13 Must-Read YA Mystery Books and Thrillers With Shocking Plot Twists
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Meaning, I get a commission if you purchase through my links at no cost to you.
Now that fall begins, it's the best time to read those mystery books and thrillers with shocking plot twists that will keep you guessing even after finishing them. Either because of their unreliable protagonists, dark secrets, or the strange events throughout the story.
Here are 13 favorite twisty YA stories that you won't be able to put them down for one simple reason: you can't predict what it's coming!
1. The Truth About Keeping Secrets by Savannah Brown
Junior-high-school girl, Sydney, is emotionally abused after the death of her father. He used to be the only psychiatrist in town, and she believes the crash was not an accident. On the day of his funeral, she starts to receive threatening text messages that imply her dad was murdered. To deal with her grief and fear, she finds comfort in her new friend June Copeland, the school’s homecoming queen. Sydney begins to fall in love with her, but she soon discovers that people sometimes hide secrets and that nobody is perfect.
2. One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus
One afternoon, Bronwyn, the school nerd, Addy, a popular girl known for being Jake's girlfriend, Nate, the typical guy with a drug background, Simon, the creator of a Bayview high school gossip site, and Connor, the star athlete of the baseball team, all find themselves in detention together for something they didn't do. Unfortunately, one of them won't live to tell the tale.
In true The Breakfast Club style, this novel will keep you tuned to the last page!
3. Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver
Dara and Nick are inseparable sisters, even when they are very different from each other. One day, they have a car accident, and their relationship is not the same anymore. When Dara vanishes on her birthday, Nick thinks she's just playing around. Soon she finds out nine-year-old girl Madeline Snow is missing too, and Nick is convinced that the two disappearances are related. The twist ending is masterly written!
4. I Killed Zoe Spanos by Kit Frick
Anna Cicconi desperately wants a fresh start. But when she moves to the Hamptons village of Herron Mills for a summer nanny job, what she finds is a community on edge after the disappearance of Zoe Spanos, a local girl who has been missing since New Year’s Eve. Anna bears an eerie resemblance to Zoe, and her mere presence in town stirs up still-raw feelings about the unsolved case. As Anna delves deeper into the mystery, stepping further and further into Zoe’s life, she becomes increasingly convinced that she and Zoe are connected—and that she knows what happened to her.
Two months later, Zoe’s body is found in a nearby lake, and Anna is charged with manslaughter. But Anna’s confession is riddled with holes, and Martina Green, teen host of the Missing Zoe podcast, isn’t satisfied. What really happened to Zoe? A thriller with twists and turns until the final page.
5. Little Monsters by Kara Thomas
Kacey is forced to move to Broken Falls with her father, a stepbrother, a stepmother, and strangest of all, an adoring younger half-sister.
Kacey's new life is eerily charming compared with the wild highs and lows of the old one she lived with her volatile mother. And everyone is so nice in Broken Falls--she's even been welcomed into a tight new circle of friends.
This is why it's so odd when her closest friends, Bailey and Jade, start acting distant. And when they don't invite her to the biggest party of the year, it doesn't exactly feel like an accident. But Kacey will never be able to ask because Bailey never makes it home from that party. Suddenly, Kacey is involved in Bailey's missing when everyone in Broken Falls starts looking to the new girl for answers.
A suspenseful, thrilling read!
6. Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas
Anna, her boyfriend Tate, her best friend Elise, and other close friends travel toward Aruba for spring break. And it's supposed to be the best time of Anna's life. But then Elise is found brutally murdered, and as the local police begin to investigate, suspicion and evidence point to one person: Anna.
Now trapped in a country not her own, Anna must fight for her freedom and prove her innocence. As she waits for the judge's decision, it becomes clear to Anna that everyone around her thinks she is guilty and dangerous.
When the book is about to end, and the truth is finally revealed, it's much more shocking than you would ever expect!
7. With Malice by Eileen Cook
Following a storyline similar to Dangerous Girls, With Malice tells the life of eighteen-year-old Jill Charron, who travels to Italy as part of her senior trip.
After an accident happens, she wakes up in a hospital room, her leg in a cast, stitches in her face, and a big blank canvas where the last 6 weeks should be, Jill comes to discover she was involved in a fatal accident in her travels abroad. She was jetted home by her affluent father to receive quality care. The care that includes a lawyer. And a press team. Because maybe the accident wasn't an accident. Wondering not just what happened but what she did, Jill tries to piece together the events of the past six weeks before she loses her thin hold on her once-perfect life.
