Book List

Best YA Mysteries and Thrillers of 2019

Poe’s ghost happily haunts this fresh, delightfully dark collection.

HIS HIDEOUS HEART

THIRTEEN OF EDGAR ALLAN POE'S MOST UNSETTLING TALES REIMAGINED

A genre-bending collection of 13 twists on Edgar Allan Poe’s works.

Editor Adler (contributor: It's a Whole Spiel, 2019, etc.) does Poe proud with this creepy and atmospheric set of stories inspired by a handful of his most well-known works. All are well worth reading, but there are quite a few standouts, including Rin Chupeco’s (contributor: Hungry Hearts, 2019, etc.) ebullient “The Murders in the Rue Apartelle, Boracay,” in which an effervescent Filipina trans woman joins up with her dashing new half-French, half-Filipino boyfriend to solve the baffling murders of two American tourists on the island of Boracay. Lamar Giles’ (The Last Last-Day-of-Summer, 2019, etc.) unsettling “The Oval Filter” features African American football star Tariq, whose dead girlfriend’s distorted images appear on his phone—and they seem to be trying to tell him something. “The Fall of the Bank of Usher” by Fran Wilde (The Fire Opal Mechanism, 2019, etc.) is an adrenaline rush of a tale about assumed white orphans Rik and Mad, brother and sister twins, who must hack their way out of an intimidating Scottish bank for a life-changing prize—a challenge many before them have failed. Strong feminist themes appear throughout, and genres run the gamut from futuristic to gothic and lots in between. Diversity in race, gender identity, and sexuality is well represented. As a bonus, all of the original stories and poems are included.

Poe’s ghost happily haunts this fresh, delightfully dark collection. (author bios) (Anthology. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-30277-9

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

An atmospheric, multilayered, sex-positive romance from the talented Bennett.

SERIOUS MOONLIGHT

Birdie Lindberg, a lover of detective novels, teams up with her one-time hookup Daniel Aoki to solve a mystery at the historic Seattle hotel where they work.

After years of being home-schooled by her strict, recently deceased grandmother, orphaned 18-year-old Birdie’s circle of friends is limited to three adults: her widowed grandpa, Hugo (with whom she lives on Bainbridge Island); her free-spirited–artist honorary aunt, Mona Rivera; and Ms. Patty, co-owner of her favorite refuge in the city, the Moonlight Diner. So when Birdie, who’s white and has undiagnosed narcolepsy, starts a night shift at a historic hotel, she’s gobsmacked to bump into co-worker Daniel, a handsome half-Japanese/half-white boy with whom she shared a romantic-turned-awkward night before fleeing the scene. Remembering Birdie’s love of mysteries, Daniel—who’s 19 and a magic aficionado—suggests they investigate whether a regular guest is actually Raymond Darke, the pen name of a reclusive bestselling local mystery author. Bennett (Starry Eyes, 2018, etc.) excels at nuanced characterization, portraying deeply felt first love and offering readers well-researched diversity (Mona is Puerto Rican, Daniel’s deaf in one ear and has grandparents who survived the Japanese American internment). The mystery theme is compelling (each chapter opens with a quote from a famous sleuth), but it’s the way Birdie and Daniel navigate an emotional and physical relationship—despite their sensitively handled issues—that’s truly memorable.

An atmospheric, multilayered, sex-positive romance from the talented Bennett. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2514-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

Not to be missed.

SPIN

Two African American teens who dislike each other find themselves working together to solve the murder of a mutual friend.

Kya Caine and Fatima “Fuse” Fallon were both in the orbit of Paris Secord, aka DJ ParSec. Kya and Paris were friends from their neighborhood, while Fuse’s skill with social media made her the ideal person to promote this music among #ParSecNation fans. On the night Paris is murdered, both girls happen on the scene within minutes of each other; her death is a blow, and their shock and pain run deep. When they are briefly kidnapped by #DarkNation, a group of violent, extreme fans, they put their differences behind them to find the killer. The young women come from different worlds: Kya, the daughter of a hardworking single parent, resents upper-middle-class Fuse. But the drive to find answers before #DarkNation or the killer strike again propels them. They agree on the likely culprit and know their best chance of proving their guilt will occur during the high-energy commingling of everyone touched by the rising star and her music in an upcoming memorial concert. This is genre fiction at its best: a taut mystery with rich characterization and a strong sense of place. Social realities, such as class and family dynamics, add depth. The depiction of the grassroots music scene that feeds hip-hop and keeps it cutting edge is seamlessly woven into the narrative.

Not to be missed. (Mystery. 12-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 29, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-21921-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

Sharp and breathless, full of anger and strength. May the sequel hurry.

COURTING DARKNESS

From the Courting Darkness series , Vol. 1

History, intrigue, and peril in 15th-century Brittany and France.

It’s 1489. Sybella, a trained assassin, escorts Brittany’s duchess to France to marry King Charles. The duchess promises, when queen, to protect Sybella’s young sisters from their brother’s house, where the men molested Sybella (Dark Triumph, 2013). Having changed the nature of death (incomprehensibly) in Mortal Heart (2014), LaFevers ignores that and focuses on Sybella’s doubt about how to serve her father, Mortain—the god of Death—without the black marques that previously showed her whom to kill. Meanwhile, Genevieve, another assassin/daughter of Mortain, languishes in an undercover placement in France, instruction-less—so she builds herself a plan. Sybella and Genevieve have brilliant skills—killing, scheming, spying, protecting, and sometimes finding Mortain’s grace—but everyone who holds power abuses it terribly. Danger’s everywhere—rape, murder—and love is a risk. Will Sybella and Genevieve find each other, or even learn each other’s information, before things come crashing down? They alternate narrating in first-person present, with great immediacy. This rich tapestry of intrigue, betrayal, trauma, protection, old religion, and historically based politics resurrects the urgency and depth of the His Fair Assassin series—but must be read after the others (“new duology” label notwithstanding). Contrary to the reality of early modern Europe, all characters default to white.

