Mystery and thriller novels are popular for good reasons. As readers, we get to dive into an action-packed plot, working alongside the characters to piece everything together.
So if you got sucked into Maureen Johnson’s hit YA mystery Truly Devious, you’re likely hungry for more.
Published in 2018, Truly Devious follows Stevie Bell, a true crime lover and first-year at Ellingham Academy. She’s determined to solve the mystery of the old disappearances that have haunted the school for decades.
But when she gets to Ellingham, she’s met with very real danger as the past bleeds into the present. Johnson’s novel plays with mystery and true crime tropes, ending in a final twist that leads straight into the next two books in the series.
To help you find more books like Truly Devious, we’ve compiled a list of 20 highly-rated young adult mysteries and thrillers below.
Whether it’s a classic whodunnit, true-crime-inspired thriller, or dark academia drama you’re after, these titles all promise riveting plots and spine-tingling twists.
Nothing More to Tell by Karen M. McManus
Brynn’s favorite teacher at Saint Ambrose School was murdered. Three students found his body in the woods, including Brynn’s ex-best friend, Tripp.
Now, four years later, as an intern at a true crime show, Brynn is determined to dig into the past to find out what really happened. She’s sure that Tripp knows more than he’s letting on. As she dives in to crack the case, she uncovers dark secrets about the school, her teacher, and her friend, all in service of the truth.
Set in a mysterious private school in a New England town, Nothing More to Tell is a page-turning YA mystery thriller that lets none of its subjects off the hook and keeps readers guessing until the last page.
A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder (A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, #1) by Holly Jackson
For her senior capstone project, Pippa decides to investigate a murder. Five years ago, popular Andie Bell was murdered by her boyfriend, Sal Singh. The evidence? A text message confession from Sal. It’s an open-and-shut case. Or is it?
Pippa can’t help but wonder if there’s more to the story. She starts digging into the facts and uncovering pieces of the puzzle. However, she soon finds herself in peril as a mysterious figure in town makes it clear they will go to great lengths to keep the past unearthed.
A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder is the first installment in a gripping, fast-paced contemporary YA mystery thriller series.
Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson
Enchanted Jones dreams of becoming a singer. When Korey Fields, a famous R&B artist, takes notice of her at an audition, she thinks her dreams are finally taking off. Until she wakes up with Korey Fields dead and no memory of what happened. The police show up, and she’s the prime suspect.
Grown is a heartwrenching thriller for mature YA readers that not only presents the mystery of Korey’s death, but also addresses hard-hitting topics like manipulation, abuse, and sexual assault.
The Vanishing Stair (Truly Devious, #2) by Maureen Johnson
If Truly Devious pulled you in, you’ll be dying to read the sequel. In The Vanishing Stair, the mystery continues as Stevie Bell deals with the aftermath of a murdered classmate and more clues surrounding the Ellingham murders. But, just when she’s so close to putting things together, her parents pull her out of Ellingham Academy.
Things are complicated with David. Stevie kissed him, but then discovered he was lying to her about his family. Things get even messier when David’s father, the loathsome senator Edward King, offers Stevie a way back to Ellingham on the condition that she keep David out of trouble.
With alternating past and present narratives, the second book in the Truly Devious series will have you on the edge of your seat as the story doubles down on the mystery, danger, and drama.
The Hand on the Wall (Truly Devious, #3) by Maureen Johnson
In the final book in the Truly Devious trilogy, it’s time to solve the 75-year-old mystery of Ellingham Academy once and for all. Everything is coming to a head: the three murders, David vanishing, and the still-missing Alice Ellingham.
Then, as the school evacuates in the face of an oncoming storm, Stevie Bell is determined to stay and confront the murderer.
In The Hand on the Wall, the dual past and present narratives of the previous two books converge and the mystery is finally resolved in one last, heart-pounding conclusion.
Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé
At the elite Niveus Private Academy, musician Devon and head girl Chiamaka are delighted to be chosen as senior-class prefects. But soon after the announcement, a threatening anonymous texter called Aces begins exposing the two students’ heavy secrets.
With their privacy and futures at stake, Devon and Chiamaka find themselves working together in the midst of a dangerous game. They’ll have to find out who has it out for them and stop Aces before it’s too late.
Ace of Spades offers the gripping plot of a mystery while also examining crucial real-world issues like institutionalized racism, homophobia, and classism.
The Ivies by Alexa Donne
At the elite boarding school Claflin Academy, five friends in a clique known as the Ivies make a plan to each get into different Ivy League Colleges. Everything falls apart when one of the girls cheats and nabs a spot at her friend’s dream school, Harvard. She’s later found dead. But who did it? The main character, Olivia, decides to do some sleuthing to find out what else the other Ivies are hiding.
