The Center for Children's Books


Graduate School of Library and Information Science
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Thrilling Tales for a Dark and Stormy Night - September 2015

Selected and annotated by Maryjo Siergiej

If you’re ready to read at the edge of your seat, take a look at the thrillers below for suspense, non-stop action, and more than a few psychological twists. Titles here are geared towards middle- and high school readers, with a range of real-world and supernatural settings to satisfy a variety of tastes.


Baer, Marianna. Frost. Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins, 2011. 400p. Gr. 9-12.
Leena is returning for her senior year at boarding school when she meets her new roommate, Celeste. Suddenly her life takes a turn towards supernatural terror and psychological torment as her involvement with Celeste leads her to question her reality.

Bell, Hilari. Trickster’s Girl. Houghton, 2011. 288p. Gr. 9-12.
When Kelsa meets Raven the shapeshifter, she is given the task of saving the unstable world. This intriguing tale blends mythology and science fiction as it explores Kelsa’s journey to overcome grief and accept uncertainty in life.

Blackwell, Paul. Undercurrent. HarperTeen/HarperCollins, 2013. 320p. Gr. 8-12.
Reality for Callum Harris becomes skewed after he falls into a waterfall that seems to start him down a supernatural path. His relationships and world are turned around, and he is stalked by a mysterious shape cloaked in shadow. Once Callum discovers the truth, nothing will be the same.

Heath, Jack. Money Run. Scholastic, 2013. 256p. Gr. 7-10.
In the first book in Heath’s Ashley Arthur series, Ashley is a teenage criminal who receives assignments from an organization called the Source. When tasked with robbing billionaire Hammond Buckland, she finds herself battling with those tasked by the United States government to assassinate the same man in this nonstop action adventure.

Kraus, Daniel. Rotters.  Delacorte, 2011. 464p. Gr. 9-12.
After his mother dies, Joey Crouch is forced to move in with his distant father. Joey’s life is turned upside-down when he discovers that his father is secretly a grave robber, and Joey is subsequently swept into the business. In this dark tale, readers travel with Joey as he begins a road filled with questionable moral choices.

Johnson, Maureen. The Name of the Star. Putnam, 2011. 400p. Gr. 8-12.
In this first book in the Shades of London series, seventeen-year-old Rory has just started private school in London when the city is attacked by what seems to be Jack the Ripper, returned over a century after his original crimes. Rory sees the infamous killer, but it’s soon clear that she’s the only one who has—or can—and she’s therefore swept up in the hunt for the ghostly killer.

Miranda, Megan. Hysteria. Walker, 2013. 272p. Gr. 8-10.
Mallory killed her boyfriend in self-defense, and now she believes she is haunted by his spirit in this supernatural thriller. Trying for a new start at a boarding school, she finds herself unable to leave the past behind—especially since it may have followed her into the present.

Powell, Laura. The Game of Triumphs. Knopf, 2011. 288p. Gr. 7-10.
After stumbling into a dark and secret world, Cat becomes a player in the Game of Triumphs, a role-playing version of Tarot cards. Players are allowed to choose the reward for which they fight, and if she wins, her prize will be solving her parents’ murder and killing the criminal in revenge.

Renner, Ellen. Castle of Shadows. Houghton, 2012. 400p. Gr. 4-7.
Finding a letter from her missing mother leads Charlie, the Royal Princess of Quale, on a mission to end Quale’s regency and restore the queen to the throne. With a setting that evokes nineteenth-century Britain—from royals to impoverished subjects—and an engaging main character, this book offers a satisfying royal adventure.

Sedgwick, Marcus. White Crow. Roaring Book, 2011. 256p. Gr. 8-10.
When Rebecca spends the summer with her father, she becomes friends with Ferelith, who is fixated on death. In 1798, a priest’s evil deeds have become local legend. Sedgwick plays these plotlines against each other until they converge in a terrifying conclusion that’s a satisfying end to a dark and creepy story.

Taylor, Laini. Dreams of Gods & Monsters. Little, 2014. 624p. Gr.7-10.
In the final book in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series, angel Akiva and chimaera Karou gather allies to fight Akiva’s uncle, who plans on starting a war against the universe Eretz with an army of Dominion soldiers. This solid wrap-up to a stellar series is a suspenseful tale that will keep readers on the edge of their seats.

Terry, Teri. Slated. Paulsen/Penguin, 2013. 368p. Gr. 9-12.
Criminal Kyla Davis has her memories wiped away, or “slated,” so she can contribute to her futuristic world. However, as her memories begin to return, she realizes that her past contains dangerous and important secrets. Terry explores how memory and the past shape one’s character in this suspenseful and multi-layered story.

Woods, Elizabeth. Choker. Simon, 2011. 240p. Grades 8-12.
Cara, nicknamed “Choker,” becomes entangled in a twisted web when she investigates a classmate’s disappearance. Woods creates a compelling and believable villain in Choker’s classmate Zoe; the character’s transformation over the course of the novel is harrowing, and the mind-bending conclusion will keep readers on the edge of their seats.

Wynne-Jones, Tim. Blink & Caution. Candlewick, 2011. 352p. Gr. 7-10.
Wynne-Jones cleverly employs two different narrative viewpoints to trace the story of Blink and Caution, who meet when Blink encounters a possible kidnapping. They team up, using their complementary skills and characters to solve a spine-tingling mystery and help one another grow.