CommonLit Secondary Classrooms 7 Twisty Tales for Teens

Middle and high school students will love these suspenseful stories!

Many teenagers are drawn to dark and twisty tales. Stories that utilize twist endings to shock the reader shed light on issues in society, providing an opportunity to have broader classroom discussions about morals, government, and more.

Here are seven twisty stories from CommonLit for grades 6-12. Your students will be on the edge of their seats while reading these suspenseful tales!

Charles” by Shirley Jackson (6th Grade)

In this hilarious story by renowned author Shirley Jackson, Laurie reveals that her classmate, Charles, has been getting into trouble at school. Concerned with Charles’ behavior, Laurie’s mom asks the teacher about the boy. The teacher reveals that there is no student named Charles in the class, implying that Laurie was actually Charles! This story will make students laugh but also make them consider the importance of honesty.

A Man Who Had No Eyes” by MacKinlay Kantor (6th Grade)

In this story, a beggar has a conversation with a wealthy man on the street. The beggar reveals that he was blinded in a chemical accident that everyone has forgotten about. After he finishes his story, the wealthy man reveals that he was blinded in the same accident. After reading, students can discuss how the lives of the two men who suffered the fate ended up so differently.

Examination Day” by Henry Slesar (7th Grade)

In this ominous story, a mother and father prepare their son for “examination day,” a test done by the government. There is a sense of secrecy around the seemingly simple test until the parents receive a call informing them that their son’s IQ was too high and he has been killed. This is an excellent text to analyze how the author’s tone develops the mood and overall theme of the story.

Ruthless” by William DeMille (8th Grade)

In this chilling story, a couple prepares their cabin for winter. The previous winter, a stranger broke into the cabin and drank some of Judson’s bourbon. This year, Judson decides to get justice by poisoning the bourbon, much to the dismay of his wife. On his way out, Judson slips on an acorn and loses consciousness. The caretaker, trying to help, gives him some of the poisoned bourbon. This story provides students with an important opportunity to think about what justice should look like.

CommonLit lesson "Ruthless" with Discussion Question 5 highlighted

After 20 Years” by O. Henry (8th Grade)

In this short story, two friends, Bob and Jimmy, agree to meet after twenty years. While waiting for Jimmy, Bob chats with a police officer before the officer continues on his way. A plainclothes police officer posing as Jimmy then arrests Bob, revealing that Jimmy was the first police officer but didn’t have the heart to arrest his old friend. This short story provides students with a great opportunity to analyze the use of situational irony.

Sleeping” by Katharine Weber (9th Grade)

In this compelling story, Mr. and Mrs. Winters ask a teenage girl to baby-sit their son, Charles. They tell her not to check on him while he is sleeping. On the car ride home, Mr. Winters explains that his wife is still grieving, implying that they lost the baby. As students read this thematically rich text, have them take notes on the unusual details Harriet notices and how these details contribute to the final realization.

CommonLit text "Sleeping" with Annotation Tool highlighted

Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin (9th Grade)

In this classic short story, Louise learns that her husband has been killed in an accident. She realizes that she is now free to live the rest of her life on her terms, freed from her husband’s control. As Louise walks down the stairs, she sees her husband, who was actually nowhere near the accident. Louise, shocked, suffers a heart attack and dies. This text provides students with the opportunity to reflect on gender roles in society. Ask students Discussion Question 4, “In the context of this text, what are the effects of discrimination against women?”

Next Steps

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