Since starting my PhD program here at the University of Tennessee back in August, I’ve also been working as a GA in our Center for Children’s and Young Adult Literature in the library. The Center is this magical place where publishers send us all their new children’s, middle grade, and YA literature to put on display in our collection—and of course, to read, enjoy, and review. I love my job. Unboxing mail from publishers is like Christmas, except it happens every couple of days. The list of books I want to read has grown exponentially in the last few months, and if I had it my way, all I would ever do is read. The young adult world has so much amazing stuff to offer, and it seems like we’re living in an especially awesome time for this genre.

Even though I haven’t had the time to devour as many books as I’d like to, I have been able to read quite a few. I definitely am guilty of judging books by their covers—when I unbox a book with a particularly gorgeous or intriguing cover, I immediately have to flip the book over and read the synopsis. And, more than likely, it gets added to the never ending list of books for me to read. In the last few months, I’ve been particularly drawn to thrillers and crime stories. These genres are exploding in YA, at least it seems so from the number of them we’ve gotten in at the center, and I’ve been happily thumbing through each and every one of them.

Since it’s that time of year when the leaves are changing and the nights are getting colder, it only felt appropriate to tell you all about 3 YA thrillers I read recently so you can pick them up and enjoy them on a cold (not too scary) night on the couch.

The Leaving, by Tara Altebrando
The LeavingIn The Leaving, six young children go missing and eleven years later, five of the six kids turn up in their old neighborhood with no knowledge of where they’ve been or what happened to them. The now-teenagers work together to try and put the pieces back together, and to try and figure out what happened to the sixth kid that was with them when they were taken. This book is an especially awesome read because of its unique storytelling techniques. It is told through three distinct voices—two of the returned kids, and the sister of the one child who didn’t come back. Each voice is even more unique in how it employs typography; the pages come to life with words written in spirals, blacked out text, and even images. Tara Altebrando took a risk experimenting with the look of text on a page, and she hit it out of the park in this book. But most of all, the story itself is engaging and keeps you turning from start to finish. I could barely sleep while I read this book—I was desperate to finish it and find out what happened. The characters are beautifully hashed out and developed. The writing is gorgeous and descriptive. And the story is well-paced with just the right amount of suspense. Read this one and pass it on to your friends.

Ruthless by Carolyn Lee Adams
RuthlessWe’ve all seen the horror movies and procedural crime dramas—a young girl wakes up in a place she doesn’t recognize, and suddenly realizes she has been kidnapped. She then has to figure out a way to save herself and escape with her life. In Ruthless, we meet narrator Ruth as she awakens in the bed of a truck, trapped inside a toolbox under a bale of hay. We follow her in a present tense narrative as she slowly understands where she is and what has happened to her, and finally, when she comes face to face with the man who has kidnapped her and taken her out to a remote cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The novels follows Ruth as she tries to get out alive, navigating vicious and merciless terrain in the mountains, and as she looks back on her life leading up to the kidnapping, trying to understand why it has happened to her. The narrative moves quickly, fast-paced and heart pounding. Since it’s told in present tense, we feel like we’re right there with her, bleeding and cold, trying to hold onto our will to survive. As I read, I was constantly questioning how I would handle the situations she’s faced with throughout the book. It’s a terrifying concept to contemplate, and this book almost forces you to do so. This one is on the shorter side, so plan to read it in one long sitting, furiously turning pages to see if Ruth makes it out alive.

Suicide Notes From Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten
Suicide Notes from Beautiful GirlsYou’ve got to admit: that’s a killer title. You may have seen it on the Bestsellers shelf at your local Target or Barnes and Noble; this book had a pretty impressive run as a recommended YA book in publications such as The Guardian, and was on Vanity Fair’s Best Books list. The title is what made me pick it up at first, and then Weingarten’s gorgeous prose kept me reading. The title had me expecting it to be something on the more somber end of the spectrum, but I was totally taken aback to find myself in the middle of a thriller as I devoured this book. June, the narrator, returns from winter break to find out that her once-best-friend, Delia, has committed suicide. But June can’t believe it. There’s no way Delia would do that, especially not the way they say she did—by burning herself alive. June takes on the task of unraveling the mystery of the girl she used to know, trying to put together the pieces to see if they really added up to Delia taking her own life. Along the way, she’s faced with some hard truths and unsettling discoveries, not just about Delia, but about herself as well. Read this one on a rainy afternoon.

Happy reading!