The Kiss and Thrill blog, where this was originally published, will soon be disappearing, and I am republishing my Kiss and Thrill posts here to keep a copy. This one is from June 2013.
Summer vacation is looming in my house. That big blank spot on the calendar, which I am woefully unprepared for. I have two kids, 13 and 10, girl and boy. Both voracious readers with very different tastes. Five more days of school, then we enter the abyss.
In a panic, I turned again to my friend, the brilliant author Amanda Brice for help. My daughter has read and loved all of Amanda’s Dani Spevak mysteries, and while I really wanted Amanda to write a few dozen more of the dance-world set mysteries before next Tuesday, that wasn’t really feasible, so instead she compiled this list of mysteries for Tweens and Teens.
Thank you to Rachel and the rest of the Kill & Thrill ladies for hosting me today. I had so much fun making summer reading suggestions last year, I’m delighted to make this an annual tradition. Here’s to great summer reading for years to come!
Now that school is out (or will be shortly), moms and dads across the country are faced with the task of what to do with their kids for the next 2 months or so. I can’t help you with summer camps or childcare of occupying their every waking hour, but in keeping with the suspense theme of this blog, I can help provide you with a list of awesome YA and middle grade mysteries!
These books are in no particularly order, so please don’t try to interpret it as a ranking of preference. But they are just some of my faves, and I hope they’ll come your kids’ faves, too.
For the Tweens:
Wahoo Cray lives in a zoo. His father is an animal wrangler, so he’s grown up with all manner of gators, snakes, parrots, rats, monkeys, snappers, and more in his backyard. The critters he can handle. His father is the unpredictable one.
When his dad takes a job with a reality TV show called “Expedition Survival!”, Wahoo figures he’ll have to do a bit of wrangling himself—to keep his dad from killing Derek Badger, the show’s boneheaded star, before the shoot is over. But the job keeps getting more complicated. Derek Badger seems to actually believe his PR and insists on using wild animals for his stunts. And Wahoo’s acquired a shadow named Tuna—a girl who’s sporting a shiner courtesy of her old man and needs a place to hide out.
They’ve only been on location in the Everglades for a day before Derek gets bitten by a bat and goes missing in a storm. Search parties head out and promptly get lost themselves. And then Tuna’s dad shows up with a gun . . .
It’s anyone’s guess who will actually survive “Expedition Survival”. . . .
The 39 Clues Book 1: The Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan
The first book in this groundbreaking multimedia series sends readers around the world on the hunt for the 39 Clues. Written by #1 NYT bestseller Rick Riordan, and backed by $100,000 in prizes!
Minutes before she died Grace Cahill changed her will, leaving her decendants an impossible decision: “You have a choice – one million dollars or a clue.”
Grace is the last matriarch of the Cahills, the world’s most powerful family. Everyone from Napoleon to Houdini is related to the Cahills, yet the source of the family power is lost. 39 Clues hidden around the world will reveal the family’s secret, but no one has been able to assemble them. Now the clues race is on, and young Amy and Dan must decide what’s important: hunting clues or uncovering what REALLY happened to their parents.
NOTE: Each of the books in this series is written by a different famous author: Gordon Korman, Peter Lerangis, Margaret Peterson Haddix, David Baldacci, Clifford Riley, etc.
Steven Thomas is one of two lucky winners of the U.S. Basketball Writer’s Association’s contest for aspiring journalists. His prize? A trip to New Orleans and a coveted press pass for the Final Four. It’s a basketball junkie’s dream come true!
But the games going on behind the scenes between the coaches, the players, the media, the money-men, and the fans turn out to be even more fiercely competitive than those on the court. Steven and his fellow winner, Susan Carol Anderson, are nosing around the Superdome and overhear what sounds like a threat to throw the championship game. Now they have just 48 hours to figure out who is blackmailing one of MSU’s star players . . . and why.
