“Young Adult” Mysteries: Who’s Writing Them, and Why?

Image  Hi. Beth Kanell here.

Many “big name” authors are taking time out from their well-known mystery series to write something for teens. It’s part of a recent wave of interest for “young adult” or YA fiction that erupted with J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series and then went volcanic as The Hunger Games from Suzanne Collins seized readers. In Virals, Kathy Reichs sent Tempe Brennan’s niece into danger. John Grisham brought out the “Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer” series; Peter Abrahams set his in “Empire Falls”; and Harlan Coben created Shelter.

Among SinC New England members, books in this category have a longer track record but are also less likely to be “edgy” and danger-filled: There’s Katherine Hall Page’s Christie & Company, and Nancy Means Wright has three mysteries for younger readers, like The Pea Soup Poisonings. Lea Wait’s books for “young people” are historical novels. Jane Langton’s The Mysterious Circus includes delicious fantasy.

So, who’s writing YA mysteries now, among the Sister and Brothers in Crime in New England? Well, I am – I’m hooked.

For me, the genre gives a way to express both that sense of the mysterious that I find in the Vermont mountains, and the twists and turns of character-driven suspense plots that capture me. I’m taking bigger risks as I go forward: The Darkness Under the Water has plenty of deaths in it for 16-year-old Molly Ballou (at least four!), The Secret Room involves sleuthing for two eighth-graders, Shawna and Thea (who knew they’d have to confront their parents?), and Cold Midnight includes the historically “real” murder of a Chinese man in 1921, never officially solved – yet Claire and Ben have the clues and make the leaps of logic.

With my new series of Vermont-based “Nancy Drew”-style mysteries featuring college student Felicity “Lucky” Franklin, I’ve reached two essential parts of my reading and writing life: that early passion for Nancy Drew (yes, I still re-read them!), and a fresh awareness (hindsight!) that I took some enormous risks while in college, myself. (Follow the chapters as they’re written at WattPad).


Why are you considering writing a YA mystery – or why are you determined to avoid them? Have you read any of them since becoming an adult? Which ones have you recommended to others? I want to know!


About bethkanellbooks

My life is always a three-strand braid: love for Vermont, love of mysteries, and the need to write (and write better and better). Come visit and chat at any of my blogs and posts -- there's a big wonderful world of writing and reading, and we're in it together.
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5 Responses to “Young Adult” Mysteries: Who’s Writing Them, and Why?

  1. Nancy Gardner says:

    Hi Beth. Interesting article. I’m still struggling with getting a grip on writing for adults so I won’t try my hand for a while. I’ve got granddaughters who may just influence me to redirect my efforts sometime in the future. I’m currently reading “Hunger Games” because of them. Thanks! Nancy

  2. Nancy Gardner says:

    BTW, Neat idea to let us peek at your chapters as they’re written. My first time looking at WattPad!

  3. Kit Minden says:

    Don’t you think YA mysteries are more satisfying than adult mysteries today? We can avoid gruesome deaths and skanky sex scenes, and instead focus on the puzzles that make people tick.

  4. I’ve always enjoyed reading YA books, but not just mysteries. I enjoyed the humor of Beverly Cleary and others of her style. Also have enjoyed what may be called mainstream YA like Tell Me A Secret by Holly Cupala.

  5. Beth Kanell says:

    Ooh, Tell Me a Secret by Holly Cupala gives me shivers!!

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