7 awesome thrillers for teens

Published on: 24 July 2023

Author Sophie McKenzie shares her favourite thrillers for teen readers

'A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder' by Holly Jackson

This cold case murder mystery really keeps you on your toes, with narrative passages woven through lots of other elements, from detailed diagrams to interview transcripts and evidence files. Everyone thinks they know who killed Andie Bell five years ago, but fearless, determined Pippa is certain they are wrong – and sets out to uncover the truth. A smart plot, a diverse and compelling cast of characters and plenty of tension, along with touches of humour and developing romance. It’s not surprising this book is so popular!

'Two Can Keep a Secret' by Karen McManus

Echo Ridge is a small town with dark secrets. Ellery has never been there before, though she knows it’s the place where her aunt went missing as a teenager, while a murder five years ago has cast a long shadow for Malcolm. And all this before another girl goes missing. This follow-up to McManus’s best-selling 'One of Us is Lying' is told alternately by the two main characters (which keeps the focus very tightly on their journey through the book) and has all the ingredients that go to make a top-notch crime thriller, from unsolved murders to endless layers of intrigue.

'The Inheritance Games' by  Jennifer Lynn Barnes

The first book in a trilogy featuring Avery, who inherits a crazy amount of money from a billionaire she’s never met – and finds herself caught up in a high-stakes treasure hunt. As Avery tries to solve the puzzle she’s been set, she faces hostility from the family whose inheritance she’s ‘stolen’ – and danger at every turn. The story is as full of twists and turns as the secret-passage-filled house into which Avery is forced to move to claim her fortune. A fun, rollercoaster of a read!

'Night School' by CJ Daugherty

After Allie is arrested (yet again!), her parents send her to a mysterious boarding school, where it’s soon clear that nothing is as it seems to be. Rebel-girl Allie discovers the school is home to a secret group of elite students – and soon finds herself not only involved but in mounting danger. The first book in the Cimmeria Academy series, Night School,is full of suspense, with just a touch of romance. I loved it from the first page!

'This Book Kills' by Ravena Guron

Surely the best book title of the decade! 'This Book Kills' has everything you could want from a thriller, including that rarest of elements – a properly original premise. Jess is a scholarship student at a prestigious boarding school, keen to keep her head down and stay out of trouble. This proves impossible after a student is murdered in exactly the way that Jess described in a recent short story she wrote. The police don’t seem to have a clue about what’s going on, so Jess sets out to discover the truth for herself. A great, light, fast-paced read with a fantastic and funny narrator at its heart.

'The Hunger Games' by Suzanne Collins

I was fascinated to read that Suzanne Collins came up with the idea for The Hunger Games series when she was flicking between TV channels – one showing war footage and the other a reality TV talent contest. 'The Hunger Games' has an intriguing premise, brilliantly realised, as teenagers fight each other to the death on live TV. The first chapter of the first book is an absolute masterclass in creating the world of the story (vital and particularly challenging when you’re setting your story in a fantasy future), establishing the main character and her core relationships and – most importantly – setting out a massive challenge for that character and making the reader care about her achieving it.

'Noughts and Crosses' by Malorie Blackman 

Tightly plotted, this story offers an original twist on the classic tale of 'Romeo and Juliet', set in an alternative Britain (called Albion) in which black ‘Cross’ people rule over white ‘Noughts’.  I really enjoyed the dual narrative structure of the book and used it as a model for my own book: Blood Ties. When I started visiting schools on author visits, 'Noughts and Crosses' was one of those books every girl aged twelve seemed to have read!

 'Secret Sister' by Sophie McKenzie is out now.

Topics: Features

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