Five Survive by Holly Jackson
If you’re on the hunt for a YA crime thriller with a unique premise, check out Five Survive.
Red and her five friends are taking a spring break road trip when their RV breaks down. Then the wheels are shot out. The friends realize there’s a sniper after them in the night. They have no choice but to hide in the RV and plot their escape — while also figuring out which of them the sniper is after.
With the rapid pace of a survival movie, the story takes place over an eight-hour period as the friends uncover dark secrets about each other and fight to get out alive.
- The Agathas by Kathleen Glasgow & Liz Lawson
In the town of Castle Cove, Alice Ogilvie teams up with her tutor, Iris Adams, to solve a murder. Alice’s ex–boyfriend, Steve, is suspected of murdering his new girlfriend, Brooke. But Alice knows deep down that Steve isn’t a killer.
Brooke’s family is offering a hefty reward for anyone who can crack the case. And with the complete works of her idol, Agatha Christie, on her side, Alice is determined to be the one.
With Christie’s classics guiding teenage detectives, The Agathas is a must-read for contemporary YA thriller fans and those who love an old-fashioned murder mystery.
A Study in Charlotte (Charlotte Holmes, #1) by Brittany Cavallaro
There are plenty of mysteries inspired by Sherlock Holmes. But in the world of this novel, Holmes and Watson are real people, and Jamie and Charlotte are their descendants.
When Jamie Watson arrives at an elite prep school in Connecticut, he collides with the unhinged yet brilliant Charlotte Holmes. When the two of them are framed for the murder of another student, they are forced to team up to solve the case and prove themselves innocent.
As the first installment of this YA Sherlock Holmes retelling series, A Study in Charlotte is a fun mystery that will delight classic Sherlock fans with details from the original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stories. The novel guarantees to charm you with its unique leading duo, two rivals who fall into friendship and, eventually, a budding romance.
The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas
Five years ago, a series of horrific accidents took the lives of five cheerleaders in the town of Sunnybrook. The rest of the cheerleading squad disbanded. The deaths still hang like a weight over the town.
Cut to the present day, and the local high school is holding a memorial. Monica, the younger sister of one of the lost cheerleaders, doesn’t want to participate. She just wants to grieve and try to forget. But then a series of clues surrounding her sister’s death comes to light. As she starts to investigate, she realizes that the tragedies that took the lives of the cheerleaders may not have been a series of coincidences after all.
The Cheerleaders features grounded, smart characters, a network of clues, and a racing plot to keep you guessing with every page.
The Naturals (The Naturals, #1) by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Cassie is extremely skilled at reading people. But she never expects the FBI to recruit her into a secret program to help solve murder cases. At the program, she meets other “Naturals,” teenagers with similarly strange gifts.
However, she soon realizes that the program itself holds many secrets. When a killer strikes, the Naturals all have to use their unique talents to survive.
The Naturals is the exciting first novel in a psychological thriller series featuring a swift plot, a shadowy organization, and an electrifying romance.
Sadie by Courtney Summers
When Sadie’s sister Mattie is found dead in their small, isolated town, and the police investigation is no help, Sadie decides to take matters into her own hands. It’s time to catch the person who tore her world apart.
West, who works on a radio show, hears about Sadie’s story and decides he’s going to run his own investigation. He starts a podcast and tracks Sadie’s quest to find the killer, trying to piece together the truth about her sister’s death.
The narrative swings back and forth between Sadie’s harrowing journey and West’s podcast reporting, inviting readers to piece the story together as they go along.
Fans of true crime and the Serial podcast will love Sadie, a dark, emotional story of revenge that culminates in an explosive ending you won’t see coming.
Paper Towns by John Green
Teenage Quentin (or Q) has always loved Margo from afar. One night, Margo asks him to follow her on a thrilling quest for revenge. Which is amazing — until the next morning, when Q realizes she has vanished. But she’s left clues for him to follow.
Paper Towns is a classic John Green read, with heartfelt teenage romance and an adventurous scavenger hunt for the truth. It’s less of a crime thriller and more of a coming-of-age story, but the enigma around Margo is a great hook for mystery fans.
I Killed Zoe Spanos by Kit Frick
The book opens with Anna, nanny, and newcomer to the town of Herron Mills, confessing that she accidentally killed the local girl Zoe Spanos.
