Reading lists

Young Adult murder mysteries to read at any age

Looking for a book with a pacy plot, high-stakes drama, and a relatably flawed main character? It’s time you tried a YA murder mystery.

Katie Russell
The best YA murder mysteries

Gone are the days when Young Adult (YA) fiction was just for teenagers. Now, a growing proportion of adult readers have fallen in love with the subgenre.

It’s easy to see why. YA novels have pacy plots, dramatic scenes and relatably flawed main characters. Romance books like The Summer I Turned Pretty and If He Had Been With Me brilliantly capture the intensity of first love, while romantasy and dark academia provide some much-needed escapism.

If you’re looking for an engrossing, high-stakes plot, we recommend a murder mystery. With the BBC’s adaptation of the breakout hit A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder set to be our new summer obsession, we’ve done some digging into the best YA murder mysteries on the market. Expect tireless teenage detectives, love triangles and intricate plot twists that you won’t see coming.

Olivia was born during the infamous Camp Lost Lake murders. Now 17, she returns, looking for answers. Meanwhile, Reagan has spent her life on the run with her mother, the prime murder suspect. She returns to the scene of the crime, looking to clear her mother’s name. As Olivia and Reagan piece together what really happened that night, they become the target of someone who wants the past to stay buried…

Five teenagers walk into detention. Only four walk out. Simon, the creator of the school’s gossip site, had been prepared to post life-altering dirt on his fellow classmates – studious Bronwyn, prom queen Addy, bad boy Nate and sports star Cooper. Now he’s dead and everyone is a suspect. One of Us is Lying was adapted into an addictive Netflix series, and it’s the first book in the Bayview High trilogy.

Chloe is a first-year university student who is part of a small, clinical study into psychopaths. But when one of the students on the secret study is murdered, Chloe must figure out which of her fellow psychopaths she can trust as they work together to find the killer. Never Saw Me Coming is a fresh take on the dark academia trope, with an unforgettable main character you can’t help but root for.

When teenage power couple Jake and Jessica attend Tegan’s end-of-summer beach party, things spiral out of control. The next day, a body is discovered in the ocean and Jake and Jessica find themselves at the centre of a media circus and police investigation. Friends Like These is an emotional rollercoaster – an entertaining whodunnit that touches on heavier subjects, with characters you won’t forget in a hurry.

Schoolgirl Avery is left a billion-dollar fortune from a man she never met. To inherit, she must move into the family manor, where she works alongside the handsome but aloof Hawthorne brothers to solve puzzles that could explain why she was left the money. The Inheritance Games is the first in the series, but we also recommend Jennifer Lynn Barnes’ mysteries Little White Lies and Deadly Little Scandals.

Four years ago, Brynn’s favourite teacher was murdered in the woods. The case was never solved but Brynn has always been suspicious of the three students who found him. Now, with an internship at a true-crime podcast, Brynn finally has the chance to investigate what happened. Karen M. McManus is one of the biggest names in YA fiction, and we also recommend her standalone novels Two Can Keep a Secret, The Cousins and Such Charming Liars.

Truly, Devious by Maureen Johnson

Shortly after Ellingham Academy opened, the headmaster’s wife and daughter were kidnapped. The only clue was a letter, signed “Truly, Devious.” Over 100 years later, true-crime aficionado Stevie joins the school and wants to solve the cold case. But when “Truly, Devious” returns, Stevie has a live murder mystery case on her hands.

Linden spends the summer at his boarding school friend Jasper’s holiday home, feeling like an imposter. Then a body is found unconscious in the swimming pool. It’s written off as an accident, but Linden’s best friend Holiday isn’t so sure. She’s convinced there’s a killer on the loose, and she’s determined the find them. This is a fresh retelling of the Agatha Christie classic, The Mysterious Affair at Styles.

Burden Falls is a small town steeped in superstition and unnatural legends. But when Ava’s school nemesis is murdered, and she is the main suspect, she starts to wonder if the supernatural myths surrounding the town have some truth to them. Whatever secrets the town is hiding, there’s no denying that there’s a killer on the loose in Burden Falls – a killer with a vendetta against Ava.

This Book Kills by Ravena Guron

Jess just wants to keep a low profile at her prestigious private school, where she is on a scholarship. But that’s easier said than done when the popular rich kid Hugh is murdered – in the exact same way as a character in the short story Jess wrote. As rumours run wild, Jess receives an anonymous text thanking her for the inspiration. Now, it’s down to her to find the murderer before she becomes the next victim.

University student Harri and her best friends worship Half Light, an internationally famous boyband. When the frontman Frankie is accused of murdering his friend, Harri is sure he didn’t do it. She rallies an army of superfans: they know everything about the band, surely they can prove Frankie’s innocence? This is an action-packed murder mystery, while also being a love letter to fandom and the power of teenage girls.

This is not strictly a murder mystery – it’s more One Of Us Is Lying meets Scream – but it’s a YA horror thriller that will keep you hooked. A harmless game with a Ouija board has deadly consequences: something has been released and it’s hunting Devon and her friends in the style of a real-life horror movie. Unless they can break the cycle, they’re all going to be next.

Harlan Coben is best known for his adult Myron Bolitar detective series (and his numerous Netflix adaptations), but he has a separate YA series starring Myron’s nephew, Mickey. In Shelter, Mickey moves to a new school and falls for a girl called Ashley, who then disappears without a trace. As he investigates, he learns his new town has a dark past. Shelter has since been adapted into a chilling, binge-worthy series on Prime Video.

Holly Jackson’s breakout novel has long been a fan favourite on TikTok. Five years ago, pretty and popular schoolgirl Andie Bell was murdered, and everyone thinks her boyfriend Sal did it, then killed himself. But Pip isn’t convinced. As she reexamines the closed case for a school project, with the help of Sal’s brother Ravi, she uncovers clues that might prove Sal’s innocence.

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