Posted March 19, 2018 by Renee / 44 Comments


I feel a change in the air…the publishing air that is…and it involves the ever-present marketing blurbs for books. Those hook-the-reader tantalizers that have, since the publication and sky rocketing popularity of Gone Girl in 2012, inundated us with buzzwords like “twisty,” “unreliable narrator,” and psychological (fill in the blank). It would seem that readers and publishers alike couldn’t get enough of the “girl” who…lost her memory, had her child kidnapped, killed her husband, drank too much, lied about her identity…and on and on. We get it, she’s unreliable and can’t be trusted. But is she on her way out?

This premise has been so popular that an entire publishing subgenre exists based on it. But…there seems to be a subtle shift happening among readers (well, at least me and maybe a couple others), one involving reverse psychology if you will. I, for one, have learned the hard way to run (metaphorically speaking) the other way when I see any of the above mentioned buzzwords in a book’s blurb. Let me give you an example. A book is compared to Gone Girl which yes I really enjoyed and/or said book is touted as having “twists I won’t see coming,” and that’s it, I was hooked.  I must read this book and be dazzled off my feet by the very best plot surprises I never saw coming.

Then,  I read it and find out that there are no twists or that I could see them coming from a mile away.

Disappointment ensues. I’ve went round and round this “twisty” curve one too many times that now I’m at the point that if I see those words in a book’s marketing I decide NOT to read it. I know, this may seem harsh, what about all the potentially amazing books I’m missing out on? I’ll take my chances. I don’t think I’m alone, however, because I’m hearing whispers among my reading friends and fellow book bloggers who’re taking the same stance.

But wait, there’s a publishing light at the end of this twisty tunnel I believe and it involves letting a book stand on its own…no Gone Girl comparisons, no use of the word “twisty” or “unreliable narrator”. Sound too simple? It’s not. It’s pure genius in my opinion and it’s working its magic. I recently read and loved Laura Lippman’s new book Sunburn and Sally Hepworth’s The Family Next Door that made no mention of those trendy buzzwords in either book’s marketing but absolutely turned out to be full of unexpected surprises and narrators who were rather untrustworthy. Yes, I think the tide’s a turnin.

What do you think? Am I the only one with these thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts about whether these publishing buzzwords still pull you in or drive you away?! 



  1. I was one of those who didn’t enjoy Girl Gone so when I see that mentioned on a cover, I’m out. And like you, I got sick and tired of seeing that “twist you won’t see coming” bit. Not only because most of the time I did see it coming. A mile away, in fact. But it’s also something you start to look out for and it ruins the rest of the book, for me. So yes, if there is indeed a new trend coming where publishers are shying away from this, then I’m all for it. If not, I’ll just keep relying on my fellow bloggers to steer me in the right direction.

    • I totally agree with you that I trust my fellow bloggers way more than the publishers who think they know what we readers want when really I don’t think they often do. I agree that if it says there’s big twists, I spend all my time trying to figure them out ahead of time:)

  2. I could not agree more Renee! This is an issue that’s becoming more prevalent in the reading community as we book lovers consume more of the same. Eventually, there’s only so many twists and turns one can come up with before all the books are regurgitated nonsense.

  3. I agree that those taglines of ‘the next Gone Girl’ have lost its appeal and are not very credible really… I’ve come to realise there are no books like that one and it all sounds a bit like holloww words. I do hope books can convince me with a perfect one-liner or something mysterious. I love participating in Harper Collins’s questionnaires where they ask opinions about covers and taglines that would make me buy a novel. Great topic Renee!

    • Thanks Inge, I do the same surveys for Penguin Random House and I also love it! I wish they would include blurbs more so we can vote on what we don’t want to see in a book’s marketing. And you’re right, when I see “the next”…whateverI don’t find it credible

  4. Sarah's Book Shelves

    Amen!!! I’ve been anti-Gone Girl comparisons for a couple years now. Been disappointed so many times. Glad to hear you think it’s on the outs.

    And – I put Family Next Door on hold at the library.

    • I’ve been disappointed too many times for me to count!! I do think it’s on the decrease at least with certain publishers because Sunburn could’ve been marketed as twisty and I probably wouldn’t have wanted to read it so I’m glad they took a different route with that marketing. Can’t wait for you to try The Family Next Door!

