Collecting — and Giving! — YA (Young Adult) Mysteries

Reader or writer? Many of us are both — although we often veer in different directions for the two activities. I find I’m much more omnivorous when I’m reading mysteries written for adult readers, and very choosy about which young adult detective novels I open up and embrace. It maybe in part because the “young reader” in me is still present. I look for YA fiction that gives me a rich ride, full of character, believable heroics, and a dose of hope.

At the New England Crime Bake in early November, a dozen of us gathered to talk about why we’re writing YA mysteries and what we need in terms of skills, information, and inspiration. I passed around copies of a list of fresh, new YA mysteries from librarian John Clark, who writes on the Maine Crime Writers blog: — I’m working my way down the list, rediscovering how different today’s books are from the Nancy Drew and Hard Boy series where I started off.

For those building a collection, Clark’s list is a good place to start with today’s titles. Of course, there are other directions to sample: One route is to seek the books from which the season’s “hot” films for teens are coming, like the Twilight series, more “romantic paranormal” than suspense, or the teen espionage featuring Alex Rider, written by Anthony Horowitz. Another is to work from the past, forward — like the organized fans of Nancy Drew and other series from times when teens weren’t expected to face the terrors of the world in the some way as they may now be. The next convention of the Nancy Drew Sleuths is at the end of May 2013, in Boston, to visit the scenes featured in The Secret of the Wooden Lady and The Case of the Vanishing Veil — and the publishers make it easy to build from book 1 forward, or indeed to step into the more modern series, “The Nancy Drew Files.”

My favorite route for building a powerful collection is to look into the recently awarded prizes that recognize fine writing along with intense suspense. That’s how I started reading Allan Bradley’s Flavia De Luce detection series (new book comes out in Jan 2013!). For holiday gifts, consider the first three books in this series with a promise of the next one.

And here’s my year-end challenge: catching up on the YA Edgar Awards. The five most recent titles are: 2012, Dandi Daley Mackall, The Silence of Murder; 2011, Charlie Price, The Interrogation of Gabriel James; 2010, Peter Abrahams, Reality Check; 2009, John Green, Paper Towns; and 2008, Tedd Arnold, Rat Life.

From which direction are you collecting? And what are you reading next?


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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