YA Thrillers & Mysteries For Readers Who Don't Like Being Scared

by Kerri Jarema

I am the first one to admit it: I am a total wimp when it comes to anything even remotely horror. I can't watch even the dumbest of scary movies without feeling like something is creeping in the night; and books with scary elements are definitely not on the list of my go-to's. If it has anything occult, ghosty, murdery or otherwise, I'm going to see myself out. Of course, there are certain exceptions, even to my blanket no horror rule. I can watch a good ol' rerun of Supernatural with glee, but just the idea of The Walking Dead gives me a shiver. I love the detective stories in Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, but the film Zodiac still haunts me to this day. So, yeah, maybe I can't even figure out just what will keep me up at night...but I know what won't.

If you're anything like me and you love the idea of curling up with a mystery, trying to unravel the clues and solve the case before the protagonist. And you even itch for a thriller, a book that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last page turn. But finding books that will give you that without scaring your pants off is another thing entirely. The 11 books assembled below should hit the mark for all my fellow horror un-enthusiasts out there.


'One Of Us Is Lying' by Karen M. McManus

On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention. Bronwyn is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule. Addy is the picture-perfect homecoming princess. Nate is already on probation for dealing. Cooper is the all-star baseball pitcher. And Simon is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app. Before the end of detention Simon's dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his classmates, making them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?

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'A Study In Charlotte' by Brittany Cavallaro

The last thing Jamie Watson wants is a rugby scholarship to Sherringford, also home to Charlotte Holmes, the famous detective’s great-great-great-granddaughter. From the moment they meet, there’s a tense energy between them, and they seem destined to be rivals. But when a student dies under suspicious circumstances, ripped straight from a Sherlock Holmes stories, Jamie can no longer afford to keep his distance. Jamie and Charlotte are being framed for murder, and only Charlotte can clear their names. But danger is mounting and nowhere is safe—and the only people they can trust are each other.

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'Trouble Is A Friend Of Mine' by Stephanie Tromly

The first time Philip Digby shows up on Zoe Webster’s doorstep, he’s rude and he treats her like a book he’s already read and knows the ending to. But before she knows it, Zoe’s allowed Digby to drag her into a series of hilarious, dangerous, and only vaguely legal schemes all related to the kidnapping of a local teenage girl. A kidnapping that might be connected to the tragic disappearance of his little sister eight years ago. Is Digby a hero? Or is his manic quest an indication of a desperate attempt to repair his broken family and exorcize his own obsessive-compulsive tendencies?

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'A Great And Terrible Beauty' by Libba Bray

Sixteen-year-old Gemma foresees her mother's death in a black, swirling vision that turns out to be true. Enrolled at Spence, a girls' academy with a mysterious burned-out East Wing, Gemma blackmails herself into a treacherous clique. One night she is led by a child-spirit to find a diary that reveals the secrets of a mystical Order. The clique soon accompanies Gemma to the other-world realms of her visions "for a bit of fun" but they discover that realm is overwhelmed by a menace they cannot control. Gemma is left with the knowledge that her role as the link between worlds leaves her with a mission to seek out the "others" and rebuild the Order.

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'First We Were IV' by Alexandra Sirowy (July 25, 2017)

Izzie loves nothing more than her three best friends, Viv, Graham, and Harry. And she’s terrified of their friendship falling apart next year when they go off to college. To bind them together, she decides to create the Order of IV, a secret society devoted to mischief that rights wrongs and pays back debts. At first, it works like a charm—but when the Order of IV’s escapades get recognition beyond their wildest expectations, other people start wanting in. And soon, what started as a game of friendship is spiraling into something dangerous and beyond their control—and before it’s over, they’ll pay the ultimate sacrifice.

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'League Of American Traitors' by Matthew Landis (August 8, 2017)

When 17 year-old Jasper is approached at the funeral of his deadbeat father by a man claiming to be an associate of his deceased parents, he finds out he is the sole surviving descendant of Benedict Arnold. Jasper is at the center of a war that has been going on for centuries, in which the descendants of the heroes and traitors of the American Revolution still duel to the death. His only hope to escape his dangerous fate is to take up the research his father was pursuing, to clear Arnold’s name. And if Jasper doesn’t find a way, he may end up paying for the sins of his forefathers with his own life.

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'Here Lies Daniel Tate' by Cristin Terrill

When 10-year-old Daniel Tate went missing, he left no trace. 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.

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'Wink Poppy Midnight' by April Genevieve Tucholke

Every story needs a hero. Every story needs a villain. Every story needs a secret. Wink is the odd, mysterious neighbor girl, wild red hair and freckles. Poppy is the blond bully and the beautiful, manipulative high school queen bee. Midnight is the sweet, uncertain boy caught between them. Wink. Poppy. Midnight. Two girls. One boy. Three voices that burst onto the page in short, sharp, bewitching chapters, and spiral swiftly and inexorably toward something terrible or tricky or tremendous. What really happened? Someone knows. Someone is lying.

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'Since You've Been Gone' by Morgan Matson

It was Sloane who yanked Emily out of her shell and made life 100% interesting. But right before what should have been the most epic summer, Sloane just… disappears. All she leaves behind is a to-do list. On it, 13 Sloane-inspired tasks that Emily would normally never try. But what if they could bring her best friend back? Apple picking at night? Okay, easy enough. Dance until dawn? Sure. Why not? Kiss a stranger? Um... Emily now has this unexpected summer, and the help of Frank Porter, to check things off Sloane's list. Who knows what she’ll find?

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'We Were Liars' by E. Lockhart

A beautiful and distinguished family. A private island. A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy. A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive. A revolution. An accident. A secret. Lies upon lies. True love. The truth. A twist ending you will never forget.

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'Girl in the Blue Coat' by Monica Hesse

Hanneke spends her days finding and delivering sought-after black market goods to paying customers, nights hiding the true nature of her work from her concerned parents. Her illegal work keeps her family afloat, and Hanneke also likes to think of it as a small act of rebellion against the Nazis. On a routine delivery, a client asks Hanneke for help. Expecting to hear that Mrs. Janssen wants meat or kerosene, Hanneke is shocked by the older woman’s frantic plea to find a person: a Jewish teenager Mrs. Janssen had been hiding, who has vanished without a trace from a secret room.

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