9 Books With Crazy Climaxes That’ll Take Your Breath Away

It’s often the best part of the story, the part that you slog through several hundred pages of agonizing anxiety or pastoral descriptions for. It’s usually the part of the book that you remember best, and it’s increasingly the one part of the book that you tag with “spoiler” and hint around when you’re recommending the book to a friend. The climaxes of books can often make or break the whole story for some readers.

Sometimes a book pulls you in from the first line, sometimes things move a little slower. Whether a book approaches the height of the story slowly or keeps you on the edge of your seat from the beginning, some books’ climaxes are so totally worth the wait.

There’s the silly stereotype of literature as the realm of boring, high-minded language and slow plot lines, leaving the exciting stories to the big screen. But a great deal of those edge-of-your-seat narratives in the theaters start out as gripping page-turners. And sure, sometimes all a reader wants to do is drink a cup of tea and read long passages about the human condition, or something. But sometimes, you want a story that leads up to reveals and action that will explode your brain and make you realize you’ve been holding your breath for the past 20 pages. If that’s what you’re looking for, then look no further.

1. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl is basically the stereotype example of contemporary crazy twist books, and for good reason. OK, so there are probably like 15 crazy surprises in this book, and the ending... the ending! It pretty much just keeps you in constant WTF mode for most of the book, and it manages to do this by completely surprising readers’ expectations, both plot-wise and also in the character’s shocking behaviors.

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2. The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

One minute you’re following the stories of a couple of kids growing up, falling in love, and being manipulative. Next thing you know you’re immersed in crazy psychic magic land where a magical war has been raging on for centuries.

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3. The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman

Seeing as the series is ongoing and ridiculously long, it’s hard to say that there’s a single climax. In fact, there’s a least one heart-stopping climax in every volume of the series, and it’s not always just horrific death by zombie. Kirkman has managed to take the zombie genre and transform it from sheer flesh-eating horror into true psychological torment, and he knows just how to catch you off guard with plot reveals that change the whole world on you.

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4. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

You know what’s gonna happen. The main characters has been talking, over analyzing, and growing more and more neurotic about it for the whole book, but then it happens, and you realize you were never ready for it.

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5. The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

This isn’t your typical thriller. It starts by telling you that Mia has been abducted by a man named Colin, and in the beginning of the book she’s already been rescued. But the real suspense begins as the story of why she now calls herself Chloe and can’t seem to remember much of what happened is slowly reconstructed. The real what-just-happened moment comes at the very end, but up until then, it’s a slow building narrative that practically has you holding your breath for all 300 pages of this thriller.

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6. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy are friends at a boarding school. As you slowly get to know and love them and their intimate friendship, complete with its unique complications, you slowly come to realize that things aren't quite as simple as they seem. But that's not it. You think you know where things might be leading, but you have no idea that right in the middle of everything coming to a head, Ishiguro is going to rip your heart out and refuse to give it back. Not all epic climaxes are all adrenaline and shocking reveals. Sometimes they're powerful because the author clearly hates you and want to make you cry. Thanks, Ishiguro.

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7. Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk

You don’t need thrillers and horror stories to find the kind of story that shocks and thrills. Invisible Monsters has a couple of unlikely heroines: a former model who can’t talk because she was horribly disfigured and a drag queen who has undergone copious amounts of surgery. The two band together to rob rich homes of prescription pills and medicate their way across the nation. It’s weird and hilarious and unexpectedly smart, and things definitely don’t turn out the way you’d think. So if you're looking for a hilarious, kinda weird sort of thrill, this is the one for you.

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8. Room by Emma Donoghue

A 5-year-old boy has only ever known life within the four walls that he shares with his mother… It’s a ridiculously interesting and horrifying premise, and Donoghue draws you thoroughly into his world right before everything gets disrupted. You’ll find yourself feeling as shell-shocked as Jack and as his mother as everything comes to a head.

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9. The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor

Phoenix is a genetic experiment living in a completely controlled world with others like her, and she doesn’t mind it. At least, not until her best friend and illicit lover finds out something so horrible that he kills himself. That’s when everything hits the fan and you’re suddenly on a wild ride as illusions shatter and Phoenix escapes and starts finding out the truth. The suspense of watching everything change (and I mean, everything) is all the more remarkable as Okorafor reveals some shocking truths about our own reality.

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