Peter Abrahams – Down the Rabbit Hole, Behind the Curtain, Into the Dark
Ingrid is a busy teen, won the lead in the town’s production of Alice in Wonderland, busy with school and with soccer. She gets tangled up in a murder investigation and must find the killer before he targets her. The dialogue is sharp and the story written with splashes of humor. The suspense builds to a frightening crescendo.
Peter Abrahams – Reality Check
This one is better for older teens. Clea’s father does not approve of high school football star, Cody. The couple break up with Clea is sent off to boarding school in Vermont. Cody sees a headline in the local paper that Clea is missing from her boarding school. Perhaps the only clue is in the letter Clea just sent Cody. He heads to Vermont to help with the search.
John Bellairs – Lewis Barnavelt series: The House with a Clock in Its Walls and many more
Published in 1973, this is the first in the fun mystery suspense series featuring Lewis Barnavelt. I love these books and the Johnny Dixon series as well. The books need to be rediscovered by elementary and middle schoolers. The book summary from the Bellairs website given below: Lewis had always wanted to live in a house like Uncle Jonathan’s — but the original owner, Isaac Izard, had been an evil sorcerer. Izard had devised a plan for bringing about the end of the world. Somewhere in the walls of the house he had hidden a clock. Every night Lewis could hear it ticking, marking off the minutes until doomsday. The illustrations by Edward Gorey absolutely make the books. After John Bellairs died, Brad Strickland took over the series and did a fine job. For a complete listing of the author’s work, visit http://www.bellairsia.com/index.html
Gillian Cross – Phoning a Dead Man
Hayley’s brother, John, is a demolitions expert working on a special job in Russia. Word is received that he was killed in an explosion. John’s fiancé, Annie, is bound to a wheelchair so she enlists Hayley’s help to travel to Russia to get some answers. In Russia, Annie absently dials John’s phone number and it RINGS, the phone that was supposedly blown up with John. The story is told in alternate chapters and moves at a very brisk pace.
Megan Crewe – The Way We Fall
This gripping story of a plague infested island seen through teen Kaelyn’s eyes should be quite popular with teens. The setting is an island off the coast of Canada, reachable only by boat. Residents fall ill with what appears to be a cold followed by scratching then a breakdown of mental reasoning before death takes them. The government tries to help, initially, but the situation becomes too dangerous so they leave the islanders to fend for themselves. The author paints a bleak but realistic view of how a society can quickly break down in the face of panic and hysteria.
Mariah Fredericks – The Girl in the Park
This hits the mark for teen readers eager for a delicious blend of mystery and teen drama. Rain is the quiet former friend of the school’s party girl whose body was found in the park. The writing style pulled me in by telling the story in the present with imbedded memory flashes. The story is well paced with enough twists and turns to keep the reader engaged. This will be a big hit!
Jeannine Garsee – The Unquiet
Rinn’s bipolar disorder has wreaked havoc on her and her family. Promising to stay on her medication, Rinn and her mother seek a fresh start in her mother’s small home town in Ohio. Her new school has a ghost, an evil ghost of a girl who was a classmate of her mother. The ghost seeks vengeance against those who bullied and killed her. Or is there really a ghost? Have the voices in Rinn’s head come back so that her psych medications are not working?
This is a rather long YA ghost story and I almost gave up on it because of the catty teen girl characters when Rinn is making friends at her new school. I had to remind myself that this is a YA novel, not adult, and yes, teens love that type of dialog. I am so glad I stuck with it. The pages spent on character introduction were essential so the ghost’s effects on their behavior could be effectively displayed. All that girl catty chat stops when the killing takes over. This is one vicious ghost! The way the author weaves Rinn’s bipolar disorder with the ghost’s influence is magnificent. Every part of the story pieces together quite perfectly and unfolds at just the right time. The last quarter of the book flies by – nonstop and the ending . . . eerie!
