10 Must-Read Psychological Thriller Books For Young Adults

The twists and turns in these books will make you see the world differently.
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The psychological thriller genre is a book genre that combines intriguing psychological narratives with a suspenseful story.

I have recently been addicted to this genre because of the thrill that comes with reading psychological thrillers. However, I have noticed that a lot of well-known psychological thrillers are targeted toward older adults, which is why I have compiled this list for young adults. 

Here are 10 must-read psychological thrillers that will keep you on your toes! 

1. The Likeness by Tana French

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What is The Likeness about?

The Likeness is about a detective named Cassie Maddox who goes undercover at an Irish University to take the place of a murdered girl who looks exactly like her. She is tasked with the responsibility of infiltrating the murdered girl’s friend group and finding out who the killer is, all while making sure she does not accidentally expose her true identity. 

Why should you read The Likeness?

Even though the premise is somewhat unrealistic, The Likeness was definitely entertaining and suspenseful. Cassie was an intriguing protagonist and it was very interesting to read from her point of view (this book can be read as a standalone). I like how this psychological thriller does not focus on who the murderer is and instead focuses on why the murder was committed, which is why I highly recommend this book. 

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2. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

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What is Gone Girl about?

Gone Girl begins with Nick Dunne’s wife, Amy, disappearing on the day of their fifth wedding anniversary. It is revealed that their marriage was not truly perfect and all evidence points toward Nick being the killer … but is he?

Why should you read Gone Girl?

Gone Girl is a fast-paced psychological thriller that explores how identities and truth can be influenced and distorted by the media. Even though this book focuses on a marriage gone wrong, young adults will still find it easy to read and understand, especially since both of the main characters are compelling narrators. The effective use of narrative structure also adds to the suspense of the story and there are a lot of twists and turns that will surprise you. 

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3. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

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What is Big Little Lies about?

Big Little Lies focuses on three mothers whose children are in the same Kindergarten class. Madeline is struggling to connect with the teenage daughter of her first marriage, Jane is a single mother with a mysterious past, and Celeste is trying to maintain the facade of a perfect life amidst an abusive relationship. This book uncovers the events that lead up to how they become suspects for murder at the school’s Trivia Night.

Why should you read Big Little Lies?

The writing was incredibly clever, blending in a variety of styles that make up this excellent psychological thriller. Each character is realistic and has a distinguishable personality. On the surface, Big Little Lies appears to be a typical suburban drama, but it uncovers deeper themes that will still interest young adults, such as family, friendship, and identity.

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4. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

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What is The Girl on the Train about?

In The Girl on the Train, Rachel takes the same train every day and makes up stories about the couple who live in the house outside the train stop. She thinks their lives are perfect and wishes that she could be that happy. However, one day, she witnesses something shocking that shatters her image of them and she is unexpectedly pulled into their lives.

Why should you read The Girl on the Train?

There are a lot of plot twists that make The Girl on the Train a great psychological thriller. Every character has important secrets that are pertinent to the story. In addition, I like the incorporation of an unreliable narrator, which adds to the suspense and intensity of the plot. 

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5. Here Lies Daniel Tate by Cristin Terrill

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What is Here Lies Daniel Tate about?

Here Lies Daniel Tate is about a young con artist who accidentally gets caught up in a huge scam. He has been impersonating a boy who has been missing from his wealthy family for over six years. Soon, he begins to realize that the situation is more than he bargained for and that the family he has faked to become a part of may also be hiding a dangerous secret.

Why should you read Here Lies Daniel Tate?

Here Lies Daniel Tate is a very engaging psychological thriller that has a lot of plot twists and focuses on an unreliable narrator. It is perfect for young adults, as the characters are part of that demographic, and it is fast-paced. The story hooks you right from the beginning and you are kept guessing right until the end of the book.

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6. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

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What is Little Fires Everywhere about?

Little Fires Everywhere begins with the Richardsons’ youngest daughter setting their house on fire. Then, we are provided with a compelling and emotional family portrait filled with realistic character interactions to uncover the reason behind the fire. 

Why should you read Little Fires Everywhere?

The writing was beautiful and effectively explores themes of motherhood, love, and family. Also, I liked the social commentary on racial and economic disparities, especially how these topics are treated in typical suburban neighborhoods. Little Fires Everywhere is not very fast-paced, but young adults will still enjoy reading the interactions between these three-dimensional characters. 

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7. White Ivy by Susie Yang

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What is White Ivy about?

Ivy Lin is an ambitious thief and liar, and White Ivy focuses on her mission to infiltrate the wealthy Speyer family. However, just as she gets comfortable attending luxurious dinners and fancy weekend getaways, someone from her past reappears and threatens to destroy her nearly perfect life.

Why should you read White Ivy?

This is a very fast and engaging coming-of-age psychological thriller that addresses themes of class, racism, social mobility, and privilege through the lens of a morally grey protagonist. I love how Ivy is not your typical anti-hero, and I enjoyed reading about her complex family relationships. It was great to read about how Ivy subverts the model minority myth, and I liked the Chinese-American representation in White Ivy

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8. These Violent Delights by Micah Nemerever

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What is the book These Violent Delights about?

Compared to The Secret History and Call Me By Your Name, These Violent Delights focuses on Paul and Julian, who are immediately attracted to one another when they meet in their first year of university. Their relationship soon becomes obsessive and violent as they are forced to face the disconcerting depths of what it means to be human.

Why should you read These Violent Delights?

I was very invested in this story and its characters, with the slow-building suspense and the great writing. These Violent Delights is very gripping and immersive, and I highly recommend this for young adults who want to read something atmospheric, riveting, and psychologically thrilling. 

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9. Beartown by Fredrik Backman

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What is Beartown about?

Beartown is a small town on the brink of collapse, with only the junior ice hockey team holding the community together. However, after the semi-final match, a violent act occurs that has the potential to shatter all of the town’s hopes and dreams, also leaving a young girl traumatized. Accusations are made and secrets unfold as the town struggles with what to believe. 

Why should you read Beartown?

Beartown is so beautifully written. Every single one of these characters feels real and everything about their interactions and behaviors is hauntingly believable. As someone who has competitively played a team sport similar to hockey for over ten years, I can wholeheartedly say that Fredrik Backman captures the intensity of the sport so well. I highly recommend this psychological thriller for young adults because it perfectly illustrates how our society reacts to certain situations.

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10. One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus 

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What is One of Us Is Lying about?

One of Us Is Lying is about five high school students who walk into detention, but only four of them walk out alive. The remaining students are all suspects with something to hide, and this book focuses on how far people will go to protect their secrets.

Why should you read One of Us Is Lying?

I like the use of foreshadowing in One of Us Is Lying so you can try to piece together the clues and figure out who was behind the murder. Even though the characters initially succumb to their stereotypes, they eventually become more developed and dynamic. Overall, this is a great psychological thriller for young adults with the right amount of suspense and mystery. 

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The psychological thriller genre is really interesting to read as you begin to understand how the characters' behaviors and motives are related to the twists and turns of an intense story. I highly recommend these ten books for the young adult or older demographic, as they are very engaging and easy to read. The twists and turns in these psychological thriller books will blow your mind. 

Content Writer based in Vancouver, BC. Currently a university student studying Social Sciences and Business. Avid reader and Netflix binger.

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