Young Adult Mysteries For Adult Readers? Why Not Try It?

Ask the question, “What are young adult books, exactly?” and the quick answer is that those are books for teens. Obviously. According to the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), the books target readers from 12 to 18-years old. These books, almost always, feature teen protagonists with the novels following their point of view.   

If you look closer into the appeal of young adult fiction though, you’d find that many adult readers also enjoy the books.  They include topics ranging from social issues, dystopias, romance, fantasy, historical fiction and more. Might the mystery fiction also find adult reader appeal? Although some adults frown at the thought of reading books about teenagers, others would not. They see teen years as the period for growing into maturity and character development. Plus, on the other hand, adult fiction books may use a teen as the book’s protagonist to be the a neutral observer of events or to tell the story of events from the past.

To give this a chance for adult readers, here are some titles to look over from The Booklist Reader’s recent web post about the best mysteries for teens and children of the past 10 years. All titles featured here are recommended for high school sophomores on up according to the website.  Copies of these books are available in Charlotte Mecklenburg Libraries.  In writer Salla Simukka’s As Red as Blood, 17-year-old Lumikki Andersson steps into a criminal enterprise of corrupt police and a drug cartel as she investigates after finding a large sum of bloody money in the school darkroom.  The book is the set in Finland and the first of a trilogy. Another 17-year-old in different trilogy series with writer Barry Lyga is Jazz Dent, son of a notorious serial killer whose murderous traits he quietly possesses.  In the first books, I Hunt Killers and Game, Jazz works with the police to find murderers whereas in Blood of My Blood, Jazz has to hone his skills to confront his father. 

The remaining books are stand-alone.  World War II is the backdrop for a double- agent facing torture in Nazi-controlled France in Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. The novel follows Julie as a British fighter plane survivor struggling to remain alive and to keep secrets from the enemy.  Three close high school sophomores are in for a dramatic school term when one boy disappears and the disturbing actions of their English teacher makes him appear to be involved in the matter in Gentlemen by Michael Northrop. And in a stroke of irony or foreboding, the teacher has a lesson plan on Dostoevsky’s Crime and PunishmentThe Unfinished Life of Addison Stone by Adele Griffin uses the interviews of parents, friends, boyfriends, teachers and others to examine the mysterious death of a New York City teenage street artist.