There are many components of a great read that can keep me glued to a book. Sometimes it’s a mystery I need to solve or a need-to-know-what-happens-now kind of plot. Sometimes I just don’t want to leave the characters’ sides for a minute or the author’s writing is so spectacular I lose track of time. Often though, it’s a novel’s structure that really keeps me turning pages. From multiple points of view and alternating timelines, to condensed plots and flashbacks, I love when the way an author tells the story is just as compelling as the story itself.
Here are six new releases whose structures had me canceling plans and staying up late to get to the end.
Filthy Animals by Brandon Taylor
Crafting a collection of short stories that can be definitively described as a page turner is no easy feat, but Brandon Taylor has done it. In Filthy Animals, Taylor alternates between a series of interconnected stories linked by setting and characters and disconnected stories that diverge from the main narrative while still touching on common themes. You’ll be propelled through these pages by a desire to reunite with the core group of friends, mostly young artists and creatives, at the heart of the linked stories, while simultaneously savoring each standalone story for its contribution to the project as a whole.
Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid
There are many things about Malibu Rising that make it a particularly propulsive novel: the setting is glamorous, the characters are lovable, and the pervasive threat of a wildfire sets an ominous tone from the start. But more than anything, Taylor Jenkins Reid has mastered the structure of a page turner. This book is divided into two parts. In this first part, Reid uses multiple timelines to tell the story of the four adult Riva children preparing for their epic summer bash in the 1980s and a past timeline where we learn how the Riva kids’ parents met, fell in love, and fell apart. In the second half, Reid provides hourly check-ins on the raging summer party. Interspersed among the main story are glimpses into the lives of other party-goers. This style not only builds the momentum, it also makes readers feel like we’re at that glamorous Malibu party alongside the Riva kids and a slew of 80s stars.
The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris
This novel follows Nella who is consistently pushing for change as the only Black employee at her Manhattan publishing house. When her office hires Hazel (the titular other Black girl), Nella is thrilled to have an ally in her fight, but shortly after Hazel’s arrival, someone leaves Nella a note on her desk telling her to quit her job NOW. This ominous event leads Nella to question everything about her employers, the world of publishing, and her new officemate. If the mystery isn’t enough to keep you hooked, Harris’s use of multiple perspectives and timelines is a clever way to expand the world of Nella’s story and keep readers engaged. In these flashbacks and alternate point-of-view chapters, we start to piece together that what’s happening to Nella has happened before and will happen again if things don’t change, creating an added sense of urgency that makes this title impossible to put down.
Olympus, Texas by Stacey Swann
Consolidating a sprawling family saga into a single week is the perfect recipe for a compulsive reading experience. In Olympus, Texas, Swann tells the story of the Briscoe family, a powerful Texas clan with a history of bringing personal and professional disaster upon themselves and their community. When prodigal son March returns to Olympus after a self-imposed two-year exile, he kicks off a chain of events that will reshape the Briscoe family in completely unexpected ways. In addition to packing a lifetime’s worth of drama into a single week of story, Swann sprinkles in short flashbacks to reveal long-buried Briscoe family history as well as modeling characters and events after classical mythology. The action-packed present combined with a structure that harkens to both the near and distant past give this novel a sense of timelessness and an utterly gripping pace.
People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry
Many readers turn to romance when they want a quick and compelling read, but Emily Henry makes this friends-to-lovers story particularly compulsive through her use of multiple timelines. The story follows long time friends Alex and Poppy whose annual summer trips have come to an end after something happened to irrevocably alter their relationship. In the present timeline, a restless and unhappy Poppy reaches out to Alex to rebuild their friendship and reestablish their vacation tradition with a trip to Palm Springs. Interspersed between the Palm Springs chapters, we get glimpses of Poppy and Alex’s vacations past from their first budget-friendly jaunts to the glamorous international travels provided by Poppy’s job. Of course, the fun in this is getting to see their relationship evolve through so many near-misses of chance and timing, all while rooting for them to finally see what they have in the present.
Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
Weir’s newest sci-fi novel starts with a truly compelling premise: a middle school science teacher wakes up alone on a spacecraft with no memory of who he is or what he’s doing there. The pleasure of the book is piecing together the answers to those questions in real time with the protagonist as his memories slowly return to him. Alternating between flashbacks about the origins of the mission and his attempts to carry out that mission in the present timeline make this story propulsive even for readers who shy away from the world of science fiction. Even better, Weir is not afraid to make frequent use of cliffhangers, which means you’ll want to find any excuse to come back to this book to discover what happens next.
What are your favorite propulsive reads with inventive structures? Tell us in the comments below!