by Cassie Wefald Cassie Wefald No Comments

Young Adult Thrillers by Black Authors

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.

by Cassie Wefald Cassie Wefald No Comments

The Collective: One of the Year’s Best Thrillers

The Collective: One of the Year’s Best Thrillers By Alison Gaylin

Reviewed by Marcia Allen, Collection Services Librarian, Manhattan Public Library

Camille Gardener lost control of her life five years ago.  Heartbroken over the death of her 15-year-old daughter who attended a fraternity party, drank too much, was raped, and wound up freezing to death beyond the fraternity lawn, Camille has just made a terrible decision.  Mixing medications with alcohol, she feels it is a reasonable decision for her to attend the alleged rapist’s award ceremony for exemplary service.  Of course, this goes badly.  She loudly accuses him of murder, and Camille is quickly arrested for the disruption.  She is allowed a phone call that she places to her dear friend Luke, and she is released the next day.

The connection between Camille and Luke is a sad one.  When it became clear that Camille’s daughter would not survive her ordeal, Camille and her then-husband Matt decided to donate their daughter’s organs.  Luke is the recipient of the young victim’s heart.

A business card handed to Camille at the ceremony features one word on it: Niobe.  Camille researches the name and learns that Niobe was a figure of Greek mythology, a mother of twelve whose children were murdered when her bragging about them enraged the other Greek deities.  A follow-up email informs Camille of a group of mothers whose children’s murderers have not been punished.  Feeling that this might be a helpful support group, Camille reaches out to other grieving mothers via the dark web and learns that they are all involved in the business of untraceable justice, successfully torturing and murdering unpunished offenders.  Thus, begins a thriller that is unlike any other in recent publishing.  Following in the steps of our damaged protagonist, we are drawn into her involvement in this group and cringe when she performs tasks that become increasingly more daring and more productive.

What gives this book its special appeal?  It’s really a combination of several factors, all working together to create a believable and horrific tale of grief and its aftermath.  Camille, for example, is a character for whom we feel great empathy.  The man responsible for her daughter’s death was vindicated, and Camille was treated as a pariah for being so outraged and outspoken.  Though it has been five years since her daughter died, Camille has made no progress toward any sense of peace or acceptance, nor has she found any kind of helpful therapy.  Her role as grieving mother is a clear reminder to any parent of the awful pain inflicted when a child dies.

Another compelling aspect of the book is the depth to which Camille allows herself to be sucked into the actions of the Niobe group.  She finds herself doing things that she would never have considered had she not lost her daughter.  Her initial horror at what she has done quickly becomes an acceptance that she justifies because of her loss.  She does not seem to realize that once she is involved, there is no turning back.

The intricate plot is equally captivating.  Camille quickly learns that this group has been in operation for a few years, so its steps to retribution are convoluted and planned slowly over time to evade discovery.  We learn of Camille’s realizations just as she does, and there is something to be admired in the planning.

All in all, this is one heck of a story that begs to be read by those who enjoy thrillers.  You will find that “The Collective” does not disappoint.   Like me, you will probably rush to see what else author Gaylin has written, and you will not be surprised to learn that she earned an Edgar Award for one of her other thrillers, “If I Die Tonight.”