This book will have you gripped until the last page.
8. The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas
Another page-turning book written by Kara Thomas that covers dark issues through a disturbing story.
There are no more cheerleaders in the town of Sunnybrook.
First, there was the car accident--two girls dead after hitting a tree on a rainy night. Not long after, the murders happened. Those two girls were killed by the man next door. The police shot him, so no one will ever know his reasons. Monica's sister was the last cheerleader to die. After her suicide, Sunnybrook High disbanded the cheer squad. No one wanted to be reminded of the girls they'd lost.
Five years later, the faculty and students at Sunnybrook High want to remember the lost cheerleaders. But for Monica, it's not that easy when all she wants is to forget. Suddenly, her world starts to unravel. Some letters in her stepdad's desk, an unearthed, years-old cell phone, a strange new friend at school. . . Whatever happened five years ago isn't over. Some people in town know more than they're saying. And somehow, Monica is at the center of it all.
9. Liar by Justine Larbalestier
Micah is a liar. That's the one thing she won't lie about. Over the years, she's duped her classmates, her teachers, and even her parents. But when her boyfriend Zach dies under brutal circumstances, Micah sets out to tell the truth. At first, the truth comes easily-because it is a lie. Other truths are so unbelievable, so outside the realm of normal, they must be a lie.
The lies are entangled in Micah's mind to bring forth the great truth, which is more complicated than you might expect.
10. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Liars follows Cadence and her cousins' lives, who spend their summer in a private island owned by her rich family. Cadence is her grandfather's favorite, but one summer, her aunt's boyfriend brings alone his nephew, Gat. Cadence begins to get along very well with him, something Grandpa disagrees with. Despite their differences, Gat becomes good friends with Cadence and the other cousins too. Together, they come to be known as The Four Liars.
Until an accident occurs, leaving Cadence in the hospital with many questions and the friendship of The Four Liars shattered.
When the mind-blowing twist is revealed, you realize that the hints were always there, but the truth is too painful to be true. Definitely, a must-read!
11. Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer
Sixteen-year-old Jam Gallahue is forced by her parents into The Wooden Barn, a therapeutic boarding school in rural Vermont, one year after the death of her first love Reeve Maxfield.
She begins living with a weird roommate, and signed up for an exclusive, mysterious class called Special Topics in English. When a journal-writing assignment in a class on the poet and novelist Sylvia Plath unlocks the seemingly idyllic world of Belzhar, Jam starts down a path of discovery even has her connection to reality begins to slip away. It isn't long before Belzhar reveals that her classmates are hiding secrets from the past. But there are also hidden truths on Jam’s path to reclaim her loss.
A powerful story you won't be able to put it down.
Buy Belzhar now!
12. Choker by Elizabeth Woods
Warning: If you have read other titles of this same genre, this story may not surprise you much, but if you just started in the world of thrillers, this is a perfect quick and suspenseful read.
Zoe and Cara were as close as friends could be—until Zoe moved away. Miserable without Zoe, Cara grew into an unhappy sixteen-year-old, tormented by the popular girls and nursing a hopeless crush. Then one day, Cara returns home from an awful day at school to find Zoe sitting on her bed. Shocked and delighted, Cara agrees to hide Zoe from troubles at home, and the two resume their friendship as though no time has passed. Zoe even helps Cara get up the courage to stand up for herself and talk to her crush. But when one of the popular girls winds up dead, Cara begins to suspect that Zoe is responsible, and her questions only feed Zoe’s anger. As Cara searches for answers, she is forced to confront the truth.
13. The Secrets They Left Behind by Lissa Marie Redmond
This is not exactly a YA novel. However, it does have a similar plot point to the previous stories.
Three college freshmen vanish from their rural hometown of Kelly's Falls while on Christmas break without a trace. As the days turn into weeks and the investigation grows cold, twenty-three-year-old police officer Shea O'Connor is called on to dig up leads undercover.
Still bearing the emotional and physical scars of a previous case, O'Connor infiltrates as eighteen-year-old Shea Anderson, a college freshman and the "niece" of the town's police chief. As she begins to immerse herself in the missing girls' world, befriending their friends and family, and doing whatever it takes to maintain her cover, O'Connor realizes the track is far colder than she initially thought. But whoever was behind the girls' disappearance was only warming up, and they have set their crosshairs directly on her.
The heat is on for O'Connor as she closes in on the shocking truth about what really happened the night the girls vanished.
A terrific story that will linger with you long after you've finished reading.
What is your favorite YA mystery novel? Which one should I add to the list?