This is a short list of books I read in 2022 that each had a twist or two at the end that caught me off guard. I love when a book can make me audibly gasp, and these books did just that. Don’t worry! I won’t spoil the twists for you. I’m just going to give a brief synopsis, talk about any themes I picked up on, and simply talk a bit about why I loved each of these books. I hope you’ll give them a try if you haven’t already!
The Children on the Hill by Jennifer McMahon is a story told in two parts, swapping from one timeline to another throughout the book. We have the story of Violet and Eric who live with their grandma just up the hill from the psychiatric hospital their Gran runs. One day, Gran brings home a girl, Iris, and tells Vi and Eric that she will be staying with them from now on. Violet takes Iris under her wing and promises to find out about Iris’s past since Iris can’t remember a thing. But when keeping her promise begins reveals dark secrets, everything changes. The second part of the story is about Lizzy, a marginally famous monster hunter. But Lizzy isn’t her real name, and she’s searching for more than Bigfoot. She’s searching for her sister. Her sister, the monster who has been stealing girls who won’t be looked for, who will be written off as runaways. But Lizzy knows better, because she remembers the monster hunting club of their youth. She remembers how they were obsessed with monsters, and how they found out the truth about her sister. Now, she is determined to find her and stop her.
There were multiple twists in this book that all made my jaw drop. I suspected at least one of them before it was revealed, but it was twist after twist after twist as you get closer to the end. I enjoyed this one a lot! It reminded me of Frankenstein, which is mentioned several times in the book as well. Like Mary Shelley, Jennifer McMahon lead me to ask who the true monster is: the monster? or the one who makes the monster?
And the Trees Crept In by Dawn Kurtagich is a story of generational traumas and curses and ghosts from the past. Silla and Nori flee their abusive home and run to what they believe will be a safe haven in La Baume, the ancestral home where her mother grew up and where her aunt Catherine still lives. It does feel like a haven at first, but then her aunt goes mad just like Silla’s mother always told her she was. Then, the trees surrounding La Baume creep closer and closer every time Silla looks away from them. Then there’s the Creeper Man. The demon Aunt Cath claims stole away their youngest sister Anne so many years ago. Cath warns Silla that the Creeper Man is here, that he will take Nori, and that it is all Silla’s fault. But one good thing comes out of the woods. A beautiful boy who seems so familiar to Silla, but who she is very wary of and even more wary of the feelings he stirs inside her. Is he a savior? And if he is, can Silla allow herself to be saved?
This was unlike any other haunted house/ghost story I’ve ever read before. It portrays perfectly the painful process of forgiving yourself, of opening yourself up to the world again after having it do nothing but hurt you in the past, and of breaking the negative cycles born from generational trauma and/or personal traumas. It’s such a raw portrayal of grief and fear personified by the Creeper Man, who sounds a lot like Slender Man when described which is terrifying. I did not the twist at the end of this one coming, and it went straight through my heart. Highly recommend!
Hidden Pictures by Jason Rekulak is another very unique ghost story. We meet Mallory, a recovered drug addict, as she attempts to get a job as a nanny, a job that her coach suggested would be perfect for her. She meets the little boy, Teddy, and they instantly hit it off. The dad isn’t convinced she’s a good fit, but the mom thinks she’s perfect for the job. It all seems too good to be true. She’s got a well-paying job, she gets to live in a cozy guest house in an extremely well-to-do neighborhood, and she gets along incredibly well with Teddy. Unfortunately, as is often the case with such stories, it really is too good to be true. Teddy begins to draw unsettling pictures of a woman being dragged through the woods and thrown into a hole. As the drawings become more and more realistic, impossible for a child to produce, Mallory believes there is something else in the house with Teddy and his parents. Something that wants to be heard and is trying to do so through Teddy’s drawings. Not being able to tell his parents for fear they’ll think she’s back on drugs, Mallory finds unlikely allies in the handsome gardener and the eccentric next-door neighbor. Mallory decides she must find out who the woman in the drawings is and why she is attached to this house, or this family, and release Teddy from her hold on him.
With the drawings included, not just described, this was such an incredible and special read. This was another where I began to get an idea of what the big twist was going to be, but the reveal was still a big “Wow!” moment. I would suggest this one to lovers of both ghost stories and mysteries.
The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward has three different narrators. There’s Ted, a man living alone in his mid-30’s with only his cat Olivia (who is our second narrator) and the occasional vaguely described visits from his 12-year-old daughter Lauren. Our third narrator is a young woman named Dee who moves in across the street from Ted because she believes he abducted her sister years ago and is keeping her somewhere, and she intends to find out where and save her.
This was quite possibly the best psychological thriller I read in 2022. Stephen King was quoted as saying “The buzz…is real. I’ve read it and was blown away. It’s a true nerve-shredder that keeps its mind-blowing secrets to the very end.” And it certainly does! I did not expect the twist at all. This is a truly masterful piece of storytelling.