10+ YA Mystery (or Mystery-Adjacent) Novels You Must Investigate*
Updated: Nov 29, 2022
by Jen Moyers (@jen.loves.books)
Last week, Sara and I chatted about the pilot of the adaptation of Karen McManus's One of Us Is Lying (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm)—you can check out the episode here—so I thought I'd dive into some other YA mysteries (or YA books with mystery elements) I've enjoyed recently. (I'm excerpting a lot of these reviews from my Instagram account!)
Jennifer Lynn Barnes's The Inheritance Games (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm) and The Hawthorne Legacy (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm)
"One warning: while I definitely recommend that you read Barnes's trilogy, don't make the mistake I did. Please wait until book three comes out (in August) before starting. I am so, so sad to have to wait until book three. "Here's the setup: Avery Grambs is living out of her car when she finds out that she's inheriting the bulk of billionaire Tobias Hawthorne's wealth. The strange thing? She doesn't know who he is. While she's trying to figure out the connection—she thinks it lies with her mother, who died a while back—she's required to live in his mansion along with his understandably frustrated family, including his two daughters and four very different, very appealing grandsons. "This book is packed full with puzzles and word games, courtesy of Hawthorne; romance and intrigue and brushes with death saturate this story. I did both of these alternating between the ebook and the audiobook, and both formats worked really well, primarily because they meant that I rarely had to stop reading. Let me tell you, when I clicked through to find book three and found out that it wasn't available yet, I was devastated."
Joya Goffney's Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm)
So, this book is not predominantly a mystery, but it does have mystery elements. At the center of the mystery is Quinn's journal, where she keeps lists of everything, including some potentially embarrassing material . . . and the fact that she has been faking her acceptance to college. When the journal goes missing, Quinn's first suspect is Carter, the last person to have it and one of the few other Black students at their school. He denies having it, and, even more, when someone starts blackmailing Quinn with the release of its contents, they work together to uncover the blackmailer. Their partnership is a great deal of fun, and it also allows Quinn to confront some elements of her identity that she's not been comfortable considering, including the way her friends have been making her feel. This one has mystery and so, so much more!
Holly Jackson's A Good Girl's Guide to Murder (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm), Good Girl, Bad Blood (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm), and As Good as Dead (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm)
Here's my review of book one (I also loved book two and am currently reading the third book!):
"I listened to this one, and it was a great audio experience featuring a full cast.⠀
"The [first] book centers on high school senior Pip who, for her senior project, decides to solve a murder that happened in her small town five years before. Sal Singh, a popular teenager who everyone thought was a good guy, murdered his beautiful girlfriend Andie Bell and then killed himself. But Pip has always thought there was something not quite right about the way it all happened.⠀
"The book covers Pip's investigation and is written to include transcripts from her interviews (where the full cast is a great touch) and her own reflections in her journal.⠀
"There are definitely hints of Serial, season 1, here, and I appreciated the consideration of the racism that was at the heart of many townspeople's acceptance of Sal being cast as a villain. Pip convinces his brother to be a part of the investigation, which added depth to the focus on the alleged murderer and his victim.⠀
"A Good Girl's Guide to Murder was a fun, twisty, and ultimately satisfying mystery . . . and I'll definitely be reading the rest of the trilogy!"
Maureen Johnson's The Box in the Woods (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm) and the Truly Devious trilogy (Bookshop.org)
"I've been saving Maureen Johnson's The Box in the Woods. Why? Because I loved the original Truly Devious trilogy so much, and I just didn't want the series to end. [You can read my review of the trilogy here.] This fourth book sort of bridges the gap between being part of the series—it still focuses on Stevie Bell, the young woman who solved the murders in the original trilogy—and standalone—it takes place away from Ellingham Academy, and the mystery at its heart spans only this book. "Early in the book, Stevie receives a call from someone who wants her to solve a mystery from the 1970s: the brutal murder of four teenagers working at a camp. To get her close to the investigation, he hires her to work at the camp, which he has bought, and gives her full access to both the camp and the small town where the victims lived. "Stevie is just a great character. She's smart and awkward and prickly, and seeing her reunited with her best friends and boyfriend is super satisfying. The mystery is also great and twisty, and I love both the way Stevie figures out everything and the way the mystery itself is laid out in flashbacks. "This was a satisfying read, though I am so sad that the series is over. (Maybe Johnson will write some more?)"
Emma Lord's When You Get the Chance (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm)
This is another one with mystery elements, centered on protagonist Millie's investigation of the identity of her birth mother. As with Goffney's book, the mystery elements are secondary . . . but they are fun! You can read my full review here.
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