One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus is a delicious YA whodunit. McManus balances a mysterious killing and the coming of age stories of four high school students. Unforeseen character developments and ongoing plot twists keep readers turning pages until a bombshell ending. If you’re looking for more YA suspense stories with momentum and unforgettable characters, check out these 11 novels:
1. A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, by Holly Jackson
Everyone in Fairview knows the story: Andie Bell’s boyfriend, Sal, murdered her. Then he killed himself. But five years after Andie’s disappearance, Pip still has doubts. Police never recovered Andie’s body, and Sal never seemed like the murdering type. For her senior capstone project, Pip investigates the cold case. She uncovers a tangled web of secrets leading to the real murderer, still lurking in the shadows, one step away from quashing her efforts and silencing her for good. A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder is a must read for true-crime lovers, but it is also a careful examination of what happens to friends, family, and community when a tragedy remains unresolved.
2. This Is Where It Ends, by Marieke Nijkamp
Told over 54 devastating minutes and four different points of view, This is Where It Ends allows you to reflect on the difficult subject of school shootings. While sheltering in a bullet-battered auditorium, former friends of the shooter experience flashbacks. Each memory hints at the origins of the shooter’s mental illness and his dangerous want for revenge. Through diverse perspectives and unfathomable tragedy, Nijkamp invites unexpected empathies while pondering the consequences of male entitlement.
3. We Were Liars, by E. Lockhart
Cadence Sinclair’s family spends every summer on their own private island near Martha’s Vineyard. The cousins, the aunts, and the wealthy patriarch are keen to maintain their flawless reputation. They float on sailboats, don strings of pearls, and lob tennis balls. But cracks appear in the family’s perfect veneer: their money dwindles, an affair severs relationships, the occasional over indulgence turns to alcoholism, and psychological wounds fester. Cadence and her cousins hatch a plan to save the family, but when their scheme backfires, Cadence’s life is forever altered. Lockhart’s clever plot and unique voice creates compulsively readable prose, engaging until the final pages.
4. They Both Die at the End, by Adam Silvera
No one wants to get a call from Death Cast, a company that can accurately predict an individual’s death down to the hour. But just after midnight, Mateo’s phone rings and a Death Cast representative informs him that he will lose his life in less than 24 hours. Across town, as Rufus brawls with his ex-girlfriend’s new beau, his phone rings. It’s Death Cast, and he, too, is living his last day. Both Rufus and Mateo download Last Friend, an app designed to pair those who don’t want to live out their last day alone. When Last Friend matches Rufus and Mateo, they forge an unlikely bond. As their time clocks run out, the couple finds themselves wondering if their newfound relationship will protect them from death.
5. They Wish They Were Us, by Jessica Goodman
During freshman year, Jill is selected for The Gold Coast Prep Players, a secret society that guarantees popularity, great grades, and entrance into the Ivies. But soon she realizes The Players expect members to pay a price. As Jill and her best friend Shaila struggle through The Player’s grueling initiation process, Shaila dies unexpectedly. Her boyfriend, Graham, is pinned with murder chargers.
But three years later, Jill receives a text proclaiming Graham’s innocence. For the remainder of her senior year, she digs up old dirt and reexamines her friendships. Can she identify Shaila’s true murderer? Or will she ruin her reputation and chance at the Ivies trying to resolve the case? Goodman’s debut is an intricately plotted thriller that makes you wonder: who’s lying?
6. Ace of Spades, by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé’s
There are only two black kids at Niveus Academy, Chiamaka and Devon. Despite the fact that Niveus is just about as racist, classist, and homophobic as it gets, Chiamaka and Devon thrive. They are both in the running for class valedictorian. But then, anonymous messages arrive from someone named Aces. Devon and Chiamaka learn that Aces is ready to expose their private photos and confidential information. They must team up to uncover Aces’ identity, or the invisible force could ruin their lives. Described as “One of Us is Lying meets Get Out,” Ace of Spades is a powerful thriller containing an important critique of institutional racism.
