T is for (Books About) Twists #atozchallenge

For A to Z 2018, my theme is Books About ____. If you’re stopping by from your own A to Z blog, feel free to leave a link. If you need help with how to do that, you can look here.

If you’re someone looking to read a lot of great blogs, here’s the link for the A to Z challenge.

It’s a challenge to do a book with a good twist. The author has to insert clues into the story so that it’s not out of nowhere, but be cagey enough to fool most people so that when the twist comes, their minds are blown. Here are some books with twists I didn’t see coming.

Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn (thriller): Show of hands, is there anyone who isn’t familiar with either the book or movie? Unreliable narrators have to be really well done for me to buy it, and with this one, I was fooled, in the best possible way. There were several twists in this book, and each one left me gasping. If you haven’t read it, I’d highly recommend it. Even if you know what happens, seeing it unfold in the book is masterful.

The Woman In the Window, by AJ Finn (thriller): I usually HATE books with the drunk main character who can’t remember what she did unreliable narrator. I only read it because my friend, Ramona, recommended it to me, and she has the skill of knowing what other people will like. This book seemed like exactly that book for the first half, and I was losing faith. After the big twist comes, I could literally not put this book down. My adulting ended for the day.

My Sister’s Keeper, by Jodi Picoult (contemporary): Anna has been a donor for her sister Kate her entire life. Kate is diagnosed with leukemia, and Anna is a perfect match. When Kate needs a kidney, Anna refuses and gets a lawyer to petition for medical emancipation so she can make her own decisions about her body. The book presents some interesting ethical dilemmas (which I always love) and presents a series of thought-provoking twists at the end. This is a great discussion book.

The Westing Game, by Ellen Rankin (YA): My teacher read this to our 6th grade class, and because the main character, Turtle Wexler, liked to kick boys, I somehow got the nickname “Turtle.” It didn’t stick, but it’s the reason I now collect turtles. It’s a mystery about Mr. Westing, a rich man who died and left his fortune to whoever can solve his riddle. I remember being shocked by the twist at the end.

What books with twists do you recommend?

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T is for Twists

Puerto Rico; Photo credit: Doree Weller

Puerto Rico; Photo credit: Doree Weller

“I don’t really believe in ‘directions’ in art; the rope twists as you follow it, that’s all.”
Graham Nelson

When I was a teenager, writing horror, I LOVED writing twist endings.  I loved writing a story that was going along a certain way, and then BAM! hitting you in the face with something that seemed out of left field (but if you re-read the story, you could see it).  I kept that up for a little while, but then I started reading about writing.  Many authors warned that often times stories with twist endings are boring, just leading up to the super-clever twist.  Who cares about a great payoff if the story itself is boring?

I hang my head in shame, as this was the truth about many of my stories.  (I was a teenager; give me a break!)

Done well, twists can make for a memorable story.  M. Night Shymalan made three great movies with wonderful twists (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and The Village).  I remember reading Message in a Bottle by Nicholas Sparks for the first time, and the end was sad and surprising.  (Of course now I know that every single Nicholas Sparks book ends the same way, so it’s no longer a twist.)

Other good books with twist endings:

Shutter Island, by Dennis Lehane (also a good movie, but the book was better)

The Westing Game, by Ellen Raskin (this book is the origin of my nickname, Turtle)

Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn (a decent book; not my favorite, but a quality twist)

I think that twist endings, at their best, feel organic.  They don’t feel contrived or like a means to an end.  The twist happens as a way to imitate life, because life has a lot of twists to it.  It’s just the nature of it to be that way.  I haven’t written anything with a twist ending lately, but it could happen.  These days I mostly try to hang on as the story takes on a life of its own.  The characters whisper to me, and I go where they lead.  Some days it’s a bumpy ride!

“Life has got all those twists and turns. You’ve got to hold on tight and off you go.”
-Nicole Kidman