11 Mind-Boggling Thrillers

These new works of suspense will grip readers—and push them to consider challenging topics such as the criminal justice system, anxiety, and more.

A friend or family member you thought you could trust. A girl wrongly accused. Being stranded. Lost. On the run. A great work of suspense plants clues and red herrings, paints a chilling portrait of a villain, or makes ­readers doubt their perceptions.

More than that, though, the best thrillers ask questions and demand conversation. Often these books pick at something that bothers or scares us, and these recent YA titles are no exception, ­prompting ­discussion on topics relevant to teens, from the injustices of the legal system to rape culture.

Devine, Eric. Look Past. 288p. Running Pr. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780762459216. Gr 9 Up –Avery is distraught over Mary’s murder. Though Avery identifies as male, he was assigned female at birth, and Mary was one of the few people in their conservative community who accepted him as a boy. Then Avery receives a message claiming that Mary’s death was retribution for her relationship with him and that he must repent for transitioning or be killed. This is an enthralling work, notable for its sophisticated engagement with gender identity. Gilbert, Kelly Loy. Conviction. 352p. Disney-Hyperion. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781423197386. Gr 8 Up –When their father, a Christian radio host, is arrested and held on murder charges, brothers Trey and Braden, 12 years apart, learn they have very different ideas about their parent. Braden’s introspection and fractured memories offer a more complete picture of the demanding man who needs Braden to lie on the witness stand. This unforgettable thriller adeptly examines abuse and complex family relationships. Jackson, Tiffany D. Allegedly. 400p. Harper Collins/Katherine Tegen Bks. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062422644. Gr 9 Up –Out of juvie and in a group home, 15-year-old Mary struggles to convince others of her innocence, but her mother, who was caring for the baby Mary allegedly killed six years ago, will not help. Interspersed with excerpts from a true crime book about Mary’s case, this powerful novel shines a light on the corruption and ingrained racism of the justice system and the dangers of the court of public opinion. Kuehn, Stephanie. When I Am Through with You. 304p. Dutton. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781101994733. Gr 10 Up –When a group of teens go camping, they come back one short. From prison, Ben says he’s not sorry for killing his girlfriend, but we don’t know why. We do know that he has migraines and anxiety, and when the teens ended up stranded, emotions and stress ran high. This thought-provoking survival thriller explores codependency and unhealthy relationships. Larbalestier, Justine. My Sister Rosa. 320p. Soho Teen. 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781616956745. Gr 9 Up –Being new to the United States is stressful enough for aspiring boxer Che. He’s also convinced that his 10-year-old sister is a psychopath. His parents think she’s just acting out, but Che sees how manipulative and cruel she can be. In addition to painting a rich portrait of clinical psychopathy, the book deftly intertwines themes of gender, race, and religion. Lo, Malinda. A Line in the Dark. 288p. Dutton. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780735227422. Gr 9 Up –Angie’s crush on a new girl, Margot, changes her relationship with her best friend, Jess. But Jess, who’s secretly crushing on Angie, doesn’t trust popular, rich Margot and her friends, and she anticipates the darkness that lies ahead—which includes a death and an investigation. Lo infuses complexity into this twist on the classic trope of unrequited love between a pair of friends, exploring female bonds and queer romance. McGinnis, Mindy. The Female of the Species. 352p. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062320896. Gr 9 Up –After her sister is raped and murdered, Alex is frustrated with the legal system’s failure to punish the killer, so she takes matters into her own hands. But that’s only the beginning. Even more than rape culture, this riveting novel examines rage and whether women and girls are given the chance to express it. Peñaflor, Lygia Day. All of This Is True. 432p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. May 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062673657. Gr 8 Up –Who could resist a book whose premise is fangirling and fanboying over a beloved YA author? Four teens’ dreams come true when their favorite author befriends them, and they become close—perhaps too close—when they read her next book and find their own lives laid out on the page. That fiction leads to real, serious consequences when their secrets are revealed. This gripping work looks at class privilege and revenge. Pollock, Tom. This Story Is a Lie. 336p. Soho Teen. Aug. 2018. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781616959111. Gr 8 Up –So many thriller protagonists fearlessly forge ahead without a second thought. In this departure from typical works of suspense, Pollock follows a teen who has an anxiety disorder and must run for his life. After Pete’s mother narrowly survives an assassination attempt, Pete is suddenly separated from her and his twin sister. Filled with all the best components of the genre, this is a sensitive depiction of mental illness. Pon, Cindy. Want. 336p. S. & S./Simon Pulse. 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781481489225. Gr 9 Up –Jason Zhou lives in a future Taiwan where only the rich can afford protective suits to guard against the rampant pollution that causes disease and early death in the rest of the population. When Jason and his friends decide to infiltrate the nefarious corporation that manufactures the suits, he develops a crush on the one person he cannot afford to get close to. A thoughtful reflection on class, capitalism, and the environment. Stork, Francisco X. Disappeared. 336p. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Bks. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545944472. Gr 8 Up –When her reporting on the desaparecidas (disappeared women) of Juárez, Mexico, leads to a threat on her life, journalist Sara Zapata knows she’s come across something big. Meanwhile, her brother Emiliano’s budding romance with classmate Perla Rubi leads to another discovery—the girl’s father may be connected to a conspiracy as well. The siblings find themselves the prey of a drug cartel. This heart-pounding novel gives much-needed humanity to border and immigration issues.

Sarah Hannah Gómez is a doctoral ­student in children’s literature at the University of Arizona.

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