Sharp and breathless, full of anger and strength. May the sequel hurry. (character list, map, author’s note) (Historical thriller. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-544-99119-4

Page Count: 512

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 7, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

Readers will ponder this exceedingly creepy gut punch of a tale long after turning the last page.

YOU MUST NOT MISS

A depressed New England teen writes her perfect world into reality and uses it to exact revenge.

Sixteen-year-old Margaret “Magpie” Lewis’ father left soon after she caught him having sex with her mother’s sister. Since then, Magpie’s older sister, Eryn, a college senior, has stopped communicating with her, and her mother’s drinking has gotten much worse. In addition, her ex–best friend, Allison, has shunned her and branded her as a slut after a horrid encounter with Allison’s boyfriend, Brandon. School is an afterthought, but Magpie has made new friends: Clare, whose father committed suicide; bisexual Luke; Brianna, who suffered a humiliating incident; and Ben, who is trans. Magpie also copes by writing about a place called Near. After a portal to Near manifests in Magpie’s backyard shed, she spends days there with her Stepford-esque family—one untouched by tragedy—but as Magpie tests her new abilities, her numb, shattered heart tells her that revenge will be sweet, no matter the cost. Poor Magpie’s spiral is a heartbreaking example of how deep pain often masquerades as cruelty, and her actions are tragic. Leno (Summer of Salt, 2018, etc.), channeling early Stephen King at his best, offers no neat conclusions, and her frank examination of depression, grief, alcoholism, and the ruinous aftermath of sexual assault is grim yet effective. Characters are presumed white.

Readers will ponder this exceedingly creepy gut punch of a tale long after turning the last page. (Thriller. 14-adult)

Pub Date: April 23, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-44977-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

Masterfully paced with well-earned thrills and spooky atmosphere worth sinking into.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019

  • New York Times Bestseller

TWO CAN KEEP A SECRET

History threatens to repeat itself in a small town known for disappearing teen girls.

When their mother is suddenly sent to rehab, twins Ellery and Ezra Corcoran are uprooted from California to live with their grandmother in Vermont. True-crime–obsessed Ellery knows the town is infamous for girls going missing. Her own aunt, her mother’s twin, disappeared 23 years ago, never to be found. Just five years ago, Lacey Kilduff was found murdered in nearby Murderland, a Halloween theme park. All eyes are on the twins as the new kids in town, and Ellery’s pulled between the popular girls and Malcolm Kelly, the younger brother of Declan, Lacey’s boyfriend and the person everyone suspects murdered her. Disturbing acts of vandalism pop up, threatening a sequel to events at Murderland. When Ellery’s nominated for homecoming queen, the threats begin to target her and the other princesses, and no matter what he does, Malcolm keeps ending up at the wrong place at the wrong time, making for an easy scapegoat. Alternating between Ellery’s and Malcolm’s perspectives, the mystery unfurls at a deliciously escalating pace, filled with believable red herrings and shocking twists. Readers will furiously turn pages until the satisfying end. Though the students are predominantly white, Ellery and Ezra are biracial (white and Latinx), and Ezra is gay. Malcolm is white, and his best friend is a bisexual Korean American girl.

Masterfully paced with well-earned thrills and spooky atmosphere worth sinking into. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-1472-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

Into the woods like never before.

THE WAKING FOREST

An older teen’s uncanny dreams spill into reality—or perhaps it’s the other way around.

Rhea Ravenna, eldest of four white sisters, has been having visions and the same dream full of winding stairs and forbidden doors since she was young. Now 18 and with a decade of therapy for anxiety under her belt, she finally opens the door in her dream to find a dark presence behind it—and he is still there when she wakes up. Elsewhere in a vast woods—the same woods that Rhea sees in waking visions—a witch contentedly grants wishes to dreaming children, until a young man disguised as a black fox enters her realm and begins to tell her an enigmatic story of magic and rebellion and torn-out hearts. As Rhea’s home begins to unravel and her family to disappear, her world and the witch’s realm violently collide, and neither can hold back their screams. Dreams and stories—their power to escape reality and to restore it—are in the bones of this masterfully woven fantasy debut. And at its heart? The power of revolution in the face of coldly violent injustice. Wees has borrowed everything and nothing at all from fairy tales, stitching the most timeless and archetypal elements of dream, darkness, the forest, corruption, and imperfect valor into an intricate pattern crafted to twist, invert, and fall apart with exquisite precision.

Into the woods like never before. (Fantasy. 14-17)

Pub Date: March 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-58116-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

More Book Lists

The Magazine: Kirkus Reviews

Jenn Shapland reclaims a queer icon in My Autobiography of Carson McCullers.

subscribe
  • The Kirkus Star

    One of the most coveted designations in the book industry, the Kirkus Star marks books of exceptional merit.

  • The Kirkus Prize

    The Kirkus Prize is among the richest literary awards in America, awarding $50,000 in three categories annually.

    See the 2019 winners.

Great Books & News Curated For You

Be the first to read books news and see reviews, news and features in Kirkus Reviews. Get awesome content delivered to your inbox every week.

Thank you!

Looks good !! Please provide a valid email.