Monday, March 11, 2019

Ten Books with Happy (or Hopeful) Endings that Don't Need a Sequel

I'm linking up with That Artsy Reader Girl for another Top Ten Tuesday.

This week's topic is supposed to be standalone books that need a sequel, but I could only come up with a couple that I'd actually want to read sequels for. Too often sequels are not a necessary continuation of a story but an attempt to live up to the magic of the original, and in that they almost always fall flat. Instead, I came up with ten books for which I'd be disappointed if there were ever a sequel, since I think it could only pop the bubble of happiness — or hope — that we're left with at the end. Since books plot rely on conflict, taking us back to that world would require imagining things going wrong for the characters we'd left with their happily ever after.

1. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
This is a story primarily of one character's growth and self-discovery, and it ends on a happy note with a hopeful future. Going back into the world of these characters could only mean that some new conflict — either between them or external to them — has cropped up, and I don't want to see that happen to them.

2. Emma by Jane Austen
There's a reason that the revival of the Emma Approved web series seems to have flopped. Once everything's tied up at the end of the book (or the adaptation) of it, then either Emma has to relapse back to her meddling ways (the central plot driver in the book) or else some other, new plot has to be introduced, which will never have the spark of the first one. Best to leave it with everything tied up nicely.

3. Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour
The characters in this book have to overcome a lot of challenges, both internal and external, and they learn a lot about themselves and each other in the progress. Their happily-ever-after at the end is hard-won, and I'd hate to see them have to deal with yet more challenges in a sequel.

4. The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
There is a prequel / companion book that came out after this, but Carey has wisely stayed away from a sequel. So much of what makes this book engaging is the world-building, and the ending is so momentous that nothing that happened afterwards could have the same driving force as the original story.

5. I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios
In this book, a lot of different characters find their own happily-ever-afters that each look different from one another, and it takes the central character the whole book to recognize that her life goal is not the same as everyone else's, and that's OK. We're left on a hopeful note as she finally leaves her small town in order to pursue her dreams, and a sequel would either separate us from all the characters we got to know in the first book or require the main character to end up back in the small town she had finally left.

6. The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
This book's main character goes through a truly traumatic childhood and is only just finding her feet as an adult when the book closes. You want to believe that her life can only get better from there, and putting her into a sequel would mean that one way or another she had to deal with challenges once again.

7. Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley
Talley surprisingly managed to find a hopeful ending for this book despite the immense challenges that would have been faced by an interracial lesbian couple during the civil rights era. It's clear that no matter what, their lives moving forward are not going to be easy, and I don't see any value from having to watch them going through even more in a second book.

8. Matilda by Roald Dahl
This is another case where the main character has gone through some terrible stuff as a kid, and she manages to find a loving guardian who has gone through the same. You end the book wanting nothing but rainbows and sunshine for the rest of their days, and I wouldn't have wanted any book (especially written by twisted-minded Dahl) that would have dispelled that.

9. The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay
This is yet another story where the main character has gone through a traumatic event and has managed to find some glimpses of hope and healing by the end. I wish her all good things and no sequel where she has to go through any big conflicts ever again.

10. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
This book moves back and forward from the start of a pandemic to the lives of the survivors twenty years later. Most of what makes this book engaging is just discovering how the world adapted over those twenty years. At the end we get a glimpse that civilization may be rebuilding some of what existed before (in the reader's present-day world). I can't imagine what a sequel would entail; just watching another twenty years of adaptation and rebuilding doesn't sound like it could match the scope of the original.

Which books do you hope never have a sequel?

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: Radical and Pawn of Prophecy
Five years ago I was reading: Parent Effectiveness Training, Sense and Sensibility, and War and Peace
Ten years ago I was reading: Inkspell

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