The Criminalist: Mysteries for the Teenage Set

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 <a href=“" rel=“nofollow” target=”blank”>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.