YA Mystery

DIAL EM FOR MURDER by Marni Bates

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Emmy has been spending countless hours at Starbucks trying to write a romance novel.  It isn’t going well.  All of her dialogue seems stilted and the high- stakes plot isn’t at all believable.  But when a stranger tackles her to the ground and dies on top of her, Emmy is thrust into an unbelievable thriller of her own.  It seems like the old man may have taken a bullet that was meant for her, and before he died, he slipped a password-protected tablet into her pocket. The police seem ready to put her into “protective custody” when the dead man’s grandson (and inconveniently Emmy’s best friend’s ex-boyfriend’s best friend), Sebastian, shows up with a clandestine alternative: enroll in an extremely expensive and extremely well – guarded private school.   Sebastian seems to have his own secret motives for wanting Emmy close, but Emmy knows that this might be her only chance to break into the tablet and achieve her own secret agenda.  The old man mentioned her father, and Emmy is determined to find him. 

This thriller kept me engaged from start to finish.  I won’t call it a mystery since there weren’t really clues that the reader could  unravel,  but it is certainly mysterious.  I’m still on the edge of my seat wanting to figure out what’s going on.  Too bad I have to wait for a sequel!  Highly recommend it to teens who enjoy thrillers.  

If you liked Dial Em for Murder, you might like The Name of the Star.

THE UNFINISHED LIFE OF ADDISON STONE by Adele Griffin

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Everyone has heard of young artist Addison Stone.  Her feat of stealing her own portrait from the Whitney (Project #53) was both a compelling piece of performance art and a guarantee of lasting fame.  So the nation was understandably shocked and grieved when the eighteen year old fell to her death while attempting to mount a painting on a bridge.  Through interviews with her family and friends, including her ex-boyfriends and “persons of interest” Zach Frat and Lincoln Reed, Adele Griffin attempts to uncover the real Addison Stone and determine whether her death was suicide, accident, or murder.

This mock-biography wove an engaging mystery while providing glimpses into human and artistic complexity.  The interview format allows the reader to see every character from multiple angles and the gradual, deliberate revelation of details keeps a low level of suspense rolling throughout the novel.  I highly recommend it to older teens and adults who enjoy realistic fiction and mysteries!

LIARS, INC by Paula Stokes

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As he stands with a gun in his hand, cornered by armed FBI agents, Max finally starts to wish he weren’t so good at lying.  He, Parvati, and Preston had started Liars, Inc in order to provide their friends with cover stories to sneak out on all kinds of fun adventures without their parents’ knowledge.  So when Preston wants to go to Vegas for the weekend, Max naturally covers for him.  But when Preston never comes home, Max’s lies make him suspect number one.  Even worse, someone seems to have planted evidence in Max’s car.  His only hope is to go on the run, find out who has Preston, and rescue him before it’s too late.

This thriller starts with a great hook, then rolls out the back story which both is compelling in itself and lays out the clues and suspense for the intense mystery that follows.  I read it in one sitting!  Liars Inc will appeal most to older teen readers who enjoy mysteries and suspense.

ALL FALL DOWN by Ally Carter

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Everyone thinks Grace is crazy, but she’s not.  She saw the scar-faced man shoot her mother.  She knows the fire wasn’t an accident.  But the lack of a bullet wound in the coroner’s report and the lack of evidence on security cameras led to years of shrinks and being shuffled from school to school.  Now she’s been sent to Adria to live with her grandfather the ambassador who hasn’t seen her since her mother’s death.  After so long away, Adria is both familiar and foreign, and reminders of her mother are everywhere.  But when Grace stumbles into a secret meeting in the abandoned Iranian embassy, she recognizes the scar-faced man instantly.  Dismissed by her grandfather as fatigued and confused, Grace must seek the help of new friends and friends from her childhood to navigate the hidden tunnels of Embassy Row and find her mother’s killer before he kills again.

This fast-paced, suspenseful mystery features a spirited and mischievous heroine and a cast of colorful supporting characters.  The gradual revelation of clues and an unreliable narrator make the ending difficult to guess but allow the reader to remain constantly involved in puzzling out the mystery.  A thrilling start to what promises to be a compelling series!  This book will likely appeal to mystery/thriller loving teens of a variety of ages.

THE HAUNTING OF SUNSHINE GIRL by Paige McKenzie

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Sunshine doesn’t mind moving from Texas to Washington State. She has to leave her good friends behind, but she still has her best friend–her mother–and she is thrilled that her mom got this awesome new job opportunity. But when they arrive in their new house, it quickly becomes clear to Sunshine that something is wrong. There are strange noises in the night, and unexplained occurrences that can only mean one thing: ghosts. But her mother doesn’t believe her. And worse than that, something seems to be taking hold of her mother’s mind and changing her. With the help of her new friend Nolan, Sunshine races to find out what is happening to her mother before it is too late, and in the process, stumbles upon a secret about herself that she never could have imagined.

I never got into the web series, of the same name but I loved this novel adaptation, which has a quicker start, more character development, and a fleshed-out plot.  It has all of the elements of a creepy ghost story, as well as the start of a suspenseful fantasy series with an endearing heroine. I highly recommend it to teen readers to enjoy ghost stories, coming-of-age stories, and suspense!

TWISTED FATE by Norah Olson

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Ally has always been the sweet, perfect one in the family.  So it is not surprising to her younger sister, Syd, when she begins baking blueberry muffins for the weird new guy next door. She seems to see only the good in him. But Syd can tell that there is something sinister in Graham’s past. His obsession with film-making is not just artistic; it’s creepy.  But Ally fails to see Graham’s dark side, and the closer she gets to him, the more certain Syd becomes that she is in great danger.

GENERAL SPOILERS FOLLOW IN MY ASSESSMENT

It is rare that an ending causes me to strongly dislike a book that I had been greatly enjoying. Unfortunately, that was the case with this novel. That said, I do think that this book will find its readers. It is written in a very suspenseful style which makes it difficult to put down. But because of the ending, it will be best for people who enjoy crazy random twists in their books. I like twists sometimes, but I felt that this particular twist took away from what had been a very intriguing suspenseful plot.  For those who are really into twists, though, it may just seem like an added bonus.

THE BOOK OF LIES by Mary Horlock

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The police think that Nicolette’s death was an accident—a drunken teenager wandering too close to the edge of the cliff.  They are wrong.  Cat killed her—a fact which still surprises Cat, to some extent.  It shouldn’t surprise her, though.  It was her fate as a Rozier.  Ever since the German occupation of their Guernsey Island home, Roziers have been falling into dangerous friendships with fatal consequences and covering it all up in blankets of lies.  But now Cat is ready to uncover the truth, both about Nic’s death and her Uncle Charlie’s experience with the Nazis.

This intriguing novel is part historical fiction, part mystery, and part angsty-and-self-destructive-rebellious-teen fiction.  Both the contemporary and historical plots keep you turning pages.  The novel is marketed for adults, although some teens will certainly enjoy it as well.  I would recommend this book to readers who are interested in WWII historical fiction and readers who like suspenseful stories about dysfunctional families/friendship drama.