as my grad school roommate would call them, are consuming a great deal of my time just now, as we read and read in preparation for selecting our annual Fanfare list to be published in the January issue. More than a dozen of the titles on the longlist are first volumes, middle volumes, last volumes--the question is, how do you fairly judge them? Need they "stand on their own"? (For a Newbery, they do.) Can a first volume be comprehensively assessed without the reader knowing what the author has in store for the next? Octavian Nothing, for example, seems to stand alone--but what if volume two reveals it all to have been a dream? Or what if I feel like the last Bartimaeus book stands on its own, but someone who has read both of the preceding volumes assures me I am missing a ton? Should an excellent middle book not stand alone?
Then there are the books you thought were over at one blow but NO. Like The Giver. And surely there are those (examples, anyone?) that never see the finish, like TV leaving us with the aliens taking over Florida (Invasion) or the hunky psychiatrist screaming at the sky (Huff). I hope when Lemony Snicket called his last book The End, he meant it.