Murder Mysteries are one of the most popular genres of books and it being a personal favorite to the young adult reader is no exception. A particular subset of murder mystery books that has caught popularity is the teen sleuth. A sleuth is a person who investigates crimes; more so as an unprofessional with a personal interest in crime solving. What I think makes teen sleuth murder mysteries such a popular choice amongst teen readers is the ability to relate to the main character in the feeling of frustration of young age holding them back in some way.
In the selection of YA teen sleuth books, I’ve listed below, all the characters are very good at having a natural hunch for solving crimes, but their families and friends can’t help but worry about them, thinking they’re involving themselves in a dangerous hobby that could put them in danger. Any time they reach out to law enforcement with their investigations, they're shrugged off like their just kids playing grown-up. By the end of the stories though, they can solve the mystery surrounding the murder -- generally better than law enforcement can and proving not only to their family, friends and law enforcement, but also themselves, that they are capable of being a great detective. All the snooping and dangerous situations that may get themselves into is not without prevail. They’re able to help solve long-standing mysteries, bring justice to their community, and show the world that teen sleuths can indeed save the day!
The Body in the Woods by April Henry - Portland teens Alexis, Nick and Ruby all have different backgrounds but have one thing in common – they all are involved in Portland County Sheriff's Search and Rescue Team. When they are all put together to help search for a man who is lost in the Portland woods, what they come across along the search, is the dead body of a teenage girl. All three of the teens are shocked by this discovery but can’t help wondering who the girl is and what happened to cause her to end up in the woods. Once more teenage girls are discovered missing and dead, they find a pattern in all the deaths. Despite the sheriff's office blowing off their hunch, they work together to find the serial killer, and prevent any more deaths from occurring. Through this wild adventure, Alexis, Nick and Ruby become not only just fellow SAR volunteers working together but great friends.
Two Can Keep A Secret by Karen M. McManus - Ellery and her twin brother are sent to small-town Echo Ridge to live with their grandmother while their mother is in rehab after crashing her car. Ellery has always wanted a better understanding of her mom who never seems to talk about her upbringing -- specifically the sister who was killed in Echo Ridge when her mother lived there at Ellery’s age. Ellery is very interested in crime solving, and to make her stay in Echo Ridge a little more interesting, she decides to investigate her aunt’s unsolved murder. Things take a turn for the worse, when for the first time since her aunt’s death, another person is killed. The more Ellery investigates, the further she gets drawn into the plot of solving what happened to the high school teacher who was killed and what ended up happening to her aunt. Luckily Ellery’s curiosity catches the killer, and the town’s past and present, are brought together with justice in a way that nobody, but Ellery could make happen.
Scarlett Undercover by Jennifer Lathan - This YA novel is about a Black Muslim American teen girl named Scarlett who works on discovering the truths behind small mysteries to keep her out of trouble and occupied since graduated high school early. A 9-year-old girl reaches out to Scarlett, concerned about her brother, and his stranger behavior shortly before and after his best friend died. Scarlett thinks this is just a simple case of a troubled teen needing help but soon discovers that something is deeply amiss, and it intertwines with her own personal history – her father's unsolved murder. Scarlett takes a great interest in the case, putting her own life in danger, to discover that her family’s religious background got her father caught up in the dealings of a cult believing her father had an object that could create mass power on Earth. It’s up to Scarlett to find the religious object and put an end to the cult before anyone else gets hurt.