  5. Totally with you on this, Renee. This comparisons game has been done to death. And if any book is going to be an entertaining read then of course it has to be unpredictable – but the twisty thing – often just put in for the sake of it and often anything but unpredictable has had its day. At least it has for this reader. And don’t get me started on books with the word ‘girl’ in the title… 🙂

    • The fun of doing this discussion post is seeing that I’m not alone so thanks for sharing your thoughts Anne! I can only hope we are seeing the end of trend of “girl” in book titles…the question is are we moving to “woman” which is just as irritating imo

  6. Totally with you, Renee. That Gone Girl comparison tends to really irk me. I loved Gone Girl but really hate reading books that have been marketed that way. Plus what happened to books just being awesome without being compared to other popular titles? I usually pick books based on the blurbs but not because they ‘compare’ with another ‘hit’ title. In addition, some books end up being dissapointing reads, not because they are bad but simply because they couldn’t live up to the comparisons made. One such example for me this year was Watch Me which was compared to the genius that is You by Caroline Kapnes. Totally dissapointed by that one.

    • Oh my Diana you said exactly my thoughts on book comparisons, and I totally fell for the ploy of that with Watch Me when it was compared with YOU and I just couldn’t get into it and it went in my DNF pile. It wasn’t at all like YOU which is just a really unique beast, the voice of Joe can’t be replicated. The comparison game really backfires for me just about every time because as you said, if the book isn’t like the one it’s being compared to that I probably loved then I’m disappointed.

  7. Susie | Novel Visits

    You’re so right! I loved Gone Girl, but have been disappointed by SO many books compared to it. Let’s face it when one book is so openly touted as being like another, it had better deliver. When publishers use those buzz words and comparisons they’re almost setting the new book up for failure. Great topic to discuss.

  8. Holly B / Dressedtoread

    Agree! Way too many Gone Girl and Girl on the Train comparisons! Enough already. LOL ….I have started to pause now whenever I see the blurbs! I need to read Sunburn and loved The Family Next Door.

  9. janb37

    I agree 100%! And it’s not just with Gone Girl comparisons. Any comparison to a well-loved book sets up expectations that usually ends in disappointment. Let a book stand on its own merits.

    I enjoyed The Family Next Door and I’m looking forward to Sunburn!

    • Agreed Jan, I kind of feel bad for authors whose books get compared to well-loved books because it comes with inherent expectations from us readers which really isn’t fair to that book. Yes, let books stand on their own! Thanks for commenting

  10. I remember the time when everything was about edge of the seat serial killer thrillers. Massive eye rolls.
    These buzz words are somewhat useless because they slap it on literally anything. Most of the time they then don’t live up to the expectations

  11. Pamela Bartholomew

    I completely agree with you Renee, and as others have stated, it just means nothing to me anymore. Also, the “famous” authors with their comments “suspense master, “no one can thrill you and chill you.” Seriously, did we read the same book? I, like others, have come to count on my book bloggers that I trust, and just put The Family Next Door on my list. Thank you.

    • Hi Pamela, so glad you mentioned the famous authors quotes on books!! I have been so disappointed (and led astray) by Stephen King’s book blurbs that I don’t trust anything he says on a book’s cover and I actually don’t even bother reading anything he touts anymore. Now, I love many of Stephen King’s own books but I think he’s clearly jumped on the “support new authors” bandwagon with all his “best thriller of the year” and “scared me to death” quotes and I read the book and think ‘that was awful’ and nope “I wasn’t one bit scared’ Thanks for sharing your thoughts Pamela:)

  12. This is a great discussion, Renee! When I see anything touted as the next Gone Girl or The Girl on the Train, I pretty much roll my eye. I loved both of those books, but I’m not trying to read a book for it to be a copy of another one. Of course, I love psychological suspense and thrillers, but I love originality. Lately, it has gotten to the point that by the 30-40% point of those genres that I can pretty much tell you what the twists are going to be and who is the killer/bad guy/etc. If I read a book that shocks me, then I’m really wowed! I think that is one reason why I’ve been reading more contemporary and women’s fiction the past few months when I would normally only be reading this genre because I need a break. The Family Next Door was definitely excellent, as was Sunburn. I just read Tangerine, and it was well done too without the crazy predictability.

