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Like Malinda Lo’s A Line in the Dark, each of these YA mysteries masterfully employs structure to keep readers guessing as to characters’ true natures — and on the edges of their seats — until the shocking final reveal.

Eighteen-year-old Jule, protagonist of E. Lockhart’s intoxicating psychological thriller Genuine Fraud, is cold, tough, and in trouble with the law, but displays an endearing softness as we learn about her friendship with the wealthy Imogen, whom Jule misses dearly. Chapters presented in reverse chronological order dole out breadcrumb-like pieces to the puzzle of why she is running and what happened with Imogen — and reveal that Jule is a character the deceptive likes of which many readers won’t be prepared for. A note lists inspirations for the novel (chief among them Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley), but Lockhart’s command of structure, pacing, atmosphere, and character are accomplishments all her own. Pair this with her 2014 novel We Were Liars. (Delacorte, 14 years and up)

In Sarah Pinborough’s tense, gritty novel 13 Minutes, sixteen-year-old Natasha is found on the banks of a freezing river, officially dead for thirteen minutes before waking with no memory of what happened. Her ex–best friend Becca is drawn back into Natasha’s life as a reluctant, vulnerable detective investigating the incident. Interspersed into the omniscient third-person narrative are excerpts from Natasha’s diary depicting her growing suspicion of new besties Jenny and Hayley; newspaper articles, text message exchanges, and interview transcripts add tantalizing details. A shocking twist will send readers flipping back to find hidden clues now made plain. (Flatiron, 14 years and up)

Stephanie Kuehn’s When I Am Through with You begins with high-school senior Ben Gibson writing from jail in the aftermath of a fatal school hiking trip, then flashes back to the hike itself. Ben acts as orienteering-club assistant, but his lack of experience and inability to keep the other teens in line are soon obvious. Concealed guns, Ben’s disabling migraines, and a freak snowstorm also factor into the trip’s disastrous outcome. Despite Ben’s professed good intentions, the disconcerting information revealed in his dispassionate first-person narration calls his version of events into question. (Dutton, 14 years and up)

In And Then There Were Four by Nancy Werlin, five students at a private boarding school are mysteriously summoned to a dilapidated building on campus — which then collapses. They all survive, but one of them dies shortly afterward in an automobile accident. The remaining students come to the horrific conclusion that their parents are plotting to murder them. Werlin simultaneously deepens characterization and unfolds the plot in alternating narrative voices from two of the teens: Saralinda’s insightful first-person account and Caleb’s unsettling (and possibly sociopathic) second-person narration. This psychological page-turner taps into a deep-seated teen paranoia that adults are out to get them. (Dial, 14 years and up)

From the November 2017 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.



Katie Bircher About Katie Bircher

Katie Bircher, associate editor at The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MA in children's literature from Simmons College. She served as chair of the 2018 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committee. Follow Katie on Twitter @lyraelle.

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