Exploring YA Mystery/Thriller Novels

Posted April 22, 2016 / Discussions, Features / 9 Comments

mystery headerI’ve recently gotten into reading some more mystery/thrillers than usual. I’m not a person who likes to be creeped out while reading, so I used to avoid them. (Notable exceptions are obviously two of my all-time favorite book series… whoops?) There’s just something fun and appealing about them lately. My Goodreads shelf is over 150 books strong for this genre, but I’ve only read a handful.

So… as much as I enjoy reading them lately, I find it VERY hard to give them a strong rating. Usually this comes from a few different factors that I’ll talk about below. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve really liked quite a few too! There are some elements that I consider read-bait for me, too. Let’s chat about young adult mysteries, mmmkay?issuezI have three main issues when I read YA mysteries. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve generally enjoyed most of the books I’m going to talk about below… but some major elements of each story just don’t work for me. It’s been obvious across a few books and I’ve noticed it a lot lately.

lacking characterWhenGone Too Far
Examples:   When Gone Too Far

Arguably my biggest issue lately is that I cannot connect to the characters. The main reason I can’t connect with them is because I’m naturally suspicious of everyone. Usually I can get comfortable with the main character because, chances are, they’re not a suspect. I suspect EVERY side character of being involved (because come on, how many times has it been the best friend who is secretly screwing the MC over?!). Because of this, I just never am 100% in love with characters in mysteries. If there’s a chance they have something to do with the murder or disappearance, I’m am onto them like nobody’s business.

hartd to believeA Study in Charlotte (Charlotte Holmes, #1)The Secrets of Lily Graves
Examples:   A Study in Charlotte • The Secrets of Lily Graves

Sometimes I just sit there reading the book and wondering… really? Sixteen year olds are involved with this mystery? I can’t wrap my brain around the fact that people younger than me can be so gung-ho about solving murder mysteries. I know, at that age, I’d go to the cops immediately and/or stay as FAR away as humanly possible. It’s hard to suspend my disbelief while reading, unfortunately. I know that people are obviously capable of some pretty terrible things, so it’s not impossible that these things could happen. I just can’t get out of my head about the fact that these are basically children going out and about trying to find out some scary shit. OR, in a lot of cases, there’s a high school student behind this SUPER complicated murder-filled scheme. Gah.

predictableLiars, Inc.Get Even (Don't Get Mad, #1)
Examples:   Liars, Inc. Get Even / Get Dirty

I’ve noticed lately that I’m better at picking up plot clues and making guesses about what’s going to happen. This is definitely true for some of the more predictable contemporary romances I read, but I’ve noticed lately I’m so much better about predicting whodunit. If I can’t think of exactly how or why, I at least have the idea of the person. In some cases, I have the how/why but can’t think of the person. Either way, I find myself predicting quite a few plot twists. It kind of sucks because I really WANT to go back to my clueless ways!

Now… let’s move on to something more positive: some of my favorite mystery/thriller books! All of the books you see below were definitely well-received by me for various reasons.favorites

  • Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard • One of my all-time favorite mystery series, even though I do agree that it probably lasted just a tiny bit too long… good lord.
  • All Fall Down by Ally Carter • I’ve seriously loved the first two books in this series. Ally Carter will always be an auto-buy author for me. I love the setting of Embassy Row too.
  • The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes  • Gah, this book was fantastic. It has no romance, which is something I usually wouldn’t like… but I really needed that at the time. I have an ARC of book two that I better have read by the time this post goes live 😉
  • Private by Kate Brian • My favorite lady Kate Brian/Kieran Scott killed it with (most) of this series. I definitely need to finally finish it off. I didn’t like the twist in THIS series…
  • Shadowlands by Kate Brian • Evidently I’m one of very few people who loved this whole trilogy, including the twist that happened at the end of book one. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  • The Lying Game by Sara Shepard  • Totally binged this series randomly, and loved every second of it. I think that it was really different than her other books (finally!).
  • A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis  • This book was super out of my comfort zone but I couldn’t be happier that I gave it a shot. Such an atmospheric read. Loved it.
  • Dangerous Boys by Abigail Haas I still need to read Dangerous Girls but I really loved this one. Very creepy book with crazy twists and turns. I love when books start at the end too.


