At the Barnes & Noble Review, I delve into crime and mystery fiction for young adult readers, discovering that there are some real gems in the mix but even so, there could be so many more. I certainly hope so. In any case, here's how the piece opens:
One of the things that has puzzled me the most in my years of serious mystery reading is why there are relatively few standout books geared specifically for middle grade and young adult readers. Consider that more than 1500 genre novels are published each year for grownups, and that many of those avid readers cut their teeth reading Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, Encyclopedia Brown and Agatha Christie (who wasn't writing for children, but whose prose style and subject matter often appeals to that group.) As they grew older, these readers gravitated towards the creepily suspenseful work by Lois Duncan, Ellen Raskin (her 1978 novel The Westing Game is an indescribable pleasure) and Caroline B. Cooney, who is still producing strong novels like 2009's If The Witness Lied.
Even big-name writers have moved into young adult territory, with mixed success: John Grisham's Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer is more entertaining than it has a right to be (even if Theo seems to share more personality attributes with an older generation) while Carl Hiaasen's eco-themed Hoot nicely captured a middle-school protagonist. But what teen novels are out there that best reflect pre-teen and adolescent culture as it stands today?
It turns out, after some deep digging and recommendations from trusted sources, there are a number of wonderful recently published books that deserve a wider readership. But before I turn my attention to those, I should mention my favorite young adult mystery writer, Nancy Werlin. Her books offer strong plotting, multi-faceted characters and a keen eye for social issues that speak directly to her readers. At her best, as with the National Book Award nominee for The Rules of Survival and Edgar-Award winner The Killer's Cousin, she's among the best writers of the crime genre, period....
Read on for the rest, and to see which books I think live up to billing.