Before this article begins, a quick warning for any readers. Richard Paul Evans, the author of the Michael Vey series has been accused of sexual harassment and has combatted these allegations with questionable comments.
Some claim that these attitudes work their way into the books but others maintain that the series is fantastic and suspenseful, perfect for any YA reader.
So with that being said, let’s discuss Michael Vey. He’s an ordinary 14-year-old boy with Tourette’s syndrome. But Tourette’s is not the only thing that sets him apart from the rest of the kids… he also has electric powers.
He keeps his powers a secret and only his mom and best friend know. But when he finds out that cheerleader, Taylor, has the same powers, everything changes and they soon discover that they’re being hunted.
This is an 8-book series that is jam-packed with twists and turns. It has hooked millions of readers worldwide and is renowned as one of the best suspenseful YA fantasies in American literature.
A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson
A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder is a brilliant best-selling mystery series set in Fairview following the mysterious murder of Andie Bell, a popular, likable high school senior.
Andie was murdered by her boyfriend, Sal Singh, who committed suicide shortly after. As you can imagine, the tragic news shocked this little town even 5 years on. This plot follows Pip, who knows Sal and believes there’s more to the story. She takes it upon herself to investigate and uncovers a string of twisted secrets that may help uncover what actually happened 5 years ago.
Dark Room Etiquette by Robin Roe
Sayers is one of those 16-year-olds that everyone envies. He’s clever, popular, good-looking, and comes from a wealthy family. But when he’s kidnapped and he’s exposed to the dark truth behind his affluent life, his whole world crumbles around him.
Dark Room Etiquette follows Sayers’ development in captivity. He is forced to unlearn everything he’s been taught and must fully obey his captor if he wants to survive.
I’m the Girl by Courtney Summers
Georgia’s life has been controlled by poverty and her poor circumstances mean the life she craves is far out of reach.
One day she comes across the body of 13-year-old Ashley James and decides to investigate her death with Ashley’s sister, Nora. The investigation allows Georgia to experience wealth and glamor for the first time – a life she’s always wanted. But she soon uncovers the dark realities of wealthy living and realizes that privilege can mask guilt particularly well.
I’m the Girl is a harrowing and suspenseful story of investigation, identity, and class differences.
Any Sign of Life by Rae Carson
Paige wakes up on an IV, alone and confused, and she soon learns that the world has been emptied of its population. Despite losing everything she’s ever had, Paige is determined to survive and must learn to live in an isolated world.
Any Sign of Life is a gritty, impactful, apocalyptic novel, brilliant for any young reader searching for thrill and danger.
This is Not a Ghost Story by Andrea Portes
This is Not a Ghost Story follows Daffodil Franklin in her new house-sitting job during the summer before she starts college.
She’s stoked that she got a summer job, but soon realizes that the house has an eerie feel to it and something feels like it’s watching her. This is a spine-chilling tale of a spooky house with some unfinished business.
Nothing More to Tell by Karen M. McManus
Brynn left her school after the horrific murder of her favorite teacher. The mystery was never solved and the case was quickly dropped but Brynn remained fascinated.
She’s determined to investigate the case once more and uncovers a plethora of lies that fed the investigation, leading to its closure. Brynn is working against the high end of the social circle and must outwit those with a higher social status to find justice. Nothing More to Tell is compelling, suspenseful, and filled with twists and turns.
Contagion by Erin Bowman
This is a brilliant blend of science-fiction, mystery, and horror. Contagion begins as a team receives a disturbing distress call from a distant planet. Obligated to help, the crew set off on a long journey, but what they find is horrific.
Bodies are scattered and remnants of their project cover the planet’s surface. It’s up to the crew to decipher what happened, but what if they unearth something monstrous along the way?
Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson
This is a gripping mystery set in the fast-paced, glamorous music sphere. Grown follows an aspiring singer, Enchanted Jones, who may have just secured her big break with a little help from the R&B legend, Korey Fields. But when she wakes up with no recollection of the night before and blood covering her hands, there’s one big question on her mind – did I kill Korey Fields?
This story dives headfirst into the dark truth behind Korey and Enchanted’s relationship, hinting that Enchanted may have had a motive to kill. Grown should only be read by older YA readers, the themes included in this book are hard-hitting and include violence, the truth behind rape culture, and murder.
Pretty Dead Queens by Alexa Donne
17-year-old Cecelia Ellis is forced to live with her grandmother after losing her mom to cancer. Her grandmother is a widely renowned author of creepy mysteries and she just happens to live in the eeriest Victorian mansion Cecelia’s ever seen.
Pretty Dead Queens follows Cecelia as she embarks on her own investigation following the death of a local girl.
All the Things We Do in the Dark by Saundra Mitchell
Ava has a dark secret and the scar on her face is the only proof of it. She has spent years hiding her truth, but is it all about to unearth?
Ava unexpectedly finds the clues behind someone else’s secrets, but will they be the key to unlocking her own? All the Things We Do in the Dark is the gripping and suspenseful story of Ava and her web of secrecy.
