I was reading Jerry Spinelli’s new novel, Smiles to Go, and found myself caught by surprise in the second half of the book.
It felt like the boat had swerved suddenly, taking a sharp turn to the right, and I wasn't prepared for the unexpected shift in direction.
Out of the blue, it seemed, the main character’s sister suffered an injury in a skateboard accident, and the incident forced him to look at their relationship in a new light.
Before the accident, Will viewed her as simply a pest, a younger sister who took pleasure in annoying him.
After the accident, though, Will learned that she was a pest only because she loved him and craved his attention.
But the accident came as a surprise, a turning point in the plot, spinning the story off into a completely new direction (and compelling the reader to hold tighter to the boat).
There was another turning point earlier in the plot, when Will witnessed a kiss under the stars between his best friends, BT and Mi Su–which caused him to examine his own (new) feelings for Mi Su and then to formulate his own plan for kissing her.
Both of these turning points–spotting BT and Mi Su kissing and his sister Tabby’s accident–turned the narrative in new, surprising directions, and challenged Will to reexamine and reevaluate his understanding of himself and his relationship to people who he loves or doesn’t yet know he loves.
Each turning point forced Will out of his comfort zone, and sent him (and the reader) spinning off into completely new and unexpected territory.
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