12 Compelling Young Adult Thrillers
If you love fast-paced, exciting stories full of intrigue and betrayal, then you're probably already familiar with thrillers. But did you know that not all of the books in this popular genre are written with an adult audience in mind? Whether you're a teenager or an older fan of YA fiction, the dozen fantastic books listed here should be right up your alley. This video was made with Ezvid Wikimaker.
YA Thriller Books: Our 12 Picks
Popular Thriller Sub-Genres
The History of the Thriller
Some of the world's oldest known stories used the same elements that make modern thrillers so enticing. Homer's famous epic poem The Odyssey is something of a prototype of the genre. The hero's life is in constant danger as he uses his cunning to overcome his enemies. But the genre isn't exclusive to Western culture. One of the stories in One Thousand and One Nights (commonly known as Arabian Nights) is considered to be the oldest known murder mystery. This tale, The Three Apples, is full of plot twists and revolves around a mysterious death. Centuries later, the 1844 novel The Count of Monte Cristo popularized the action thriller with it's swashbuckling revenge plot. Eventually, of course, the genre made its way from the pages of books to the big screen. Some of the most famous of these movies were directed by Alfred Hitchcock, who worked on several classics throughout his career, including Psycho, Vertigo, and Rear Window.
Why Some Adults Read YA Books
You can run, you can hide, but if you happen to find yourself at the center of a breathtaking thriller full of scandals and deadly secrets, the only thing you know for sure is that the truth will come out eventually. For teens and young adults, the insular worlds of high school and college can be full of deception and betrayal. For fans of rapidly-paced reads that don't give you a second to catch your breath, here, in no particular order, are a few Y.A. thrillers that are guaranteed to surprise and scintillate.
In the #1 spot is "Crossing the Line" by Meghan Rogers. Jocelyn didn't have an ordinary childhood. While other kids were playing tag, she was in North Korea training to be a spy. Kidnappers robbed her of the chance to be normal, but now, it's payback time. Jocelyn's new assignment gives her an opportunity to turn double agent and switch sides at last. But will her North Korean keepers let her out of their sight long enough for her to uncover her origin story?
For #2 we get Michelle Painchaud's "Pretending to Be Erica." For as long as she can remember, Violet has been living out an elaborate plan set in motion by her father, a Las Vegas swindler desperate to pull off the greatest con in recent history. By grooming Violet to become a stand-in for the missing heiress to the fabled Silverman fortune, he'll be able to have her snag a priceless painting from the family's mansion. But Violet's starting to ask questions about her part in the scheme. If she chooses the wrong time to grow a conscience, it could have deadly consequences not just for her father, but for Violet herself.
But Violet's starting to ask questions about her part in the scheme.
At #3 is "All Eyes on Us" by Kit Frick. It started with a text. Amanda isn't too surprised to find out her fiance, Carter, is cheating on her, but she doesn't relish the idea of having a stranger know her secrets. When Amanda confronts the "other woman," Rosalie, she finds that the truth is far from simple. Rosalie is using Carter as a beard to avoid being sent back to gay conversion therapy by her strict parents. When the two women come together, they know they have to figure out the identity of this mysterious texter who seems to know everything about them.
At #4 is Kristen Lippert-Martin's "Tabula Rasa." If given the chance to erase troubling memories for good, would you try it? Sarah has every reason to undergo the new surgery that promises to remove painful memories from her mind once and for all. The only problem is, she can't remember what they are, after her surgery is interrupted by a gang of mercenaries intent on ending her life. As she makes her escape, she has to piece together what memories she still has before her past catches up with her for good.
Coming in at #5 is "Stained" by Cheryl Rainfield. Self-conscious teen Sarah has always hated the way she looks. A mark taking up half her face renders her awkward and shy, the perfect target for school bullies. When Sarah is kidnapped on her way home from school by a sadistic killer, she'll need to summon all her strength in order to get out alive. If Sarah can become her own hero, maybe she'll stand a chance.
If Sarah can become her own hero, maybe she'll stand a chance.
For #6 we find "Spin" by Lamar Giles. Successful teen DJ Paris is dead, and the killer is still running free somewhere in the city. The victim's best friend Kya and her biggest fan, Fuse, are still trying to make sense of the tragedy when they come upon an interesting piece of info: Paris was on the verge of signing a huge deal with a major company, a move that would have all but guaranteed her fame and national recognition. So who would want her dead? As the two friends piece together the truth, they find themselves becoming the killer's next target.
At #7 is Amelia Brunskill's "The Window." Anna and Jess might be identical twins, but their looks are about all they have in common. That doesn't stop them, of course, from sharing everything with each other. So after Anna falls to her death, Jess isn't content to let the subject rest. Who was Anna meeting, and what was happening in her life that her sister didn't know about? With the rest of the town assuming it was a tragic accident, it's up to Jess to find out the true story behind her sister's death.
At #8 is "If You Wrong Us" by Dawn Klehr. To everyone else, the car crash that ended the lives of Becca and Johnny's significant others was nothing more than an accident. But the two bereaved friends know better. They know that something, or someone, was behind the crash. As they dig deeper into the case, they find themselves drawn together. But in a world where nothing is what it seems at first glance, learning to trust one another isn't going to be easy, especially once the truth about the accident comes to light.
But in a world where nothing is what it seems at first glance, learning to trust one another isn't going to be easy, especially once the truth about the accident comes to light.
For #9 we find John Dixon's "The Point." At a top-secret training program for teens with supernatural talents, Scarlett is a newcomer. She's been trying to understand her powers, and only now is the true nature of her ability to harness energy coming to light. Unfortunately, being extraordinary at The Point is enough to put a target on your back. Something is coming to destroy the academy and everyone in it, unless Scarlett can summon up enough strength to neutralize the threat for good.
At #10 is T.L. Costa's "Playing Tyler." Almost everyone in Tyler's life is totally absent. His father is dead, his older brother is in treatment for heroin addiction, and his mom is barely there for him. It's a good thing he has Rick, his Civilian Air Patrol Mentor, and a passion for video games that leads him to the door of a captivating game designer who could help Tyler build a new beginning. But just as Tyler starts to fall for Ani, he begins to realize that her new game, the one he's been playing in beta, has some pretty drastic real-world consequences.
At #11 is "Black Flowers, White Lies" by Yvonne Ventresca. Ella never got to meet her Dad when he was alive. But his death isn't enough to stop their communion. Ella has a gift, one her mother doesn't approve of. But when mysterious signs and signals from beyond the grave point to danger, Ella knows she has to listen, especially in light of the new information that's surfacing about her father's cause of death. Can Ella believe anything her mother says, or is her mental state truly deteriorating in the wake of so many new and disturbing discoveries?
Can Ella believe anything her mother says, or is her mental state truly deteriorating in the wake of so many new and disturbing discoveries?
Finally, at #12, is Demetra Brodsky's "Dive Smack." Not long ago, an accidental fire killed Theo's mother and turned his father into a desperate, self-destructive force. All Theo wants to do is put the fire behind him and turn his attention toward school, sports, and friends. The only issue? Theo remembers lighting the match that destroyed his home and his life. If he wants to know the truth about what happened, he'll have to look into his past and come face to face with some horrifying truths. But what if he ends up remembering something about himself that he can't forget, and can't forgive?