There are always those books I come across that surprise me, whether it be a twist or really fucked up plot or character. But there are certain books over the years that truly shocked me to my core, so much so, that the twist or dark character is something I can never forget. These are those books, good luck.
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
The twist comes in the last 60 pages or so and Carlos Ruiz Zafón does an amazing job of intertwining so many different characters’ storylines to create the ultimate climactic event. Not only is this book beautifully written, it is something all book lovers can relate to; finding that book that speaks to your soul, that means everything to you. It is a little slow in the beginning, so I beg you to keep reading as I promise it will be worth it!
Synopsis: On Daniel’s 11th birthday, his father brings him to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a library protected by rare-book dealers. Daniel comes across a forgotten book called “The Shadow of the Wind” and is swept away by the story and writing. In his search for other books by the author Julian Carax, Daniel finds that someone is destroying each copy of the works. We follow Daniel as he uncovers the secrets of Julian Carax’s life and finds himself on a very similar path as his beloved author.
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
I believe Rebecca is a very underrated book. Written in 1938 you don’t hear about this classic as much as others that came out around the same time, such as Tender is The Night, As I Lay Dying, Agatha Christie books, The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men, Gone with the Wind, Brave New World, For Whom the Bell Tolls. This is a shame, as Rebecca is a beautifully written and creative story with great imagery and characters. Some of the details, such as the fact we never find out the name of our main character and narrator, to the twist that has you sympathizing in a cringe-worthy way, Daphne du Maurier wrote a wonderful and suspenseful book.
Synopsis: The heroine and narrator is swept off her feet by the dashing widower Maxim de Winter and finds herself engaged. But when they arrive at his estate, she suddenly realizes the large shadow his late wife, Rebecca de Winter, casts upon Maxim, his family and staff and the estate itself. Will Rebecca destroy their marriage from beyond the grave?
My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
I’ve enjoyed a few of Jodi Picoult’s novels, but this book is gut-wrenching and heart-wrenching on a completely new level. Not just one but two twists grace this storyline, making the reader gasp and cry (or sob in my case) until the very last page. Like many of Picoult’s novels, this story deals with difficult subject matter and a hard truth, but it is a wonderful and moving story. The movie changes one of these twists, so if you’ve only seen the movie, do yourself a favor and read the book as well. Just another example that the book is always better than the movie.
Synopsis: Anna is not sick, but may as well be with the amount of times she has been in the hospital in your short life. She has gone through dozens of surgeries and transfusions all to help her older sister, Kate, fight the leukemia that has taken over her body. But at age 13, Anna makes a decision that not only alters her life but that of her entire family. This is one family’s struggle for survival at all costs.
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
This book is a unique take on alien invasion as the world is putting their future into the hands of these genius children. The children are being trained for the second attack of the “buggers” they all know is coming. We follow a young boy, Ender, as he navigates the school, bullies and friendships and ultimately, he may be the only one that can save them all. Orson Scott Card does an amazing job on the imagery in this book and it’s so entertaining it was hard to put down. When you think you know what you’re reading, he hits you with a twist that makes the book even better. The movie version is very different and leaves out some important characters that make the story a bit darker and thought-provoking.
Synopsis: Andrew “Ender" Wiggin thinks he is playing computer simulated war games; he is, in fact, engaged in something far more desperate. The result of genetic experimentation, Ender may be the military genius Earth desperately needs in a war against an alien enemy seeking to destroy all human life. The only way to find out is to throw Ender into ever harsher training, to chip away and find the diamond inside, or destroy him utterly. Ender Wiggin is six years old when it begins. He will grow up fast.
Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson
I loved the creativity of this book. You follow the main character, Christine, as she wakes up every day not remembering anything of the day before as the last memory she has was when she was in her 20s. Now in her late 40s, Christine tries to relive her life, knowing the entire day that when tomorrow comes she must do it all over again. The man who is a stranger is also her husband, and he is supportive but can Christine trust him? Can she really trust herself?
