YA Book Recommendations for True Crime Lovers


Have you binge watched every true crime documentary Netflix has put out, twice? Do you frequently stay up later than you’re willing to admit scrolling through theories about whatever case you’re currently obsessed with? Are you so accustomed to the sound of podcast hosts describing brutal murders in your ears that being alone with your own thoughts is honestly the more unsettling option? If so, you’ve come to the right place! (And if not, please don’t call the FBI. It’s just a hobby, we swear…) Check out the selections below to find the perfect read to satisfy your true crime obsession.

Sadie by Courtney Summers

Sadie has never had an easy life. Growing up in a broken-down small town with an absent mother, she did her best to take care of her younger sister Mattie. But when Mattie ends up murdered and the police investigation leads nowhere, Sadie decides to take matters into her own hands, setting off on a road trip to find her sister’s killer by any means necessary. After a journalist named West McCray hears about Sadie, now missing herself, he becomes obsessed with the case and determined to uncover the truth. Told in alternating narration between Sadie’s first-person account and transcripts of West’s investigative podcast, this novel will have your heart racing from the first page until the very end. Performed by a full cast, the audio book is especially absorbing and a great choice for fans of true crime podcasts.

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

Another book that utilizes a mixed media format, the first installment in the A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder series tells the story of Pip, an overachieving teen who chooses to focus on a crime that has become a local legend for her senior project. The official story is that a popular girl named Andi Bell was murdered by her boyfriend Sal Singh, who later killed himself. The rest of her town might consider it a closed case, but Pip isn’t convinced. She begins interviewing everyone involved with the case and quickly realizes that someone is determined to keep the truth from getting out, so much so that Pip’s own life could be in danger. This book is full of twists and turns that not even the most seasoned crime fanatic will see coming, and best of all, there are two additional books in the series to read when you finish this one and are inevitably left wanting more.

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

This is a book for everyone who obsesses over a certain cold case and knows they could solve it if they only had the resources. Stevie Bell is exactly that sort of girl, only she’s lucky enough to get the chance to attend the exclusive Ellingham Academy, which just so happens to be the exact location where the crime in question took place. Shortly after the school opened in the 1930s, the founder’s wife and daughter were kidnapped from the grounds and a student was found dead, but the culprit was never found. Though many have tried and failed, Stevie is determined to be the one who finally uncovers the truth. With the help of her housemates who quickly become friends, Stevie begins to get the hang of life and Ellingham and feels like she’s making real progress on the case. Soon though, she realizes that she might be in way over her head. The secluded boarding school setting adds great ambiance to this already spine-tingling tale, which is sure to appeal to fans of dark academia. The first in a four-book series, Truly Devious is a simultaneously terrifying and fun ride that will be impossible to put down. 

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro 

Can’t get enough true crime inspired YA set at a boarding school? Look no further than A Study in Charlotte, a retelling of Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic mystery series that takes place at a Connecticut prep school. The book’s main character is none other than Sherlock Holmes’ great-great-great granddaughter Charlotte who, despite the palpable tension between them, teams up with Jamie Watson, direct descendent of Dr. Watson himself. When a fellow student dies after clashing with the duo in a murder staged to look like a mystery straight out of a Sherlock Holmes book, it becomes clear that they’re being framed. With danger closing in on them, the pair is forced to channel their ancestors and uncover the truth to clear their names. The first in a four-book series, this would be an excellent choice for someone who loves getting to the bottom of an unsolved crime but prefers a bit less grit. Still, with explosives, poison, and a deadly virus all in play, this novel has plenty of intrigue to guarantee your nose will be stuck inside until the case is closed. 

Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson

Monday Charles is missing, but the only person who seems to notice or care is her best friend, Claudia. When Monday fails to show up to school for a week straight, Claudia knows something isn’t right. After being brushed off by Monday’s mom and sister, Claudia decides to do some digging in the hopes of discovering what may have happened to her friend. But when she starts asking around, no one can quite recall when they last saw Monday, including the adults in her life. Determined not to let her friend fall through the cracks, Claudia continues her pursuit of the truth about what happened to Monday. Simultaneously a touching account of friendship and a stomach-churning expose of the darkness young people can be forced to endure, Monday’s Not Coming in an unflinching mystery that will stick with you long after you’ve turned the final page.

The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas 

After a string of gruesome deaths amongst the cheerleaders in Sunnybrook, including a car accident, a double murder, and lastly a suicide, the town has permanently gotten rid of the cheerleading squad. Everyone is determined to keep the memory of the dead girls alive by throwing a memorial service in their honor, everyone except for Monica that is, who’s older sister was among the victims. Monica just wants to forget about what happened, but that becomes impossible when secrets from the past begin to bubble up in the form of incriminating letters and an old cell phone found in her stepdad’s desk. Teaming up with the new girl at school, Monica begins digging deeper into the cheerleaders’ deaths and realizes there’s more to the story than some people involved care to admit. Be warned, you might be sleeping with the lights on for a few nights after finishing this dark and chilling book.

The Diviners by Libba Bray 

The year is 1926 and rebellious teen Evie O’Neil is being sent to live with her Uncle Will in New York City, where he runs of The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult. Evie has a secret: she can touch objects and read information from them. When a series of brutal and apparently ritualistic murders starts plaguing the city, the police ask Evie’s uncle for help. Evie realizes she can use her abilities to investigate who’s behind the killings, but she quickly discovers that something darker than she could have ever imagined is afoot. Beyond its riveting plot, The Diviners also includes diverse cast of characters and tackles heavy themes such as xenophobia and the start of the eugenics movement. Fans of fantasy, historical fiction, and true crime alike will devour this gripping first installment of a four-book series.

PRR Writer, Emily Pimental