I happen to love all subgenres of contemporary, but there’s a special place in my heart for the stuff that gets your blood pumping, head spinning, and your fingers turning pages so fast, you’d feel the sting of a hundred paper cuts if you weren’t so focused on needing to know what comes next and whodunit. Here are some of my favorite thrillers that also happen to feature main characters who are disabled or of marginalized race and/or sexual orientation.
Fake ID, by Lamar Giles
Yes, at times the B&N Teen Blog may read a bit like a Lamar Giles fan site, but that’s only because we’re really big fans of Lamar Giles. In our defense, both of his thrillers (this one and Endangered) have been nominated for Edgar Awards (and he’s got another, Overturned, coming up; fingers crossed for a three-peat!), so it’s not like we’re alone. It all started here, with Nick Pearson (whose name isn’t really Nick Pearson), the unsolved murder of his friend Eli, and the conspiracy Eli was working to bring down. Fast-paced, twisty, and full of surprises, it’s the perfect place to jump aboard the Giles train.
Last Seen Leaving, by Caleb Roehrig
This debut is one of my top 2016 obsessions, as an addition to one of my favorite YA genres and to gay YA. Flynn’s girlfriend, January, is missing, only she wasn’t his girlfriend anymore. But it’s impossible to tell anyone they broke up, even if it’s to help find her, because to tell people they broke up is to tell them what they fought about right before she vanished, and that means coming out before Flynn’s ready. But Flynn learns January had secrets, too, and between those and the case taking a darker turn, it may be impossible to keep anything buried.
Delicate Monsters, by Stephanie Kuehn
If there’s one thing you can expect from a Kuehn novel, it’s to be reminded you have no idea what to expect from a Kuehn novel. Her third psychological thriller alternates between three teens with darkness in their pasts. Past is the operative word for Emerson Tate, who just wants to get on with his future, but the return of Sadie Su to town following her expulsion from boarding school shakes everything up. Sadie is troublesome, violent, and worst of all, in desperate need of entertainment. And she knows the Tate house is the perfect place to find it.
A Darkly Beating Heart, by Lindsay Smith
I distinctly remember that the moment I finished Smith’s debut, Sekret, a paranormal psychic spy novel set during the Cold War, I was desperate for more of the story. (I was in luck; there’s an excellent sequel!) With her newest, though…I wasn’t even halfway through before I needed the next page like I needed air. This revenge-themed time-travel thriller follows the preternaturally angry Reiko to Japan, where she’s been shipped off to live with her cousin in an effort to calm her down. Instead, Reiko stumbles into Edo over a century earlier, and into another scorned woman’s shoes, and alternating between her own trauma and that of Miyu’s past leads to more danger for everyone she touches.
Willful Machines, by Tim Floreen
It’s instant attraction when Lee meets new student Nico, but that’s not quite welcome as long as Lee’s still in the closet, and that’s not likely to change as long as his father’s still president of the United States and pushing a highly conservative agenda. But they both have bigger things to worry about when the threat of AI attacks from the same enemy that has already destroyed the Statue of Liberty begins to hit closer to home, and Lee realizes he and Nico are its newest targets.
Want, by Cindy Pon
One of next year’s most exciting titles is the very first sci-fi thriller from the author of YA fantasies Silver Phoenix and Serpentine. Set in Taipei in the near future, Want features a group of teens working to save their city from the pollution that’s carrying the less financially fortunate of the population into early graves. The rich are spared, because they can buy protective suits, but of course that didn’t help Jason’s mother. Now he and his friends are fighting back from the inside, infiltrating the wealthy and targeting the company that creates the suits. But he doesn’t foresee how joining the upper class will make him feel, and he certainly doesn’t anticipate falling for the CEO’s daughter.
Girl, Stolen, by April Henry
Cheyenne’s asleep in the backseat of her mother’s car when she’s accidentally kidnapped by a group of thieves who steal it, and the combination of her pneumonia and being blind make what would already be a difficult escape seem impossible. But when one of the gang proves to have a softer heart, Cheyenne realizes what others might view as her weaknesses just might end up being her greatest strengths. And if she can trust a thief, she just may get out alive.