My sisters and I threw my mother a surprise 70th birthday party this past weekend.  Anyone who has ever planned a surprise party knows that it can get a little dicey.  For instance, the party was planned for my mom’s actual birthday, Sunday, May 1st.  About a month before the party, my mom informed us that she was leaving for Florida on May 2nd.  Had she planned the trip for a day earlier, we would have either had to convince her to reschedule, or my sister from Denver would have needed to cancel the flight she reserved for her and my niece.  We also would have needed to notify the guests that they should disregard the invitation.  If the former, any excuse we gave my mom to reschedule would have raised her suspicions.  If the latter, my sister would have lost a lot of money and our guests would have lost all faith that my sisters and I had any idea what we were doing.  Timing was sensitive as well.  We told my father to get my mother to the restaurant at 1 and told the guests to be there at 12:30.  Except my sister from New Jersey got a later start than expected as did my other sister and I and we feared we’d all show up at the same time.  I had to send a text to my dad to delay their arrival to ensure we’d arrive first.  In any event, it all worked out and my mom was, indeed, surprised.  After the fact, she claimed to have her suspicions that ‘something’ was up, but we captured on film the expression on her face when she saw unexpected guests sitting around the table at the restaurant and she’s not that good of an actress.  (Trust me, she’s told me things I’ve wanted to hear many times but it’s always been obvious from the tone of her voice and facial expression that she didn’t believe what she was saying and therefore, neither could I.  And so I promptly changed my outfit knowing my butt did, in fact, look big!) 

Anyway, planning and executing my mom’s surprise party got me thinking about surprises in writing.  People often complain about predictability, especially in romance and chick-lit books, but depending on my mood, sometimes I prefer the formulaic over the “Holy crap.  I did NOT see that coming” ending.    Off the top of my head and as a result of perusing my own book shelf – since I just don’t have time these days to ponder the contents of my blog for extended periods of time…these are some of the books I’ve read which left me surprised, pleasantly or not.  Although I’ve tried to be somewhat vague in case you haven’t read the book and want to, I’ve highlighted the title so please feel free to skip over to avoid the risk.  

My “surprise” moments:

Certain Girls by Jennifer Weiner – I was not pleased when Peter died.  He was my favorite character in the book and I didn’t thinking Weiner killing him off added any value, but it sure pissed me off.  (Ok, so much for being vague – sorry 🙁 )

Jennifer Johnson is Sick of Being Single by Heather McElhatton.  Based on the ending of this book, it should be categorized as “Chick-Dark” instead of “Chick-lit” but, personally, I liked it.  The author took a risk but the ending was actually more realistic as a result.

Sloppy Firsts – Megan McCafferty – Marcus Flutie’s ulterior motive for befriending heroine, Jessica Darling, really threw me for a loop.  Had it been a free standing book, I would have been sorely disappointed, but since it was the first book in a series, it was a clever cliff-hanger.

The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini – when the relationship between Hassan and Amir was eventually revealed, I was moved to hysterics. Amir’s betrayal of his own brother was too much for me and I couldn’t finish the book.  I think I’m just too sensitive because the book was brilliant.  I guess it was a good surprise if it had that effect on me, although I doubt the author’s intent was for readers to stop reading!

Just Friends With Benefits – Yours truly – Yes, there is a twist in this book that most people have told me they didn’t see coming.  I *might* be too biased to render an opinion as to whether the surprise worked or not but I hope so!

Hmm, what I have learned from attempting to write this blog is that there are very little twists and surprises in chick-lit books, which happen to occupy most of the space on my book-shelf!  Since my list is so brief, I’d be interested in hearing from you – read any books lately that caught you off guard?  And were you pleased or moved to throw the book across the room?


  1. Jeff Salter on May 4, 2011 at 11:36 pm

    I’m not familiar with the examples you included — and I haven’t yet had an opportunity to read your book — but I really like a surprise in a good book.
    But it must be well done and have had the proper foundation laid (however subtly).
    The best MOVIE example I can think of is ‘Sixth Sense’ when we learn that Bruce Willis has been dead the entire time. Wow … that floored me.
    I’m drawing a blank at the moment for examples in literature, but if one comes to me tomorrow, I’ll try to add it on.

  2. Meredith on May 5, 2011 at 10:10 am

    You haven’t read my book???? T#^$^$&^!

    Just kidding 🙂

    The best example of a movie that really surprised me that I can come up with on the spot is The Usual Suspects. I won’t give it away in case you haven’t seen it, but all I can say is WOW.

    • Jeff Salter on May 6, 2011 at 11:44 pm

      I saw the Usual Suspects and I figured it out just a few moments before it was revealed on screen. My brother had bet me that I would not be able to guess correctly.

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