Since my students often borrow books from me (particularly books that the school library doesn't have), they also share their opinions on those books. Sometimes it's just a quick, "Yes, this was good!" or, "Eh, it was okay," when they return it. They know that if I haven't read it yet, I don't want to know details. If I have read it, we'll chat a little more about what they liked or didn't.
Yesterday, one of my students walked in and declared, "I hate this book!"
I spotted the bookmark. She's halfway through. And she's still reading.
If she really loathed it, she'd have quit earlier and traded for another book. They do that all the time. Since it's one I haven't gotten to yet, she didn't get specific. But from what I can gather, she's frustrated with something about the course of the plot. And/or it's not giving her what she wants when she wants it.
This particular book is part of a series. The same student has been very vocal in her opinions (both positive and negative) on earlier books in the series. Overall, she likes it. But that didn't stop her from passing through my room on the way to lunch and shouting, "I hate the book even more now!"
There's another series the same student has read. That one, she really hates for very particular reasons. But she's said, "Will they just finish the stupid series so I know how the stupid thing ends?"
She hates it, but she'll still finish it.
In both cases, the author has her hooked. She's addicted, and she can't let the stories go until she knows how they end. There's a difference, though.
When the author of Series 1 begins a new series, my student will probably buy in and get hooked on that one, too. With Series 2, I don't think my student will give that author more opportunities to torture her.
They have something in common—they're both addictive.
They're polar opposites—one makes you revel in the addiction while the other makes you curse the person who got you hooked.
I wish I could put my finger on the key to that addictive quality. I'd bottle it up and pour copious amounts on my manuscripts. My best guess is it's some bit of magic balancing characters that feel real and a compelling plot.
So where do the two series diverge? I think it's a matter of those qualities slipping away as the series goes on. The authenticity of characters is weakened when they make unrealistically stupid choices for the sake of plot. Consequently, the plot may start to feel obnoxious and contrived.
With Series 1, my student may not like some turns the characters and plot are taking, but those turns must still feel authentic. She still believes.
What do you think makes some novels so addictive? What pitfalls have you noted that make an initially addictive novel fall flat?