I am a huge reader of thrillers. My obsession with the genre began when I read Gone Girl in 2014 (which is NOT young adult and I was a tad young for, but that’s a different story), and it hasn’t stopped since. While I do usually prefer to read in the adult category for this genre, there are a few young adult thrillers that I have thoroughly enjoyed.
Young adult thrillers are great for a number of reasons; the main one being that it opens up an entire genre to younger audiences! Teens can read outside of YA if they so please, but it’s great to have these books actually written for that specific audience. Additionally, they’re a really good place to start for anyone new to the thriller genre, as they are a little easier to digest. Another bonus is that YA thrillers are less graphic than their adult counterparts, so it works well for anyone who still wants suspenseful elements but doesn’t want overly gratuitous carnage.
So whether you’re new to the genre, or you’re just looking for some potential new favorites, here are a few YA thrillers I think you should check out.
The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
Alex Craft knows how to kill someone. And she doesn’t feel bad about it.
Three years ago, when her older sister, Anna, was murdered and the killer walked free, Alex uncaged the language she knows best—the language of violence. While her own crime goes unpunished, Alex knows she can’t be trusted among other people. Not with Jack, the star athlete who wants to really know her but still feels guilty over the role he played the night Anna’s body was discovered. And not with Peekay, the preacher’s kid with a defiant streak who befriends Alex while they volunteer at an animal shelter. Not anyone.
As their senior year unfolds, Alex’s darker nature breaks out, setting these three teens on a collision course that will change their lives forever.
This is the perfect book to start of my YA thriller recommendations! Technically, the Female of the Species is a contemporary novel, but it reads very much like a thriller. Mindy McGinnis takes a bold approach to the way sexual assault is handled within our culture. The Female of the Species can be a bit more on the graphic side, but it is a popular read and a great place to start with thrillers.
The Stranger Game by Cylin Busby
When Nico Walker’s older sister mysteriously disappears, her parents, family, and friends are devastated. But Nico can never admit what she herself feels: relief at finally being free of Sarah’s daily cruelties.
Then the best and worst thing happens: four years later, after dozens of false leads, Sarah is found.
But this girl is much changed from the one Nico knew. She’s thin and drawn, where Sarah had been golden and athletic; timid and unsure, instead of brash and competitive; and strangest of all, sweet and kind, when she had once been mean and abusive. Sarah’s retrograde amnesia has caused her to forget almost everything about her life, from small things like the plots of her favorite books and her tennis game to the more critical—where she’s been the last four years and what happened at the park on the fateful day she vanished. Despite the happy ending, the dark details of that day continue to haunt Nico, and it becomes clear that more than one person knows the true story of what happened to Sarah. . . .
I absolutely devoured this book! The Stranger Game is a little more focused on the mysterious elements, but it still creates a strong atmosphere of suspense. The book focuses on previously-missing teen, Sarah, with one central question: is this person truly who she claims to be? The relationship between the sisters is a huge part of the story, and it helps generate a very tense and conflicting atmosphere.
My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier
What if the most terrifying person you know is your ten-year-old sister?
Seventeen-year-old Aussie Che Taylor loves his younger sister, Rosa. But he’s also certain that she’s a psychopath–clinically, threateningly, dangerously. Recently Rosa has been making trouble, hurting things. Che is the only one who knows; he’s the only one his sister trusts. Rosa is smart, talented, pretty, and very good at hiding what she is and the manipulation she’s capable of.
Their parents, whose business takes the family from place to place, brush off the warning signs as Rosa’s -acting out.- Now that they have moved again–from Bangkok to New York City–their new hometown provides far too many opportunities for Rosa to play her increasingly complex and disturbing games. Che’s always been Rosa’s rock, protecting her from the world. Now, the world might need protection from her.
My Sister Rosa is one twisted book! This story also has quite a focus on sibling relationships, but in a completely different way. Che loves his sister, even when she exhibits some rather disturbing behaviors. He is determined to keep the world safe from Rosa, but can the teen keep her under wraps by himself? Justine Larbalestier wove such an intriguing story that always kept me guessing.
Here Lies Daniel Tate by Cristin Terrill
When ten-year-old Daniel Tate went missing from one of California’s most elite communities, he left no trace. He simply vanished.
Six years later, when he resurfaces on a snowy street in Vancouver, he’s no longer the same boy. His sandy hair is darker, the freckles are gone, and he’s initially too traumatized to speak, but he’s alive. His overjoyed family brings him home to a world of luxury and comfort he can barely remember. In time, they assure him, he’ll recover his memories; all that matters now is they’re together again.
It’s perfect. A miracle. Except for one thing.
He isn’t Daniel Tate.
He’s a petty con artist who accidentally stumbled into the scam of a lifetime, and he soon learns he’s not the only one in the Tate household with something to hide. The family has as many secrets as they have millions in the bank, and one of them might be ready to kill to keep the worst one buried.
Okay, I’m a little biased here, because this is probably my favorite book on the list. Here Lies Daniel Tate is such an addicting read, I finished this book up in less than a day. This thriller has a similar concept to the Stranger Game, but this time readers already know the true identity of the main character without question. Instead, this novel has more of a focus on the terrifying possibility of getting caught in such an extravagant lie, and, later the question of what really did happen do little Daniel Tate. I just really adore this book and would love to see more people talking about it.
Well, I officially want to reread all these thrillers now! Sometimes young adult thrillers can get a bad rep, but these are truly some hidden gems within the genre.
As always, let me know some of your favorites in this genre! It’s never a bad time to enjoy some other people’s favorites.
Until next time!