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So many YA books are extraordinary in that both teens and adults can read them – the themes are complex enough for all ages, like in these teenage murder mystery books.
Karen M. McManus
One of us is Lying by Karen M. McManus is one of my all-time favourite YA murder mysteries. There’s a reason this one was a New York Times bestseller.
The plot follows five students in detention – but when detention is over, only four of them walk out alive.
The reason this book is such a novel idea (pardon my pun) is that the book is told from the perspectives of the four students in the room. So the reader is left to wonder as they read, which one of them is lying?
It is an all at once read that you’re unable to put down. What makes the book especially good is that it is not just about the murder itself, but about the lives of the four characters and the pitfalls they go through to try and prove that they are innocent. The mystery is intricately plotted and there are many well fleshed out side characters that may have had as much to do with the murder as the four students in the room. The characters are relatable and loveable, and the ending is shocking, but not to the point where it doesn’t make sense.
This is the first novel by Karen M. McManus, and it is done very well. Her second, Two can Keep A Secret, is even more intricately plotted than the first.
Buy it here.
Two Can Keep a Secret follow high schoolers Ellery and Malcolm in the small, creepy town of Echo Ridge where Homecoming Queens, including Ellery’s aunt and Malcolm’s brother’s girlfriend have been killed over the last three decades. Now, a copycat killer is ready to strike again. Leaving ominous messages, the killer indicates he or she is ready to kill this year’s queen. And Ellery has been nominated.
The novel has many twists and turns, including the death of a beloved band teacher and the disappearance of another girl.
This book is even more gripping than One Of Us Is Lying, and it is clear that McManus has improved her craft. The novel is plotted out with more intricate details and surprises, and her characters are well fleshed out and readers resonate with them. The book is darker than her first, with a scarier ending. But it resolves nicely and leaves the reader satisfied.
Her next book, One of Us is Next, comes out in January 2020. It follows the characters from One of Us is Lying.
by Maureen Johnson
Truly Devious and The Vanishing Stair are the first two books in Maureen Johnson’s Truly Devious series, the third book set to come out in January 2020.
What makes this series different than many other murder mysteries is that all three books connect to one another, and the murderer is not revealed until the last one. This means that the books are all the more gripping as readers have been left on a cliffhanger year after year until the final book.
The book follows two mysteries, one set in the early 1900s and one mystery modern day. Mystery aficionado Stevie Bell is trying to solve both, and she stumbles upon things that many trained detectives have not.
The books are written beautifully, with flowing prose and vivid description which makes you feel that you really are at Ellingham Academy with Stevie and her friends. Johnson’s plot is extremely intricate and every little detail in the story matters. Everything connects to something later, even if it is between the first and second books. Overall, this series is done very well and is definitely worth the read. That is, if you want to wait until January to know the ending.
Buy Truly Devious here, and The Vanishing Stair here.
These murder mysteries are more junior than the aforementioned ones, centering around younger teenaged students. These are a good read for kids between 11 and fourteen that are interested in murder mysteries. Robin Stevens plots good murder mysteries for younger children which are the appropriate level of suspenseful but not too dark or scary.
I myself have not read the whole series, but have read the first two books, Murder Most Unladylike and Arsenic for Tea. Both of these are good reads with loveable and funny characters. These mysteries are more like traditional murder mysteries, good and trusty for a nice read. I really liked these in my younger teens and many others might as well, as they are written lightly, and with lots of humour. Overall, these are a good read for pre-teens and young teenagers.
Buy Murder Most Unladylike here, and Arsenic for Tea here.
(There are several books in the series, I have linked the first two).
Images source: Amazon.
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