October 3, 2017

5 Thrilling, Mysterious Reads for Middle- or High-School Shelves

It’s that time of year again! The temperatures are plummeting, trees are trading in their summer green for scarlet and ochre, and everything under the sun is flavored with pumpkin. It’s October, and the world is ripe for one last, mysterious tale before the snow sets in. Here are five of my favorite options that will fit comfortably on your shelf.

Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov
A scientist is dead; big deal. Except he was an outworlder from the planet Aurora, and he was murdered on Earth. Tension between the two planets is already high, and it’s up to Elijah Baley, detective for the New York City police, to find the killer. But when he discovers that the outworld partner he’s been assigned, Daneel Olivaw, is actually a sophisticated robot, all of his old prejudices start to surface. This book (and the rest in Asimov’s robot series) are all more philosophical than the average whodunit, which is probably why I devoured them as a tween and teen. It’s a short book, but it doesn’t always move very quickly, either; patient readers who love science fiction will stick it out for a satisfying, twisty conclusion.

Chasing the Falconers by Gordon Korman
While not exactly spooky, this one is definitely thrilling. Siblings Aiden and Meg escape the facility where they’ve been living since their parents were put in prison years earlier. They know that can clear their parents’ names if only they can get the right evidence—and dodge the police long enough to find it. It’s fast-paced, and there’s enough action to enthrall almost any reader. Some of the situations become pretty tense, too, and Korman is a master at writing cliffhangers. This is only the first book in a six-volume series, so there’s plenty more for anyone who becomes a fan.

Acceleration by Graham McNamee
Duncan’s summer job has him going through the junk in the lost and found of his local transit authority office. If it’s been there for awhile, he’s still not allowed to take it. But when he finds a strange journal with the ramblings of a madman, the teen is convinced that its owner was a serial killer. Now he’s in a race against time to prevent the next murder. This one is great for students who can handle a more tension and pressure in their books. It’s not very long and it moves at warp-speed; when I read it, it was impossible to put down. I’m actually a little surprised it never got turned into a movie…

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
This won the Newbery back in the ‘70s, and it is one of the few mysteries to ever win. The premise is slightly similar to Clue: a group of seemingly unconnected people come together to solve a mystery. The person who solves it wins a valuable prize. There’s a lot of action and humor packed into the slim volume. Modern readers might need reminding that the book was written before cell phones and Google, but I’ve recommended it many times to readers who ultimately enjoyed it.

Scary Stories Treasury by Alvin Schwartz
Okay, I’m fairly certain that two of the three collections that make up this anthology were published before I was born, but that doesn’t matter. This book is pure childhood nostalgia for me. Full disclosure: I’m not actually a fan of scary movies or anything, but there’s something compelling about the chill that runs up my spine seeing the illustrations. Some of the stories are familiar urban myths rewritten to be appropriate for kids, like the Bloody Mary in the mirror one or the ghostly hitchhiker. They’ll seem antiquated, even quaint, to adult readers. As a kid, though, reading this book under the covers with a flashlight…ah, memories. If you can find a copy, you’ll have your reluctant readers’ attention.


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