7. The Fire Keeper’s Daughter, by Angeline Boulley
Daunis straddles the border–feeling neither here nor there, this nor that. Her dad is a well-known hockey player on the Sugar Island Ojibwe reservation, and her mother hails from one of Michigan’s most prominent, waspy families. She is constantly critiqued for not being officially enrolled in the Ojibwe tribe, and she never quite meshes with her mother’s side of the family.
After witnessing a murder, Daunis gets caught in the investigative crosshairs of the FBI. She finds herself (reluctantly) on an undercover mission to crack the origins of a new, hallucinogenic meth derivative that’s ripping her community apart. Will she be the key to the case, or will her undercover identity unravel? The Fire Keeper’s Daughter smolders with suspense, but it also provides an interesting angle on family, community, and marginalization.
8. Competitive Grieving, by Nora Zelevansky
Stewart, a burgeoning television star, dies of an aneurysm, and his best friend Wren is in denial: Planning floral arrangements and buffet tables for his memorial is a much-preferred alternative to grieving. When Stewart’s high-strung mother gives Wren the task of dividing Stewart’s property alongside his lawyer, she is surprised to learn who is clamoring for a piece of his inheritance. Shock waves continue when Wren discovers she doesn’t know Stewart as well as she thought. Secrets, lies, and insecurities bubble to the surface, causing her to question, how well do we ever really know our friends? Competitive Grieving is a page-turning study of lifelong friendship and unconventional grief responses.
9. Everything I never Told You, by Celeste Ng
Lydia’s parents want her to achieve everything they didn’t: great grades, a gaggle of friends, and finally, a shining career in the medical field. But Lydia doesn’t survive high school. At 16, her lifeless body is found floating in a nearby lake. The police probe the family for information to solve the case, but they don’t actually know Lydia very well. In fact, no one does. Her mom pops the locks on her diaries, desperate to uncover some telling detail that might help the police, but every page is blank. As Lydia’s parents contemplate how their relentless expectations may have derailed their daughter’s future, they try to uncover the cause of her death: Was it the neighborhood lothario who won’t answer investigator’s questions? Or could clues from Lydia’s shrouded past lead to another suspect?
10. You Owe Me a Murder, by Eileen Cook
At 17, Kim couldn’t possibly fathom attempting murder. But when her ex-boyfriend, his new soulmate, and Kim are trapped together on a school trip to London, a murder plot sounds appealing. While traveling across the pond, Kim commiserates with Nicki. Nicki’s mother is ruining her life and Kim’s ex is obviously pond scum. The two joke about a murder swap: I’ll kill for you if you kill for me. Kim thinks the conversation is purely entertainment until her ex suffers an unfortunate, deadly accident. Then threatening messages arrive. Nicki wants to know why Kim hasn’t held up her end of the bargain, and her harassment burrows into Kim’s psyche. In You Owe Me A Murder, Kim has an impossible choice to make: kill to get Nicki out of her head, or ignore Nicki and shoulder the blame for her ex’s death.
11. Truly Devious, by Maureen Johnson
During the 1930s, Albert Ellingham created a whimsical school in Vermont for thinkers and artists. The school, studded with gardens and carved with twisting pathways, aimed to turn learning into a game. And it did. Ellingham’s school was such a success that he created a second academy to accommodate all of the interested students. But after the second campus opened, his wife and daughter vanished. Riddles detailing their insidious murders appeared. Each riddle was signed, “Truly Devious.”
Fast forward to present day: Stevie, a true-crime obsessed student at Ellingham Academy, wants to solve the decades-old murders. But she can hardly keep up with her demanding school schedule, much less crack her quirky housemates: an artist, actor, jokester, inventor, and a novelist. And just when life reaches a new level of stressful, Truly Devious returns with more riddles, another missing person, and another murder. If Stevie can’t uncover the murderer’s identity, more innocent lives will be lost.