Jill Hathaway – Slide
Slide will be a big hit in the young adult market. Twisty mysteries are always good and this one has a unique way of delivering the clues, the pieces to solve the mystery. Sylvia (Vee) suffers from narcolepsy. When she passes out, she slides into another’s mind. Younger sister Mattie’s best friend, Sophie, commits suicide, or did she? Vee slides into the murderer’s mind moments after the act, but she cannot see whose mind she is in. She is the only one who knows that Sophie did not commit suicide but was murdered. Later, she slides into the mind of her best buddy, Rollins, who was with Amber moments before she was found dead. Surely Rollins is not the murderer, but he has been acting distant. Something is off. Then there is her new boyfriend Zane who is wonderful, but she knows very little about him and his family. I thought I had this one figured out several times, but no. Riveting, twisty, and unique, Slide is everything a teen mystery should be.
April Henry – Girl Stolen
Cheyenne, an ill, blind teen waits in the running car as her mother runs into the pharmacy to get the antibiotics to combat her pneumonia. Within seconds, a car jacker jumps in the car, not knowing someone is inside. The teen car jacker panics and drives the stolen car to his home where his father decides to turn the car jacking into a kidnapping. Cheyenne knows she can’t trust the kidnappers to release her once the ransom is met. Blind and desperately ill, she strives to stay alive.
April Henry – The Night She Disappeared
Wow! Another book by April Henry that does not disappoint. Kayla is out at night making a pizza delivery and does not come back. Her panicked co-worker, Drew calls the police. It looks like the abductor initially targeted Gabie, another employee at the pizza shop. Where is Kayla? Despite Kayla’s blood found on a rock near the swift river, Gabie feels Kayla is still alive. The police send dive teams into the river. If Gabie was the initial target, is she still? If Gabie and Drew figure out who abducted Kayla, perhaps they could save Kayle and Gabie both. No way am I giving away any more details and spoil the story. Just as in Girl, Stolen, April Henry has created another nonstop, suspense filled mystery. The details are everywhere in this book, from the police tactics to the dive team working environment, to the pizza making. I really enjoyed the section focusing on the dive team and the pitch dark river. The story is told through the alternating voices of the many characters, including the man who took Kayla. Drew, Kayla and Gabie, are all well-drawn teens with determination. Gotta like and admire Drew with how he handles his life. A read this quick book on a dreary, rainy Sunday and become so engrossed, I forgot dinner. This will be a hit at my school and is every bit as good, maybe better than Girl, Stolen and that is saying a great deal.
Phyllis Reynolds Naylor – Jade Green
I have several copies of this book in my school library. It is the go to book for creepy ghost story suspense. A girl is sent to live with her uncle in his old mansion haunted by an evil ghost. At one point, a disembodied hand inchworms its way across the floor. Good stuff and a quick read.
Jenny Valentine – Double
Ohhhh, this is a good one! Chap is a homeless teen in England mistaken for Cassiel, a runaway teen who could be his double. Tired of being homeless, he steps into the missing boy’s life hoping that his new family will not notice the subtle differences in appearance. The story flips back and forth so the reader discovers Chap’s background bit by bit and how he came to be without a home or family. What happened to Cassiel, the missing teen? Did he run away or was he murdered? The author weaves the two stories together seamlessly. I read this one during a road trip and was so absorbed the miles flew by. The characters are complex. I came to care about Chap, his sister Edie, and friend Floyd. The story has an excellent rhythm feeding the reader the background, teasing the reader to solve the mystery before it fully unfolds. The plot is intriguingly excellent.
Robinson Wells – Variant
Benson Fisher is a teen who has no ties to anyone, having been shuffled through a series of foster homes. He earns a scholarship to a private school in a rather isolated location nestled in the mountains of northern New Mexico. Upon entering the school, the doors lock behind him and he is greeted by another teen who tells him to join one of three groups/gangs. The gangs bid for the contracts to run the school and are rewarded by earning points for merchandise. There are no adults in the school. The students teach, the students lead, the students kill, the students die. They are all prisoners. Benson seems to be the only one who wants to escape, but he learns others have escaped in the past . . . and died. This is page-turning writing that makes for an engrossing read. Plenty of action, drama, dialog, and suspense enables the reader to learn the secrets of the school right along with Benson. I was rooting for all of the characters except for a couple of Society guys. The frustrating part is waiting another year for the sequel. I am eager to read more from the author. Well done!