Sailing toward dawn, and I was perched atop the crow’s nest, being the ship’s eyes. We were two nights out of Sydney, and there’d been no weather to speak of so far. I was keeping watch on a dark stack of nimbus clouds off to the northwest, but we were leaving it far behind, and it looked to be smooth going all the way back to Lionsgate City. Like riding a cloud. . . .
Matt Cruse is a cabin boy on the Aurora, a huge airship that sails hundreds of feet above the ocean, ferrying wealthy passengers from city to city. It is the life Matt’s always wanted; convinced he’s lighter than air, he imagines himself as buoyant as the hydrium gas that powers his ship. One night he meets a dying balloonist who speaks of beautiful creatures drifting through the skies. It is only after Matt meets the balloonist’s granddaughter that he realizes that the man’s ravings may, in fact, have been true, and that the creatures are completely real and utterly mysterious.
In a swashbuckling adventure reminiscent of Jules Verne and Robert Louis Stevenson, Kenneth Oppel, author of the best-selling Silverwing trilogy, creates an imagined world in which the air is populated by transcontinental voyagers, pirates, and beings never before dreamed of by the humans who sail the skies.
Nancy Clancy: Super Sleuth by Jane O’Connor
Kids who grew up with Jane O’Connor’s Fancy Nancy picture books can spend some quality time with their BFF: Nancy Clancy is now starring in her novels!
Fancy Nancy: Nancy Clancy, Super Sleuth is the first in a series of delightful middle-grade mysteries. Sassy Fancy Nancy is now a detective. When one of her classmate’s most special possessions disappears from school, it’s up to Nancy to save the day. With the help of her friend Bree, she follows the clues to an unexpected source.
Fans of Nancy Drew’s Clue Crew will be happy to see a new Nancy join the ranks of super sleuths.
In the blink of an eye. Everyone disappears. GONE.
Except for the young. Teens. Middle schoolers. Toddlers. But not one single adult. No teachers, no cops, no doctors, no parents. Just as suddenly, there are no phones, no internet, no television. No way to get help. And no way to figure out what’s happened.
Hunger threatens. Bullies rule. A sinister creature lurks. Animals are mutating. And the teens themselves are changing, developing new talents—unimaginable, dangerous, deadly powers—that grow stronger by the day.
It’s a terrifying new world. Sides are being chosen, a fight is shaping up. Townies against rich kids. Bullies against the weak. Powerful against powerless. And time is running out: On your birthday, you disappear just like everyone else…
For the Teens:
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Oct. 11th, 1943-A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it’s barely begun.
When “Verity” is arrested by the Gestapo, she’s sure she doesn’t stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she’s living a spy’s worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.
As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage, failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy?
A Michael L. Printz Award Honor book that was called “a fiendishly-plotted mind game of a novel” in The New York Times, Code Name Verity is a visceral read of danger, resolve, and survival that shows just how far true friends will go to save each other.
When Margo Roth Spiegelman beckons Quentin Jacobsen in the middle of the night—dressed like a ninja and plotting an ingenious campaign of revenge—he follows her. Margo’s always planned extravagantly, and, until now, she’s always planned solo. After a lifetime of loving Margo from afar, things are finally looking up for Q . . . until day breaks and she has vanished. Always an enigma, Margo has now become a mystery. But there are clues. And they’re for Q.
Printz Medalist John Green returns with the trademark brilliant wit and heart-stopping emotional honesty that have inspired a new generation of readers. (Winner of the Edgar Award for Best Young Adult Mystery.)
I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak
protect the diamonds
survive the clubs
dig deep through the spades
feel the hearts
Ed Kennedy is an underage cabdriver without much of a future. He’s pathetic at playing cards, hopelessly in love with his best friend, Audrey, and utterly devoted to his coffee-drinking dog, the Doorman. His life is one of peaceful routine and incompetence until he inadvertently stops a bank robbery.
That’s when the first ace arrives in the mail.