Yet Martina, who runs the Missing Zoe podcast, isn’t convinced. Anna may look eerily similar to Zoe, but her story is full of holes, and Martina is ready to get to the truth at all costs.
The Inheritance Games (The Inheritance Games, #1) by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
In The Inheritance Games, Avery is just trying to get through high school. Then, the unthinkable happens: she receives the fortune of a dead billionaire named Tobias Hawthorne. And she has no idea why.
Suddenly swept up in a world of wealth and riddles, Avery moves into the affluent Hawthorne House. Unfortunately, that’s where she also has to deal with the rest of Tobias’ family. With danger around every corner of the house, Avery finds herself caught in a web of lies, greed, and secrets.
Fans of puzzle-solving stories, love triangles, and the film Knives Out will be all over this first installment of Barnes’ mystery thriller series.
People Like Us by Dana Mele
Kay is trying to put a shadowy past behind her. She’s focusing on playing soccer and maintaining her popularity at her elite private school, Bates Academy. That is, until a girl’s body is discovered in the lake. The girl has left Kay a series of clues shedding light on different suspects, all with their own possible motives. Not even Kay is safe from suspicion.
People Like Us features queer main characters, is rife with drama, and promises to take you on a well-paced journey to a final, twisty reveal.
The Diviners (The Diviners, #1) by Libba Bray
While still a murder mystery, The Diviners also throws fantasy and historical fiction in the mix. Set in the vibrant world of 1920s New York, this book is perfect for urban fantasy fans and mystery sleuths alike.
When Evie goes to live with her occult-obsessed uncle in New York, she hides her supernatural ability to “read” objects from him. But it’s possible her gift could help bring a murderer to justice when a girl is found dead and branded with a mysterious symbol.
The story follows not only Evie, but a whole roster of compelling characters, including a Russian pickpocket, a chorus girl, and a student, all with secrets of their own.
- If You’re Out There by Katy Loutzenhiser
Something strange happens when Zan’s best friend, Priya, moves away to California. Priya suddenly ghosts her. What’s more, Priya’s social media feed takes on a shallow, odd tone that Zan knows means something isn’t right.
Everyone thinks she’s crazy and should just move on from her old friendship — until she meets the new student, Logan. He believes her, and he’s ready to help her investigate what’s going on with Priya. They set out to discover if Priya has truly changed, or if there’s something more sinister going on.
If You’re Out There combines a compelling mystery with a powerful story about the strength of female friendship.
Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus
Can’t get enough of small towns full of secrets? Two Can Keep a Secret’s town, Echo Ridge, has it all: a deceptively charming appearance, a hidden past, and of course, unsolved murders.
When Ellery has to go to Echo Ridge to live with her grandmother, she must face the place where her aunt went missing, where the homecoming queen was killed five years ago, and where everyone seems to be hiding something. When another girl goes missing and homecoming’s on the horizon, all of those secrets finally start coming to light.
We hope this list of books similar to Truly Devious will help you find your next favorite YA mystery or thriller. Cozy up and crack the case with one of these reads on your next dark and stormy night of reading.
Will There Be a Book 5 in the Truly Devious Series?
There is a fifth book about the protagonist of Truly Devious called Nine Liars. While there are three books in the complete Truly Devious trilogy, Maureen Johnson has also written two stand-alone mystery books featuring Truly Devious’ main character, Stevie Bell. Those are The Box in the Woods and Nine Liars. Here’s the full series list in order:
Truly Devious Trilogy:
1. Truly Devious
2. The Vanishing Stair
3. The Hand on the Wall
More Stevie Bell Mysteries (stand-alone mysteries featuring Stevie):
4. The Box in the Woods
5. Nine Liars
What Book Comes After Truly Devious?
The Vanishing Stair is the second book in the Truly Devious series. It directly follows the events of Truly Devious.
Is The Box in the Woods part of Truly Devious?
The Box in the Woods is a standalone mystery featuring Stevie Bell, the same protagonist as Truly Devious. It’s a fun continuation of Stevie’s story for those who loved the Truly Devious trilogy.
Does Truly Devious Have LGBTQ+ Characters?
Yes. Although none of the main characters are LGBTQ+, there is some representation in the side characters. Stevie’s friend Janelle identifies as a lesbian and there is a non-binary character named Vi.
What are Vi’s Pronouns in Truly Devious?
Vi’s is a non-binary character whose pronouns are they/them.
What Grade Level is Truly Devious?
Truly Devious is for grade levels 9 through 12, recommended for readers aged 14 through 17.
- The 20 Best Books Like Truly Devious (YA Mystery & Thriller) - February 26, 2023