I Know You Did It by Sue Wallman
Ruby has a dark secret – she accidentally killed another pupil, Hannah, when she was a toddler. She has lived in fear of this secret coming to light and her worst nightmare seems to be coming to life as she finds a note in her locker saying “I KNOW YOU DID IT”.
As speculation circulates and more people turn up dead, Ruby is blamed. She must uncover who’s responsible before the killer finds her. I Know You Did It is a gripping mystery that will have you hooked from the very start.
Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh
Steve Cavanagh is one of the best thriller writers of his generation, so if you want to dive into any series, consider this one.
Thirteen tells the intense and harrowing story of a murder trial – a serial killer responsible for multiple deaths. But this time, the killer isn’t in cuffs, he’s on the jury. This tale is twisted, tense, and jaw-dropping – a must-read for any thriller fan.
Lies You Never Told Me by Jennifer Donaldson
This story follows two very different people, Gabe and Elyse, with one thing in common – they’re both hiding something. Lies You Never Told Me is a high-school mystery that incorporates romance, social hierarchies, and gossip.
Brilliant for someone seeking something a little more light-hearted but equally as gripping and secretive.
The Fear by Natasha Preston
What starts as a stupid joke online leads to the deaths of some of her classmates. Izzy must try and stop the killer as it gets closer and closer to her.
The Fear untangles a web of lies and secrets that gradually unearths the truths behind these mysterious deaths.
Dark and Shallow Lies by Ginny Myers Sain
Dark and Shallow Lies merges mystery, fantasy, and family ties in this fantastic story that unearths the truth behind the disappearance of a young girl.
It is set in a town dominated by psychics, Grey is desperate to uncover the realities of what happened to Elora, and the more she finds out, the more she realizes that everyone has something to hide.
This is My America by Kim Johnson
This is My America is a racially charged story that follows Tracy and her father, who only has 267 days left on death row. He’s an innocent Black man and needs Tracy’s help from the outside. But she can’t do it alone.
She writes to Innocence X, an organization that might be able to help. But when Tracy’s brother starts getting into trouble and is accused of killing a white girl, her dad no longer seems like priority number 1. Will Tracy find justice? Or will the racist structures of Texas tear her family apart?
Who We Were in the Dark by Jessica Taylor
Donner Lake is beautiful and is the site used by Nora, Grace, Rand, and Wesley as they reunite there annually and grew closer and closer to each other.
When Grace goes missing, everything is thrown into despair and the group must trace the past years closely and uncover the truth behind Grace’s facade. Who We Were in the Dark is a captivating story of mystery, identity, and secrecy.
City of Saints and Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson
Tina and her mother flee Congo and arrive in Kenya, hoping for a chance at a new life. Her mother begins working for a wealthy family, but as the truth behind their wealth comes to life, new dangers are thrown into their lives and soon, she’s shot dead.
Tina must now survive alone and must fight the urge to seek revenge, knowing it’ll have grave consequences for her too. City of Saints and Thieves is a gripping and fantastically-written story, perfect for any action and thriller seeker.
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
The Harry Potter series is made up of 7 books and 8 films and is one of the most popular and influential YA stories ever told.
It incorporates fantasy, suspense, and a whole lot of fun. It follows an ordinary orphan called Harry Potter who discovers that his parents were witches and wizards and belonged to a whole new world. He finds himself enveloped in the same world but his integration isn’t going to be easy, especially when he finds out he’s already famous… which has some very dangerous implications for him and his new friends.
As the series develops, the story gets darker, so don’t be put off if you find the storylines and themes childish to begin with.
Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
Rick Riordan is one of the giants in the YA fantasy genre. His work has been widely adored and his series has sold millions of copies worldwide since the release of his first Percy Jackson book in 2005.
Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief follows a young, ordinary boy who discovers he’s a demi-god, the son of Poseidon. Upon discovery, he is enrolled in a special training camp for demi-gods like him and there he finds friends, learns more about his father’s history, explores the world of ancient gods and goddesses, and discovers his own powers. This is a brilliant recommendation and is very similar to the Michael Vey series but just with a mythological twist.
Suspenseful thrillers don’t always have to be horror-filled or incorporate adult themes. These 20 books are perfect for YA readers who are eager to explore gripping thrillers that will increase reading confidence and keep young readers engaged until the last page (If you’re looking for a great new YA series to sink your teeth into, check out our favorites right here).
Frequently Asked Questions
What age does YA incorporate?
Anyone aged 12 to 18 is encapsulated within the YA label.
Are suspense thrillers suitable for YA readers?
Many aren’t suitable and include graphic or dark descriptions but these books are specifically tailored for YA readers, so all content will be appropriate for YA readers.
Does YA literature include swearing?
If the novel specifies that it is tailored for the mature YA audience, swearing can be featured, but most YA books won’t.
Why do adults read YA fiction?
Many adults find YA books easy to read and some even say they’re nostalgic.
What is the most popular YA genre?
Fantasy, romance, and thrillers are the most widely-read YA genres.