    • I agree with everything you said and I do think the psych thriller/suspense genre has reached its saturation point and readers want something different! I think we’re fed up with getting the same “twisty” stories and I bet their sales are down, I’d be so surprised if they weren’t. I’m on the same reading page as you and I’ve been gravitating to way more women’s fiction, romance and contemporary fiction than I normally would as I don’t want psych thrillers and I’ve been frustrated with the lack of original, engaging mysteries

  13. Those comparisons definitely turn me off. Gone Girl was great, but after a few books with unreliable female narrators that made me ragey, I just won’t pick them up anymore. Lately, they all seem to be alcoholic, on medication, or emotionally unstable in some way–which automatically makes them not worth believing–both by other characters and by readers. (My #MeToo hackles rise.)

    I saw this article yesterday about the demise of Gone Girl-type books and the rise of “up lit.” No doubt we’ll see poor imitations of some of the excellent ones we’ve seen, but I’m here for more kindness and less condescension in some of my stories. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/mar/16/up-lit-eleanor-oliphant-gone-girl-fiction-kindness

    • You’re so right Allison and don’t forget the new unreliable female…the one in a coma😂Seriously, can we just have some good storytelling without the schtick?? I’m clicking on that link as soon as I’m done here, thanks for providing it!!

  14. Ha! Since I haven’t read a book that promises “twists” in a good couple of years now, or books that have the words wife, mother, girl, husband, secrets or her in the title, I’ll be happy if the trend’s changing. But I don’t just want the blurbs and the marketing to change, I want authors to stop rewriting the same book over and over again. And I want covers to stop all looking alike with that silly girl walking away in her red or yellow coat! I’m more bored with the sausage-factory world of crime fiction now than I have ever been in over half a century of reading. Whatever happened to originality? Oops! Ranting again – sorry! 😉

    • Amen!! You hit it right on the head…the authors need to stop writing the same story with a different unreliable female narrator and give us something original! Yes, the girl in the red coat…what’s UP with that? Is there not an abundance of other cover art? I’ve also been so disappointed and frustrated with the lack of good mysteries lately…where are they? Better yet…where’s the next Jane Casey? I’d love to read some Josh Derwent right about now:)

  15. You know I completely agree and this: “Then, I read it and find out that there are no twists or that I could see them coming from a mile away.” is so relatable! I for one lose interest when I see it’s about marriage and that the husband acts suspicious… I have read so many!!!!!!!

  16. I’m definitely reading far fewer psychological thrillers at the moment, partly because I think I overdosed on them last year (!) and because I can’t stand the comparisons. I don’t want to read this year’s Gone Girl or Girl on a Train. I want to read something different and, while publishers may hope their book has the success of either of those, ultimately that’s down the readers to determine.

    I hate being told how I will feel about a book or that there’s a twist I won’t see coming (and why is this now being put into the title line of books on Amazon UK???) or that this book is this year’s big hitter. It’s appealing to the part of us that doesn’t want to feel left out and as if we’re missing out, and is trying to make a book a hit by guilting us into reading it in case we aren’t/don’t. Which only makes me want to avoid it at all costs.

  17. Since I’ve experienced some disappointment following these buzzwords I’ve pretty much learned to ignore them and choose a book based on its description of the plot alone. I haven’t read Gone Girl so I never know what to expect when a book is compared to it. I think I’ve had enough of unreliable narrators. Too much hype and not enough substance has been my experience. Great post!!

  18. Brilliant post Renee and I completely agree. It does feel like it’s getting a bit old now and personally, I feel more delighted in a book if it has a twist NOT mentioned in the blurb. I think we all love to be surprised as readers, and sometimes things are made a bit too obvious or are easily guessed if mentioned in promotion! 🤔

  19. OMG, Renee! ALL OF THIS! The Gone Girl comparisons… Other good thrillers were written before GG. How about “Not since Phycho…” Seriously, if you have to compare a book to another book, pick *ANY other book*. I put far more trust in fellow bloggers “for fans of” suggestions than I do in most publisher’s marketing lately. I want the publisher to tell me why I want to read *this book*.

    I am also in complete agreement with your and Pamela’s sentiments regarding author quotes. I haven’t paid attention to them in a while as I frequently ended up disappointed. It must put those authors in a terrible spot.

  20. I think the book comparisons in every genre are annoying to be honest. I don’t mind if the book description says “For fans of (insert author name here)” but I can’t do the specific book comparisons. It really is setting that book up for failure because 99% of the time it never lives up.

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