TOP TEN YA MYSTERIES

TOP TEN YA MYSTERIES

TOP TEN YA MYSTERIES

 

  1. One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus. Five teenagers with little or nothing in common are forced to serve detention together after school, but only four of them survive the experience. It’s a brilliant set-up—The Breakfast Club with a murderous twist—and you quickly find yourself in the awkward position of liking all four of the top suspects…even though one of them must be responsible. When secrets gradually come to light, however, you begin to see that none of the characters may truly be as they seem, and everything you think you know becomes a new question mark. There are chills and drama, and even some swoony romance, and the mystery will confound you right to the very last pages.
  2. Little Monsters by Kara Thomas. As a reader, I have a weakness for books about damaged outcasts in small communities, and Kara Thomas is unparalleled at crafting heart-pounding thrillers that play on these themes. When one of Kacey Young’s best friends disappears after a party, the town of Broken Falls, Wisconsin, pulls together to search for her; then, just as quickly, it begins to tear itself apart when people realize that the missing girl is most likely dead—and that someone they see every day could be the killer. Tension builds quickly, the evidence taking ominous turns, and Kacey soon starts to wonder just how well she really knows the people in her life. Atmospheric and fast-paced, this book ramps up to a shocking conclusion that you won’t see coming.
  3. Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard. Twisty and addictive, this series grabs you right from the start with a thrilling setup: three years after the mysterious disappearance of their mutual best friend, Alison, four girls are stalked and manipulated by an unseen entity—a nefarious individual who goes by the call sign “A.” Somehow privy to the girls’ darkest secrets, “A” engages them in a high-stakes game of cat and mouse, forcing them to desperate acts as they struggle to uncover their adversary’s true identity. The perfect blend of soapy drama, irreverent humor, and high tension, this entire series of sixteen books is more satisfying than Halloween candy.
  4. Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas. A group of teenagers on spring break; a gruesome murder; and a girl who stands accused, gradually becoming the worst kind of media celebrity. This snatched-from-the-headlines thriller, calling to mind the real-life stories of Amanda Knox and Natalee Holloway, employs a brilliant, nonlinear narrative to create a simmering and growing sense of dread as the novel unfolds. Imbued with gritty tension by its true-crime bona fides, its shifting chronology consistently introduces shocking twists—only to immediately question them with a step back or forward in time that offers a discomfiting new perspective on the latest revelation. By the end, you won’t know who or what to believe, but you’ll be hooked.
  5. A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro. Brilliant, moody, aloof; everybody knows the score on Sherlock Holmes. Well, in her whip-smart and layered debut, Cavallaro flips the script on Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous sleuth, giving those same thorny, cerebral qualities to Charlotte—a student at an elite New England academy who also happens to be Holmes’s descendant. It’s a move that successfully challenges the received wisdom that girls in fiction must be soft and pleasant in order to be likeable, and makes for a compelling and fascinating central character. Together with her very own Watson, Holmes is drawn into a dangerous web by the murder of someone she herself had every reason to want dead and must use her intellect to solve a complex mystery and make plain her innocence…before it’s too late.
  6. Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson. When she was nine years old, Mary Addison killed a little girl—allegedly. She never told her side of the story, though, and now, years later and living in a group home for troubled youth, she may finally have a reason to clear her name. Mary’s jaded cleverness makes her a captivating protagonist, and the dangers she confronts in her claustrophobic and increasingly hostile environment fill the pages with a mounting unease. A refreshing take on the Unreliable Narrator, Mary’s cagy distrust of adults and the system results in the gradual piecing together of facts about the crime, building to a gasp-worthy ending that will leave the reader breathless.
  7. Far From Yo, by Tess Sharpe. Another great example of nonlinear storytelling, this mystery—about Sophie Winters, just out of rehab for an opioid addiction, determined to track down the person who killed the girl she loved—is told in alternating before and after In the before, we see Sophie get to know and ultimately fall in love with Mina Bishop; in the after, Mina is dead, killed in what everyone is convinced was a drug deal gone wrong, and no one will believe Sophie when she swears it isn’t true. Angry, determined, and alone, she takes matters into her own hands, hell-bent on catching a murderer in her small, tight-knit Northern California community. Disabled, bisexual, and struggling with substance abuse issues, Sophie is a complex and intriguing character, with a satisfyingly hard edge that is softened through the flashbacks to happier times. This is a book and a protagonist you’ll remember long after you put it down.
  8. The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. This novel, the first in a duology about a teenage girl who is transplanted from Montana to Washington, DC, by her sister, is YA’s answer to Scandal. Tess Kendrick resents her older sister, Ivy, a “fixer” who solves complicated problems for the capital’s elite, but soon Tess finds herself doing the same for her classmates at her new private school. When she stumbles across a deadly conspiracy—one that, disturbingly, seems to involve the Kendrick family—Tess quickly realizes that she sits at the center of a mystery that goes all the way to the top. Slick and fast-paced, this story weaves together political intrigue and personal stakes, making for a complex and engaging thriller that keeps the pages turning.
  9. The Window by Amelia Brunskill. When Anna dies in a fall from her bedroom window while attempting to sneak out, her twin sister, Jess, plunges into grief, guilt…and suspicion. Where was Anna going? And why had she kept it a secret? Once upon a time, the girls told each other everything, but as Jess gradually uncovers one surprise after another, she realizes there was a lot her sister was holding back from her. On the autism spectrum, Jess offers a unique and compelling voice as she pursues the truth, and the journey she takes, learning as much about herself as she does about what really happened to Anna, is tense and satisfying on multiple levels.
  10. I Know What You Did Last Summer by Lois Duncan. Originally published in 1973, this classic Young Adult thriller bears only surface similarities to the 1997 slasher film of the same name, but its brilliant premise and fast-paced execution represent some of the best of Duncan’s legendary work in the genre. Four teenagers, a lonely mountain road, a tragic accident with no witnesses—and a pact to stay silent; now, one year after their deadly hit-and-run, their friendships torn apart by guilt over leaving a boy to die, an unsigned note arrives for one of them in the mail: I know what you did last summer. I probably read this book for the first time in the eighth grade and could not sleep until I finished it…and then I couldn’t sleep anyway, because I was too worked up over the mind-blowing twist at the end. Now some forty-five years old, this novel might feel a little dated next to some of the other books on this list, but it still gives me chills.
  11. Honorable Mention: Dare Me by Megan Abbott. The only reason this taut, mesmerizing thriller is not a part of the list above is because it was technically not marketed as Young Adult. It is, however, one of my absolute favorite novels about a teenager caught in a web of deadly lies. When a new cheerleading coach upsets the delicate balance of power on their squad, cracks form in the close friendship between team captain Beth and her lieutenant, Addy. Then tragedy strikes, and Addy’s safe, certain life begins to unravel. Burdened by dark secrets and unsure whom she can trust, the girl endeavors to uncover the truth behind the death that has rocked their community. Abbott’s prose is gorgeous and almost tactile, and the way she builds suspense is a thing of beauty. If you love YA thrillers, you’re sure to love this novel, too!
Posted in Young Adult.

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