alone work with distinct story lines, although a common thread runs through all three and ties up at the end of book 3. This way they can be read out of order. To me, the novels in any series or trilogy should be able to stand alone, but the reader will gain more by reading the originals even if after the fact.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. We have such differing opinions on this topic. I like what you pointed out of making sure that there’s enough information for readers who do pick up in the middle of the series. I’ve honestly always hated books that rehash things, but I suppose it can be useful because for the author it means that any book can be a jumping off point for their series. I suppose if people at least don’t judge a book unfairly because they didn’t read its predecessor it can be fine to review them!

    Thank you so much for sharing your opinion, it really gave me a different way to look at things!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Reading a series out of order gives my anal mind a headache. That being said, I have on occasion read a book in a series that was not the first when I accepted the novel from NetGalley without doing my research. In that case, all you can do is review and state whether this particular book reads well as a stand-alone, while making sure your readers are aware that you haven’t read the previous titles.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I always have the intention to read a series in the correct order. Especially if it’s a detective series. I do try to stick to the FIRST one, but after that I don’t always bother all that much! I’ve read sooooo many books out of series order.

    But then it DOES happen that you buy a book without realising that it’s a series and then you have to go and find the first one. Happened to me recently with two series’. Interestingly, both by the same author. How weird is that.

    If it comes to reviews, no I don’t think it’s wrong and you shouldn’t discredit someone’s review because they haven’t read the first or whatever number in the series. Sometimes it’s exactly those reviews that give a fresh perspective.

    Hope you are having a good week!

    Elza Reads

    Liked by 1 person

  8. There’s an argument to be made for reading a sequel first if it is enough of a stand alone to make a great story without reading the first book. In that case the first book becomes a prequel and the books can be read in either order.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Well, to be honest, I think any amateur reviewer should do what s/he likes, and leave it up to his/her readers if they find his/her reviews worth reading. I do review middle books without reading the first, always saying that that’s what I’ve done and whether I think the book stands on its own or not. For me, any author who relies on readers reading a series in order is likely to be severely limiting the number of potential readers. It should be possible for a book to stand on its own merits, although reading the series may give the characterisation greater depth.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I’m a die hard read the series in order reader! Once this year I inadvertently read a light women’s fiction that I found out was #4 in a series. I went back and read the review where the book had first come to my attention and the reviewer does mention that it can be read as a stand alone. But the minute I realized this was book #4 I spent the next weekend reading books 1-3! The reviewer is right, it can be read as a stand alone but I felt so much better knowing the backstories! I even did a quick reread/scan of #4 and I noticed places where the story was richer knowing the background! I hesitate to review a book in a series because I am too influenced by my own preferences! Whenever I review a Louise Penney I always stress how important it is to read that series in order…but then I feel badly knowing how many books there are!
    Would I ever give a book in a series a negative review if I hadn’t read the series? Probably, yes. While reading the entire series is usually important for greater context and a richer reading experience, each book should have stand alone qualities.

    Like

  11. I’ve found they often don’t mention it follows on from a previous novel, that’s when I get frustrated at having picked it, because I then feel at a disadvantage. It’s different if I knowingly pick a sequel, that’s on me.

    Liked by 1 person

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