Synopsis: Christine wakes up every morning in an unfamiliar bed with an unfamiliar man. She looks in the mirror and finds an unfamiliar middle-aged face. Every morning, the man has to explain he is Ben, her husband, she is 47 and was in a terrible accident with brain damage that prevents her from making new memories. Every day, Christine tries to reconstruct her past and gets closer and closer to an impossible truth.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Yes, I know you have probably already read this one. Who hasn’t or at least hasn’t heard that it’s an amazing, albeit dark read, that has one of the craziest twists ever? Well, I of course had to add it to the list, because yes, it has an insane twist that hits you earlier in the book but keeps having an impact as you continue reading. Although the other books’ twists are fantastic and creative, I think this twist is the one that shocked me the most, I actually cursed out loud and had to think about it for a few minutes before I kept reading. This book also falls into the “fucked up” category below, but I won’t give away why that is.
Synopsis: It’s the day of Nick and Amy Dunne’s 5th wedding anniversary, and Amy disappears. The cops, media and Amy’s parents are hounding Nick, what could have happened? Nick starts spinning a web of lies and is evasive, he is obviously bitter, but is he a killer?
Scary Plots or Concepts
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
This book is the least dark of the books I’ve listed, but just because there aren’t any psychopaths doesn’t mean this book still doesn’t make your head reel. Focusing on the idea of alternate universes, Crouch blows your mind by the possibilities and somewhat answering the age old question of “what if?” I felt so small after reading this book and had a slight headache from trying to make sense of it all, but man, it was good.
Synopsis: “Are you happy with your life?" Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before being knocked unconscious and waking up to a life that isn't his own. His wife isn't his wife, his son was never born, he is a genius who achieved the impossible rather than an ordinary college professor. Which life is the truth? Can he get back to the family he loves?
Room by Emma Donoghue
Emma Donoghue was so creative with this concept. Having the narrotor be a 4-yr old boy, it lends a certain innocence and naïveté to the premise that his mother has been kidnapped, held in a shed for 6 years, and sexually abused all this time. There are also times that his 4-yr old observations or conclusions make the story even more chilling. The entire book I found myself thinking “what am I reading?” and “oh my god this is so good”. Horrifying yes, but a book I definitely recommend.
Synopsis: To 5-yr-old Jack, Room is the world. It is where he was born and grew up; where he lives with Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep every day. Room is home to Jack but a to Ma, it is a prison where Old Nick has held her captive for 7 years. Ma devises an escape plan, one that relies on Jack to be brave and very lucky.
All Gillian Flynn Books (As of this date she’s written: Sharp Objects, Dark Places)
Gillian Flynn has a knack for throwing twists in her books, but Gone Girl definitely takes the win for the best twist. However, all of her books deserve a nod as some of the creepiest and most shudder-inducing characters I’ve ever and propoably will ever read. Seriously, Flynn’s mind scares me, how does she create such different but still fucked up characters each and every time? Sharp Objects is definitely creepier, but Dark Places is a close follower.
Sharp Objects Synopsis: Reporter Camille Preaker must return to her hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls. For years, Camille has barely spoken to her hypochondriac mother or the half-sister she barely knows. Now, Camille finds herself identifying with the young victims a little too well and has to unravel her own past to get the story - and survive her homecoming.
Dark Places Synopsis: Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in “The Satan Sacrifice". She survived, and accused her 15-yr-old brother, Ben, of being the killer. 25 years later, The Kill Club asks Libby for more details, trying to prove Ben innocent. Libby hopes to profit off her tragic history. The unimaginable truth emerges and Libby finds herself back on the run from a killer.
You by Caroline Kepnes
*Shudders* *Takes a deep breath* *Shudders again* After reading this book, you’ll wish there was a way to clean your brain, not to forget what you read, but rather, you’re entire body feels dirty. Because this book, ladies and gentleman, takes you inside the head of a stalker and you start to almost cheer for him! Not ok, but such a brilliant idea from Caroline Kepnes. Prepare yourselves before you read this one, but definitely a must read.
Synopsis: When a beautiful, aspiring writer comes into the bookstore where Joe Goldberg works, he does what anyone would do: google the name on her credit card. There is only one Guinevere Beck in NYC. From her social media accounts he finds out all he needs to know, including where she'll be tonight to give him the opportunity for a "chance" encounter. Joe makes sure Beck finds herself in his arms. From stalker to boyfriend, Joe will be Beck's perfect man, all while removing obstacles in their way, even if this means murder.