The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy (2017)

disappearancesA unique, suspenseful mystery-fantasy set in the 1940s.

Recommended grade level: 7 and up

Pages:   388 (for ISBN 9780544879362

Genre(s) and keywords: mystery, historical fiction, fantasy, romance, magical realism (yeah I know that’s like all the genres),

Tone/Style: mysterious, dark

Pace: leisurely to moderate

Topics: hidden past of a family member, curses, blame

Themes: grief and loss, alienation, romantic relationships, family

Summary: Aila Quinn’s mother, Juliet, has always been a mystery: vibrant yet guarded, she keeps her secrets beyond Aila’s reach. When Juliet dies, Aila and her younger brother Miles are sent to live in Sterling, a rural town far from home–and the place where Juliet grew up. Continue reading

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling (2017)

InsignificantA smart and hilarious voice sets this apart from other books in its genre.

Recommended grade level: 4 and up

Pages:   262 (for ISBN 9781454923459)

Genre(s) and keywords: realistic fiction, humor, mystery, ability diverse

Tone/Style: blunt, humorous

Pace: leisurely to moderate

Topics: differently-abled people, theme parks, moving, making friends, new experiences

Themes: perseverance, independence, family, being different, friendship

Summary: Aven Green gets that question a lot. She loves to tell people that she lost her arms in an alligator wrestling match, or a wildfire in Tanzania, but the truth is she was born without them. And when her parents take a job running Stagecoach Pass, a rundown western theme park in Arizona, Aven moves with them across the country knowing that she’ll have to answer the question over and over again. Continue reading

The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud (2013)

Action-palockwoodcked, legitimately scary, and distinctly British.

Recommended grade level: 5 and up

Pages:   390 (for ISBN 9781423164913)

Genre(s) and keywords: horror, mystery

Tone/Style: scary, dark

Pace: moderate to fast

Topics: ghosts, psychic powers, agencies

Themes: young people vs. adults, self-reliance, guilt

Summary: There is an epidemic of ghosts in Britain. Their touch brings death, and only children have the power to fight them.

Lucy Carlyle, a young psychic investigator, joins London’s smallest agency, run by the charismatic Anthony Lockwood and his ever-hungry assistant  George Cubbins. Together the trio must investigate some of the spookiest and deadliest spectral hauntings in the city, armed only with the tools of the ghost-hunting trade (magnesium flares, iron filings, chains and salt bombs), their courage and a thermos of tea.

Continue reading

The Art of Secrets by James Klise (2014)

art-ofIslamophobia leads to victim-blaming in a mystery set in a Chicago high school.

Recommended grade level: 6 and up

Pages:   272 (for ISBN 9781616201951)

Genre(s) and keywords: mystery, diverse

Tone/Style: gritty

Pace: moderate

Topics: fires, art, fundraisers, crimes, Islam, islamophobia

Themes: trust, prejudice, greed

Summary: A fire destroys…A community unites…A treasure appears…A crime unfolds…

When Saba Khan’s family home burns in a mysterious fire (possibly a hate crime), her Chicago high school rallies around her. But then a piece of quirky art donated to a school fund-raising effort for the Khans is revealed to be worth a fortune, and Saba’s life turns upside down again. Continue reading

City of Saints and Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson (2017)

This mystery, set in Kenya and the Congo, packs an emotional and disturbing punch.

Recommended grade level: mature 8th graders and up

Pages:   401 (for ISBN 9780399547584)

Genre(s) and keywords: mystery, thriller, realistic, diverse, international, Africa (Kenya and the Congo)

Tone/Style: gritty

Pace: moderate

Topics: murder, investigations, refugees

Themes: family, trust, revenge, traumatic family history

Summary: In the shadows of Sangui City, there lives a girl who doesn’t exist. After fleeing the Congo as refugees, Tina and her mother arrived in Kenya looking for the chance to build a new life and home. Her mother quickly found work as a maid for a prominent family, headed by Roland Greyhill, one of the city’s most respected business leaders. But Tina soon learns that the Greyhill fortune was made from a life of corruption and crime. So when her mother is found shot to death in Mr. Greyhill’s personal study, she knows exactly who’s behind it. Continue reading

Click Here to Start by Dennis Markell (2016)

clickThree twelve-year-olds hunt for treasure in a book that integrates virtual escape-the-room games into its mystery.

Recommended grade level: 5 and up

Pages:  320 (for ISBN 9781101931875)

Genre(s) and keywords: mystery, adventure, puzzle, diverse

Tone/Style: analytical, curious

Pace: moderate to fast

Topics: escape rooms, World War II, Asian-Americans, Jewish Americans

Themes: friendship, family, legacies

Summary: What if playing video games was prepping you to solve an incredible real-world puzzle and locate a priceless treasure?

Twelve-year-old Ted Gerson has spent most of his summer playing video games. So when his great-uncle dies and bequeaths him the all so-called treasure in his overstuffed junk shop of an apartment, Ted explores it like it’s another level to beat. And to his shock, he finds that eccentric Great-Uncle Ted actually has set the place up like a real-life escape-the-room game! Continue reading

Jackaby by William Ritter (2014)

jackabyA charmingly silly detective is at the center of this Victorian-era supernatural mystery.

Recommended grade level: 7 and up

Pages: 229 (for ISBN 9781616203535)

Genre(s) and keywords: mystery, supernatural, light horror

Tone/Style: creepy, formal

Pace: moderate

Topics: fairies, unexplained phenomena, Victorian, detectives, serial killers, monsters

Themes: women’s rights, grief, being oneself

Summary: Newly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England, 1892, and in need of a job, Abigail Rook meets R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with a keen eye for the extraordinary–including the ability to see supernatural beings. Abigail has a gift for noticing ordinary but important details, which makes her perfect for the position of Jackaby’s assistant. On her first day, Abigail finds herself in the midst of a thrilling case: A serial killer is on the loose. The police are convinced it’s an ordinary villain, but Jackaby is certain it’s a nonhuman creature, whose existence the police–with the exception of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane–deny. Continue reading