Mysteries were my favorite kinds of books as a kid. I devoured them, whether they were meant for adults (like Agatha Christie’s or Mary Higgins Clark’s books) or children (like Nancy Drew or The Babysitter’s Club/Box Car Children books where they’d attempt to solve super-lame cases, like The Mystery of the Purple Pool). I even attempted to write my own mystery novels in elementary school, complete with terrible plots that usually involved someone accidentally discovering a body buried in their own back yard. Apparently I thought this was a super-common occurrence, despite the fact that it never once happened to me. But in more recent years, I kind of forgot how awesome mysteries could be.
Lately I’ve discovered that there are tons of compelling, interesting mysteries in YA. Young Adult Education usually features just one book at a time, but today we’ll be talking about two books I’ve read, loved and stayed up way too late reading because I’m just that excited, guys! Let’s get to it!
The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison
Just look at that blood-splattered cover. That’s how you know things are going to get real. Lo Marin lives in a nice neighborhood in Cleveland, where her family’s falling apart after the recent death of her brother. Lo’s OCD makes it impossible for her to resist doing a lot of things…like tapping out rhythms, stealing things and taking the bus to the ultra-dangerous neighborhood where her brother died, Neverland. Lo becomes obsessed with solving the murder of a girl she didn’t know, and as her illness and her investigation spiral out of control, she finds herself in serious danger.
In addition to its realistic depiction of a serious illness, The Butterfly Clues also features a truly frightening mystery, Ohio (I always love seeing Ohio as a setting, even when it’s not a particularly flattering depiction) and romance. You might be thinking, “How does romance fit in with a gritty mystery?” Pretty well, actually! Lo ends up crushing on an extremely charming, talented homeless kid. Listen, I’ve read a lot of YA romances, and sometimes it can seem like the love interests start to blend together—sensitive bad boys! Nerdy but nice! Beleaguered best friends!—but I’ve definitely never seen a love interest who squats in the basement of an abandoned building. A+ for creating a unique YA dream dude, Kate Ellison!
Golden by Jessi Kirby
Jessi Kirby’s Golden is much less gory, but just as exciting. Parker Frost is the quintessential good girl—she gets perfect grades, listens to her mom and always does the right thing. Her best friend Kat is always telling her she needs to take a chance and do something crazy, like hook up with Trevor, who’s been after her for years. But when Parker serendipitously finds a clue to the town’s biggest mystery, she takes it upon herself to solve the case. Soon, Parker’s going way out of her comfort zone, which includes breaking rules and possibly even finding some romance! I mean, you could probably guess there would be romance in any book I’m writing about here. I can’t help who I am.
In addition to the compelling mystery, Golden also features a lot of poetry. In fact, poems by Mary Oliver and Robert Frost are essential to the plot. While Golden isn’t as upsetting as The Butterfly Clues, it’s plenty dark—it’s about romance and friendship, sure, but it’s also about how sometimes our small choices can lead to tragic, unintended consequences. By the time you finish the book, you’ll appreciate the Robert Frost quote on the cover: Nothing gold can stay.
Although these mysteries were very different, they both made me put off my obligations (writing, sleeping, even eating) so that I could finish them. What about you guys? Have you checked out The Butterfly Clues or Golden? Have you read any other great mysteries lately? Let me know in the comments! And, as always, I love to hear your suggestions for books to feature in Young Adult Education. Leave me a comment, email me at email@example.com or find me on Twitter @KerryAnn.
Featured image via Shutterstock.