Some children prefer cozy mysteries: gradually piecing together who stole a trombone at camp, or which student cheated for the class election, or where a missing dog has gone. But others want something more intense; they prefer their stakes a little bit higher. These middle-grade thrillers are sure to keep young readers on the edge of their seats.
The Accomplice, by John Grisham
Theodore Boone is back! The seventh book in beloved adult thriller author John Grisham’s middle grade series picks up with ambitious young lawyer-in-training Theodore once again dishing out advice and solving mysteries. When Woody Lambert’s brother holds up a convenience store with a fake gun, Woody gets arrested—even though he didn’t know what was happening and only stayed in the car. Theodore Boone, determined to become the best courtroom lawyer in the state, thinks he can help Woody… but he’s years away from being a qualified attorney, and Woody needs help now. This series, a mesh of realistic courtroom drama and middle grade adventure, will appeal to young readers who love dreaming big and beating grownups at their own games. For an overview of the Theodore Boone series, click here.
City of Ghosts, by Victoria Schwab
Do you know a Harry Potter fan who wants something a little scarier? Hand them City of Ghosts, the first of the ghost series from fantasy favorite Victoria Schwab. Cassidy Blake’s parents host a ghost-hunting television show, but Cassidy knows that ghosts are real. After a near-death experience, she can see them. When her parents head to Scotland for the television show, Cassidy learns about the sinister Red Raven—a ghost that steals the lives of children—and knows she must fight to protect the world from its touch. The second book in this thrilling and spooky ghost series hits shelves in September.
Shadows of Sherwood, by Kekla Magoon
You may know the story of Robin Hood, but you don’t know the story of Robyn Loxley: a twelve-year-old thief, forced onto the streets after her parents disappear. Fending for herself in Nott City, Robyn and her band of misfits do what they need to do to survive, even as she looks for her parents. But Robyn’s destiny is tied to Nott City in ways she doesn’t expect—if she can take down the terrible new governor Ignomus Crown. All three books of the Robyn Hoodlum series are out now, making it perfect for kids who need a binge-read.
The Nest, by Kenneth Oppel
Some thrillers have a supernatural element, and The Nest by Kenneth Oppel hits that sweet spot, especially for young readers who have started asking for Stephen King books. Summers aren’t relaxing for Steve, not with struggling parents and a sick baby brother. When a mysterious wasp queen invades his dreams with offers to fix his baby brother, Steve thinks it may be the answer he needs—but if he says yes, what will change? And can he change it back? Dark and creepy, save this one for mature thriller readers, because even adult readers may get nightmares.
The Usual Suspects, by Maurice Broaddus
Are you looking for something with high stakes and a heartfelt story? Mashup the stakes of a thriller with the contemporary storytelling of Jason Reynolds for The Usual Suspects, a debut novel from Maurice Broaddus. Thelonius Mitchell is labeled as different—and he’s tired of it. He doesn’t like being in special education classes, doesn’t like being separated from “normal” kids, and doesn’t like how his teachers distrust him—even if he does occasionally prank them. But he would never handle a gun, and he certainly wouldn’t leave it at the neighborhood hangout. Nobody else may believe him, but Thelonius will figure out who actually did it and clear his name.
What books would you recommend to young thriller-fans-in-training?