Young Adult Thrillers by Black Authors

by Alyssa Yenzer

Young Adult Thrillers by Black Authors

By: Savannah Winkler, Library Assistant 2

Cover of "Ace of Spades" by Faridah Abike IyimideThere is nothing I love more than a good thriller. Whether it be about ghostly hauntings or mysterious crimes, I can’t get enough of stories that make me double check my doors at night. Growing up, though, I wasn’t familiar with many thrillers for young adults. When I thought of thrillers back then, I thought of books like R.L. Stine’s Fear Street series, and I pictured the ominous illustrations and terrified faces of white teens on almost every cover. While I still enjoy and appreciate classic thrillers like Fear Street, the genre has thankfully become more diverse, and Black authors in particular have finally started to be represented. While there is still much progress to be made, I’d like to highlight a few of these YA thrillers by Black authors that may send a chill up your spine.

Are you a fan of “Gossip Girl?” Or perhaps Jordan Peele’s award-winning horror film, “Get Out?” If so, “Ace of Spades” by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé might be the book for you. Devon Richards is a quiet but talented musician, and headgirl Chiamaka Adebayo has ambitious plans for her future. When they are both are chosen to be Niveus Private Academy’s class prefects, it seems like nothing could ruin their senior year. Then the anonymous text messages start. The texter, who goes by Aces, is determined to ruin Devon and Chiamaka’s lives one text at a time. Soon the whole school knows their most private secrets, and their once-bright futures are suddenly threatened. When the harassing texts start to turn into something deadlier, Devon and Chiamaka must team up to stop Aces once and for all.

High school is hard and being able to see the dead doesn’t make it any easier. In “The Taking of Jake Livingston” by Ryan Douglass, sixteen-year-old Jake has enough complications in his life. He’s one of the few Black students at St. Clair Prep, and the school hallways aren’t exactly inviting. Not just because of the bullies, but the ghosts, too. Jake has been able to see spirits of the dead for most of his life, and normally they’re harmless. That is, until Sawyer, the ghost of a school shooter who took the lives of six students, begins to haunt him. Jake becomes a tool in Sawyer’s plan for revenge, and more atrocities devastate the town. Jake soon realizes he is the only one who can stop Sawyer’s unrelenting vengeance—if he can survive.

In “White Smoke” by Tiffany D. Jackson, Mari Anderson is also haunted by ghosts. Mari struggles with anxiety and substance abuse. Following a stay in rehab, she and her blended family move into a historic house in the Midwestern city known as Cedarville. Mari immediately knows there is something wrong with their new home. Doors open and close on their own, household items disappear, and a horrible smell that only Mari notices moves through the house. Then her stepsister, Piper, suddenly has an imaginary friend that isn’t interested in keeping Mari around. As she begins to learn more about her new city, Mari realizes that her house isn’t the only thing wrong with Cedarville—the local legends about the abandoned houses along their street may be more fact than fiction. But as her anxieties begin to worsen, Mari must do everything she can to hold it together and find out what’s truly haunting their home.

February is Black History Month, and you can find more book recommendations on the library catalog at Also keep an eye out for the library’s monthly ReadMHK podcast for more recommendations and discussion on this month’s topic, Black authors.