With witty characters, winding plots, and dramatic conclusions, mysteries and thrillers are some of students’ most favorite reads. Add a layer of intrigue to your literature unit with these exhilarating books that’ll keep students hooked until the end!

Grades 4-6

Lexile Measure: 660L
Consider teaching Louis Sachar's humorous, inventive, and engrossing novel—a New York Times Best Seller, and a Newbery Medal winner. Featuring a mystery, a very unlucky protagonist, and plenty of digging (to build character, obviously), Holes is a book that young students will thoroughly enjoy.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
Lexile Measure: 700L
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler is an award-winning book written by E.L. Konigsburg. When Claudia Kincaid decides to run away, she decides to run to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Once there, Claudia and her brother struggle to uncover the mystery of a marble statue that was once owned by Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. This Newbery Medal-winning book has become a staple in classrooms around the country and a favorite of students.

Lexile Measure: 740L
This wonderfully chilling novel, winner of the Hugo Award and the Bram Stoker Award for Best Work for Young Readers, has been likened to a modern-day version of Alice in Wonderland. The imaginative story of Coraline, a little girl who discovers an alternate world through a mysterious door in her parents’ apartment, has all the makings of a classic young adult horror story that will keep your students interested in reading more.

The Westing Game
Lexile Measure: 750L
Samuel W. Westing was an eccentric millionaire, and true to his character, his will ordered his 16 heirs to compete in a contest to uncover his murderer. They must work through blizzards, burglaries, and bombings to solve the mystery. This fun, thought-provoking novel will surely hold your middle school students' interest.

Harriet the Spy
Lexile Measure: 760L
This award-winning novel does an excellent job of portraying childhood problems and emotions. The extremely intelligent and overwhelmingly curious Harriet Welsch writes down observations about everyone she knows because she believes she is a spy. When her friends find her notebook and read what she has written, Harriet’s world gets turned upside down.

Grades 7-8

The Fixer
Lexile Measure: HL620L
In The Fixer, the first in a new series of gripping young adult novels, readers will be glued to the pages as Jennifer Lynn Barnes deftly tackles political intrigue and scandalous secrets. Sixteen-year-old Tess Kendrick realizes that, much like her older sister, she has a knack for "fixing" other students' problems. But when she uncovers a conspiracy that goes all the way to Capitol Hill, Tess finds herself caught up in a string of events, each one more shocking than the last. With plenty of plot twists and surprises to keep even the most skeptical readers invested, The Fixer will undoubtedly thrill and delight all of your students.

Lexile Measure: 760L
Nail-biting action and intense adventure set against the Colorado River await readers in this novel. Even your most dubious students will find themselves transported to the Grand Canyon as rebellious Jessie and her troublemaking cohorts embark on an unsupervised trip of a lifetime.

The Hunger Games
Lexile Measure: 810L
When her sister is called to compete against other teenagers in a battle to the death called the Hunger Games, Katniss bravely takes her place, and she becomes an unlikely contender in a grisly, government-sponsored event. This dystopian novel set in the not-so-distant future is filled with fast-paced action and suspense that will enthrall readers from the first few pages. 

The Hound of the Baskervilles
Lexile Measure: 840L
Easily the most popular of the Sherlock Holmes series, The Hound of the Baskervilles tells the story of the untimely death of Sir Charles Baskerville and the enormous, phantom hound that seems to have caused it. Suffused with an aura of the supernatural, this murder mystery is a great way to get students interested in literature and to expose them to the great detective himself.

The Lie Tree
Lexile Measure: 860L
When Reverend Sunderly, a well-known scientist, is mysteriously found dead, his bright and curious daughter, Faith, instinctively knows he was murdered. Set in 19th-century Britain, Faith’s inquisitive nature and knack for uncovering secrets leads her to discovering her father’s final research project: a small fantastical tree that feeds on lies and bears fruit that tells the truth. Enlighten your students on timely themes such as feminism, science, and the often perilous journey to knowledge with Frances Hardinge’s award-winning novel. 

