Sequels often get a lot of grief, especially when they fail to live up to the expectations we’ve formed since the first book (or movie, or whatever.) Look at how fans reacted to the final entries into The Hunger Games and Divergent series, or the criticism heaped on the second two Matrix movies. And don’t even get anyone started on the Star Wars prequels. To be fair, often this criticism is warranted – I doubt anyone would argue that the second to Matrix installments were better than the original, and there were plenty of valid criticisms of Allegiant. But often, it comes down to a combination of quality and personal taste. For instance, there were also many of valid criticisms of Mockingjay, but I loved it and thought it was a great conclusion to the trilogy.
But sometimes, there is a sequel that really does rise above, in terms of critical acclaim or personal opinion (and sometimes both.) I read one of these recently. After really liking To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, I was looking forward to P.S. I Still Love You, and I was excited to finally have a chance to read it this month. To my surprise and delight, P.S. I Still Love You exceeded my expectations, and I ended up loving it even more than the original. This, I suspect, comes down to that magic combination of a skilled writer and my own preferences. Reading about the relationship issues Lara Jean faces as part of an existing relationship appealed to me, as did the treatment of bullying, female friendship, and double standards, among many other things. It felt like a fuller, richer, and more mature book than its predecessor. Obviously, loving a sequel even more than the original doesn’t detract from the first though – I would never have read the sequel if I hadn’t really enjoyed To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, and I still recommend it all the time!
This experience got me thinking about those times when sequels equal or even outstrip their predecessors. Critics and fans alike agreed that Toy Story II and Toy Story III were at least as good as the original, and I’ve never met anyone who thinks Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is the best of the series. Sequels have great potential to improve on the original, since less time needs to be devoted to scene-setting or exposition, and more time and energy can be spent on plot, character development, and issues. But it depends on authors, screenwriters, producers, and more understanding their characters and their world, staying consistent with what they set up in the original, and making their sequel go beyond simply repeating what was successful originally. Plus, of course, that all-important personal taste aspect!
Do you have any sequels that you prefer to the original? Have you ever been surprised by a sequel? Do you like a sequel that is widely disliked? Or dislike a sequel that is widely liked?