  • They All Fall Down by Roxanne St. Claire • I own this one so the excuses are not valid.
  • Trust Me, I’m Lying by Mary Elizabeth Summer • I also own this one, so…sorry for being a butt.
  • Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan • I don’t watch Revenge, but this one seems cool.
  • Six Months Later by Natalie D. Richards • Yeah, I also own this one. Shoot me.
  • The Leaving by Tara Altebrando • Probably creepier than the books I read, but I’m intrigued.
  • Dead Girls Society by Michelle Krys • I am immediately into any books about societies.
  • The Amateurs by Sara Shepard • A new mystery series from Sara Shepard! Love, love, love.
  • The Gilded Cage by Lucinda Gray • Definitely getting creepy historical fiction vibes!

As you may gather from the books above (both my list of favorites and the books on my TBR), there are some common themes from mystery books. I love finding ones with certain elements; they just call to me and I can’t resist. Some examples are below…

favorite types

Historical mysteries just seem even creepier to me for some reason. Right?! | The Gilded CageA Madness So Discreet

I love political thrillers, especially now that I’ve been paying a bit more attention to politics! Lol | All Fall DownThe Fixer

Books about people disappearing or memories disappearing go right onto the TBR. | Six Months LaterThe LeavingThe Amateurs

Clearly I’m a fan of huge, way-too-long mystery series… | Pretty Little LiarsPrivate

Mystery books that have some paranormal elements =  OMG please sign me up. | The Lying GameView Spoiler »

As always, books about boarding schools or secret societies are my jam. I’m intrigued ASAP. | PrivateDead Girls Society

Do you have similar issues or favorites?
Any of these I should get to ASAP?
What do you think? Let’s talk mysteries!

9 responses to “Exploring YA Mystery/Thriller Novels

  1. I frequently have an issue with YA mysteries where kids are solving mysteries on their own and it makes. NO. SENSE. Like why WOULDN’T you ask an adult or the police? I love when it’s actually reasoned out but some reasons are stupid. I LOOOOVE mysteries but that makes it hard with some.
    Have you read Dangerous Girls or With Malice? (Well WM is a June book). Those are apparently my new obsessions! Accused of a murder and trying to prove innocence. They were both fantastic.

  2. Great post! I love mysteries and thrillers, and have recently gotten into reading YA ones. I tend to really enjoy them. Dangerous Girls is amazing btw, and I can’t wait to read Dangerous Boys! I also own a copy of They All Fall Down, and am planning to read it soon.

    I’m adding a bunch of these to my TBR wishlist! I must admit, I had given up on Sara Shepard after the later entries in the PLL book series (and I liked what I read of The Lying Game, I just didn’t pick up the next book in the series soon enough, and forgot what had happened previously, and just never got back to it), but The Amateurs sounds so much like the kind of book I absolutely love that I can’t wait to read it!!

    The Dead House was really good, though it might lean a bit more toward horror then thriller.

    Did you ever read Joan Lowery Nixon? She was one of my absolute favorites when I actually was a young adult. She might read a bit dated now, but I loved them at the time.

    • I know what you mean about Sara Shepard! PLL went on for a looong time and it’s hard when everything feels too similar.

      I’m not sure how I’d do with horror types of mysteries. I’m not one for that genre usually.

      I don’t think I’ve read her but I’ll have to check!

  3. YA mysteries/suspense can be tough – I think most of the time they are predictable which is a big issue for me or the payoff isn’t worth it. I need to check out your recs – especially Dangerous Boys since I just read and loved Dangerous Girls. Great post!

  4. I swear 2016 is becoming my year of the hunt for the elusive great YA Mystery. It’s SO hard to find ones that blow me away… I’m not really sure why?? But I’m always looking for them. I SOOOOOO recommend Dangerous Girls. You totally need to read that. And I love PLL and TLG books also!! I kind of felt like it was a guilty pleasure to like them, but whatevs. Also—the PLL series should have ended after the 8th book. The first 2 major twists were good, but after that it was just DRAGGING!! Oh, and I also liked Shadowlands. The first book only though. I didn’t like the insta-love in the last 2 books—and I knew who the baddie was, so that kind of ruined it for me.

    • Yes, exactly!!

      I definitely have that high on my TBR – it seems really great! I even own it too haha.

      PLL and Shadowlands and TLG were great! Lots of those books feel like guilty pleasures 😉 I totally know what you mean!

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