Grades 9-10

And Then There Were None
Lexile Measure: 570L
Excite your students with this deliciously twisted murder mystery filled with nonstop action and a truly engaging plot. When an anonymous killer invites 10 strangers to an island, they find themselves hunted down one by one as punishment for their past crimes. This Agatha Christie classic not only defies the normal formula for justice, but also breaks down for your students the dangers of relying on social classes.

The Enemy
Lexile Measure: 740L
Fans of the horror genre will appreciate Higson’s gruesome take on zombies in The Enemy, the first in a series of post-apocalyptic novels set in London. As ravenous creatures prowl the streets, a small group of survivors find themselves on a terrifying journey to safety. Surprise your students with this gripping story that is gaining remarkable traction with teachers across the country.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Lexile Measure: 890L
It’s easy to see why this modern fantasy novel spent 70 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List. You’ll be amazed at how engaged your students will be, thanks to the creepy and unusual photographs scattered throughout the book and the story of outsiders coming together to create a home. 

Dreamland Burning
Lexile Measure: 890L
Alternating between the past and the present, Dreamland Burning examines how the effects of discrimination and hate can pass from one generation to another unless someone takes action to end the cycle. In modern Tulsa, Oklahoma, Rowan is determined to discover the identity of a skeleton found on her family’s property. Meanwhile, in 1921, William must contend with racial tensions on the advent of the Tulsa Race Riots. As they read through the book, students will see the unexpected way that Rowan’s and William’s story, though told years apart, intertwine.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Lexile Measure: 1090L
This book will capture your students' imaginations, and it's a fantastic opportunity to discuss the role of the first-person narrator in fiction. When Christopher John Francis Boone discovers his neighbor's dead dog, an improbable murder mystery begins. Christopher is autistic, seeing and reacting to the world with a uniquely intelligent perspective that can be enlightening. 

Grades 11-12

Murder on the Orient Express
Lexile Measure: 640L
Rightfully known as the Queen of Mystery, Agatha Christie presents one of her finest and smartest whodunits in Murder on the Orient Express. Thanks to the new film adaptation, starring Kenneth Branagh as the iconic Belgian detective, teachers are revisiting Christie's 1934 classic with renewed interest.

Lexile Measure: 840L
In the not-so-distant future, convicted criminals are sent to Alcatraz 2.0, a heavily surveilled prison island run by a mysterious figure known as The Postman. Thanks to the power of social media, ordinary citizens can watch events on the island unfold in real time, including executions carried out by The Postman’s hired assassins. Falsely accused of murdering her stepsister, seventeen-year-old Dee fights for her life on Alcatraz 2.0, all while trying to uncover The Postman’s true motives. 

Lexile Measure: 870L
This mythic novel from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Toni Morrison is part historical fiction and part ghost story. Based on a true account, this story of an escaped female slave who kills her child rather than allowing her to also become a slave is a powerful introduction to the mental and physical effects slavery had on its victims. Your classes will get the themes of home, slavery, dominance, and the importance of family while they savor the suspense and the power of Morrison's language.

In Cold Blood
Lexile Measure: 1040L
With the publication of In Cold Blood, Capote permanently ripped through the barriers that separate crime reporting from serious literature and journalism from fiction. These distinctions are ones your classes will inevitably need to understand. As he reconstructs, in non-linear fashion, the 1959 murder of a Kansas farm family and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers, Capote expertly generates both suspense and empathy.

The Devil in the White City
Lexile Measure: 1170L
The Devil in the White City tells the parallel stories of the creation of one of the greatest architectural and cultural events ever, the 1894 World’s Fair in Chicago, and the horrors behind one of America’s most terrifying serial killers, H.H. Holmes. The book reveals the world at the turn of the 20th century with an honesty that will truly bring that time to life. This award-winning nonfiction story, part mystery, part history, can easily be taught to most grades.

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