Teens are so good at stumbling onto a mystery. Ever since the Hardy Boys discovered their first robbery plot, the public has been clamouring for young adults who solve mysteries. The subject matter may have evolved since then, but the tension and intrigue are still very much the same. As a lover of young adult literature – and the darker side of things – young adult mystery books are a wonderfully fantastical way to re visit our younger selves. Time to get sleuthing!
1. In the Hall with the Knife by Diana Peterfreund
Fans of Clue will be all over this one. I grew up adoring the classic board game as well as the cult classic film from 1985 – still do. In this iteration of the classic story, YA author Diana Peterfreund shifts the setting from a mansion to a boarding school, and the characters from party guests to students and faculty. When a massive storm hits the area, everyone on campus is trapped in one of the housing buildings nearby. However, when the headmaster – Mr. Boddy of course – is found murdered, everyone in the building is a suspect. It’s up to the misfit cast of students – including Vaughn Green, Scarlett Mistry and Finn Plum – to band together and solve the case, all while hiding secrets of their own. The quirky cast of characters are fun and believable, and the secluded New England setting of Blackbrook Academy is the ideal place for a little murder and mayhem.
2. Nancy Drew Mystery Stories: The Hidden Staircase by Carolyn Keene
No explanation needed. Nancy Drew made it cool for teen girls to solve mysteries. The second novel in the series, this mystery finds Nancy investigating a possibly haunted mansion. Hijinks ensue, and the reader is treated to a great mystery with one of the most famous fictional detectives ever written. Adapted into a film last year, this novel doesn’t normally get as much credit as The Secret of the Old Clock, the first Nancy Drew story, but what can I say? As soon as the haunted house came into play I was sold.
3. Holding Court by K.C. Held
I’ll admit freely that I went into this one expecting a certain level of comedy. Teen with psychic tourette’s gets a job at a medieval dinner theatre, stumbles upon a dead body, and hijinks ensue? Come on. What I didn’t expect was that the mystery of the story would still have enough twists and turns to keep me guessing throughout. The characters are well written and highly relatable, particularly for someone who’s been a teenage girl before. Anyone who has will identify with Jules, an awkward heroine with a crush on a guy who’s taken and a penchant for solving mysteries, even while she’s running away from them. I legitimately laughed out loud several times. If you enjoy a good mystery but are on the squeamish side, this is a great choice.
4. One of us is Lying by Karen M. McManus
It would be impossible to make this list without including one of the biggest hits in YA mystery in the last few years wouldn’t it? Karen M. McManus took The Breakfast Club and turned it into a divine murder mystery for a modern audience. Five students walk into detention, but only four walk out. Simon, the gossip of the group is dead. And his death wasn’t an accident. He’d been planning on using his gossip app to post juicy secrets about his four classmates – they all had the motive and the opportunity…but did any of them do it? A pleasure from start to finish, this story is a must for the teen mystery lovers out there.
5. The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas
The perfect blend of mystery and thriller, The Cheerleaders tackles high school insecurities and a small town still reeling from a series of tragic deaths five years prior. Based on a series of deaths in a small New York town, the story follows Monica, a teen attempting to understand her sisters apparent suicide after she and four other teens died – 2 who were killed in a terrible car accident, 2 who were murdered by a neighbor. Thomas creates grounded characters, and gives us twists and turns a plenty. I didn’t see the end coming, and I’ll bet most of you won’t either.
From Scooby-Doo to Veronica Mars, we all love a good teen mystery. Makes you want to grab a flashlight and solve a murder am I right? No? Just me? Alright.