That’s when Ed becomes the messenger.
Chosen to care, he makes his way through town helping and hurting (when necessary) until only one question remains: Who’s behind Ed’s mission?
A 2005 Michael L. Printz Honor Book and recipient of five starred reviews, I Am the Messenger is a cryptic journey filled with laughter, fists, and love by the author of the extraordinary international bestseller The Book Thief.
Investigating the Hottie by Juli Alexander
Peterson. Amanda Peterson. When my life suddenly turns into the Princess Diaries meets Mission Impossible, can I do in a week what I haven’t managed to do in all my fifteen years—reel in a hottie?
When Amanda spends a week with her aunt, Christie, she learns that her aunt is a spy. Christie admits that Amanda has security clearance and has already started her training. When her aunt asks her to investigate a teenage hacker, Amanda thinks that spending time with a nerd should be doable despite her social ineptitude. Unfortunately for Amanda, the hacker is a hottie.
Being a 16-year-old safecracker and active-duty daughter of international spies has its moments, good and bad. Pros: Seeing the world one crime-solving adventure at a time. Having parents with super cool jobs. Cons: Never staying in one place long enough to have friends or a boyfriend. But for Maggie Silver, the biggest perk of all has been avoiding high school and the accompanying cliques, bad lunches, and frustratingly simple locker combinations. Then Maggie and her parents are sent to New York for her first solo assignment, and all of that changes. She’ll need to attend a private school, avoid the temptation to hack the school’s security system, and befriend one aggravatingly cute Jesse Oliver to gain the essential information she needs to crack the case . . . all while trying not to blow her cover.
Demons of the Rich and Famous by Tawny Stokes
Supernatural possession is the new “disease” and teen exorcist Caden Butcher is the cure…
Caden Butcher, known as the whiz-kid exorcist to the stars, loves the Hollywood limelight. Or at least that’s what he wants people to believe so he can earn enough cash from his high profile exorcisms to take care of his ailing father. The problem is, not everyone’s happy with Caden’s star status, particularly Remy Martin, a high ranking member of the International Order of Exorcists, who suspects the truth, that these Hollywood exorcisms are staged with the help of Caden’s demon BFF, Dan.
So when a real exorcism goes bad and a nasty demon jumps bodies, the crap hits the supernatural fan. The Order strips Caden of his exorcism license right before he discovers the unleashed demon is one he knows well, very well. This demon is hell bent on destroying Caden’s life and everyone else who gets in his way. Now with the help of his demon buddy, and Caden’s girlfriend Aspen Spencer, a necromancer in training, Caden must defy the Order, track down the rogue demon and send him back to hell before it’s too late.
What if the world’s worst serial killer…was your dad?
Jasper (Jazz) Dent is a likable teenager. A charmer, one might say.
But he’s also the son of the world’s most infamous serial killer, and for Dear Old Dad, Take Your Son to Work Day was year-round. Jazz has witnessed crime scenes the way cops wish they could–from the criminal’s point of view.
And now bodies are piling up in Lobo’s Nod.
In an effort to clear his name, Jazz joins the police in a hunt for a new serial killer. But Jazz has a secret–could he be more like his father than anyone knows?
Thank you, Amanda, for putting together such a great list! Now it’s time for me to add my own recommendation:
pas de deux: (NOUN: pl. pas de deux)
1. A dance for two, especially a dance in ballet consisting of an entrée and adagio, a variation for each dancer, and a coda.
2. A close relationship between two people or things, as during an activity.
pas de death (NOUN: yeah … totally made up)
1. A dance of death.
2. When Dani Spevak stumbles over a dead body and gets into another crazy situation.
Aspiring ballerina Dani Spevak is back home for the summer, recovering from an injury. What was supposed to be a simple day trip into New York City to visit her friends at the Manhattan Ballet Conservatory turns deadly when Dani discovers that the world of professional dance can be cutthroat — literally.