Mysterious reads with female leads
CHILDREN’S BOOKS | Four fiction books for young teens and preteens
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The Amelia Six
Kristin L. Gray
Millie Ashford, an 11-year-old Rubik’s Cube phenom, deals with social anxiety in the wake of her parents’ separation—and she’s due for a win. That comes in the form of a letter from The Ninety-Nines, a foundation of female aviators, sharing that she and a group of similarly gifted girls have won the opportunity to spend a night at Amelia Earhart’s childhood home. But the STEM-themed sleepover goes awry when someone within the mansion steals Amelia’s famed aviator goggles. Is it the down-to-earth cook, the crotchety maid, the caretaker’s ne’er-do-well nephew, or someone else entirely? Readers will enjoy the tightly crafted and fast-paced mystery, appropriate for the upper elementary and middle school set. (Ages 9-13)
Aggie Morton, Mystery Queen: The Body Under the Piano
In Book 1 of this series, mystery maven Agatha Christie serves as inspiration for author Jocelyn’s heroine. The father of 12-year-old Aggie Morton has recently died and the girl whiles away the hours in coastal Cornwall. Her mournfulness changes to intrigue when Aggie arrives early for her regular dance lesson only to stumble upon the body of an apparent victim of poisoning. With her new friend, a Belgian immigrant named Hector Perot (note the similarity to Christie’s Hercule Poirot), Aggie determines to work through a long list of potential perpetrators to solve the murder mystery. A rich slate of supporting characters enhances this charming Edwardian era whodunit. (Ages 10-13)
Too Many Secrets
Patricia H. Rushford
An early-1990s middle grade mystery that stands the test of three decades, this book offers Nancy Drew–esque sleuthing with a similarly wholesome tone. Jennie McGrady, 16, is preoccupied with plans to spend the summer at her grandmother’s house—particularly because of the dreamy neighbor boy. But those summer plans are upended when Gram, a retired police officer-turned-travel writer, disappears. Her family’s ambivalence—perhaps she extended a recent trip and didn’t call—prompts Jennie to investigate. Add a diamond heist and complicated family relationships, and Jennie finds herself in dangerous waters. Christian overtones mark this dynamic first in a series. (Ages 11-14)
A Pocket Full of Murder
Mystery meets fantasy in Book 1 of two as intrepid Isaveth Breck seeks to free her imprisoned father—wrongly accused of murdering a government official. Anderson sets the action against the squalor of dystopian Tarreton, a Dickensian wasteland where the use of magic sharply divides the classes. Isaveth joins forces with an enigmatic young man, Quiz, to clear her father’s name. A labyrinth of class warfare, deceit, and surprising revelations make Isaveth and Quiz’s race against the clock all the more suspenseful. Impressive world-building, family loyalty, and faith elements come together for a complex and worthwhile read. (Ages 9-14)
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