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Are all YA Mysteries Genre Busters? | Laura Pauling

Are all YA Mysteries Genre Busters?

Welcome to week 3 of celebrating my YA novel, A Spy Like Me! Today we have Jennifer Hoffine! 


I’ve known Jennifer for several years. We met on Critique Circle and still read for each other as needed. She’s a terrific writer with her own news later in the post. Take it away, Jennifer!


Murder, crime, clues, suspense, spying, mayhem. When is a Mystery story still a capital-“M” Mystery story?

I suppose it’s anytime a mystery is the main thing driving the plot.

Even so, it’s difficult to do traditional mysteries in YA because the stock cast doesn’t exist in their world…i.e. there aren’t many teenaged police officers, medical examiners, private investigators, spies, lawyers or judges.

So, to some extent, all YA Mysteries are genre-busting stories.

Some do this through the setting/situation:

Like Ally Carter’s Gallagher girl’s series, where a high school for training girl spies propels the protag and her friends into real-life international intrigues.

Laura Pauling uses her protag’s employment at her dad’s role-playing spy games business to get her into some real-life trouble.

A historical Veronica Mars where a girl ends up helping her father with his P.I. business.

Other times, the mystery is not a Who-done-it but a Why did it happen?


Looking for Alaska is about students trying to understand a friend’s sudden death.

You all know this one about a girl who leaves clues behind about why she killed herself.

And sometimes the protag knows the mystery but doesn’t reveal it to the readers right away.



Some of my favorites involve using an object to propel the mystery forward.

Revolution uses a diary to connect a girl in the present with a girl in the past.



In Dreamland Social club, a set of keys unlocks a mother’s and Coney Island’s past.


I have a genre-busting mystery series myself. No murders or crimes involved, but lots of spying…on cheating boyfriends. Cheater Beaters will come out through Coliloquy later this year.

Finally, Ally Carter has taken YA Mystery genre busting to the next level with her Heist Society series, about a group of young professional art thieves. I love this one even more than the Gallagher Girls series.

Today we’re giving away a signed hardback of the second in the series: Uncommon Criminals.


Just Comment and tweet to enter.


Wow! Thanks, Jennifer. What a great giveaway. And I definitely found a couple books to check out! I love this concept of mystery that doesn’t include murder and how different authors approach it.

Can you think of any genre bending mysteries?

Jennifer holds lots of terrific giveaways on her blog as she talks about Young adult books. Give her a follow!

Be sure to check out the Indelibles Beach Bash to win a free Nook or Kindle and lots of books! I’m giving away the re-release of my short story, The Almost Assassin. It’s a free download for anyone!





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13 Responses to Are all YA Mysteries Genre Busters?

  1. Dianne Salerni May 21, 2012 at 10:36 am #

    Great post! Don’t forget your gothic-style mystery, where the protagonist has to solve unravel dark family secrets in a spooky setting.

  2. Natalie Aguirre May 21, 2012 at 11:30 am #

    Great post. I can’t think of any others, but you did a great job listing the ones where it works. Thanks so much for sharing this. Good luck with your book.

  3. Louise May 21, 2012 at 11:49 am #

    I’ve been calling my current WIP more an adventure than a mystery – there’s a puzzle to be solved (where are the stolen papers hidden?), but it’s more a challenge to my protag’s wits than an actual clue-following mystery (mostly because I’m so, so terrible at laying clues without making them obvious). I guess it never really occurred to me that it could still fit within the larger genre of mystery, just in a different class!

    Oh, and I love the Heist Society books, too. They’re so much fun!

  4. Creepy Query Girl May 21, 2012 at 12:15 pm #

    awesome list of YA mystery books! And whaaa? A signed hard back copy? Holy Crap!

  5. Kelly Polark May 21, 2012 at 12:51 pm #

    That’s a great list! I still have to read most of them!!!! So many great books, I’ll just keep chugging along til I get to them all! 🙂

  6. Leigh Moore May 21, 2012 at 3:07 pm #

    Great point about the usual cast of characters being absent in YA mysteries. I hadn’t thought of that before! Laura does a great job in her book w/the role playing, etc.

    And super-congrats to you w/Cheater Beaters! Hope it sells like hotcakes. 😀

    I’ve got the first Heist Society book on my kindle, but I haven’t started it yet. Looks great! Thanks, guys! Fun post~

  7. Lisa Green May 21, 2012 at 4:27 pm #

    It seems to me that a little mystery is important no matter what genre you’re writing in! I love including them in my fantasy and Sci-fi stories. Great post!

  8. alicia marie May 22, 2012 at 1:41 am #

    i love books with mystery, and there’s a few of those i haven’t read yet! great post and awesome list : )

  9. Leslie Rose May 22, 2012 at 4:18 am #

    Oh, I love, love, loved Revolution. Following well placed breadcrumbs make for fun story journeys.

  10. Margo Berendsen May 22, 2012 at 10:50 pm #

    Cheater Beaters sounds fantastic!!! I love the premise. Excellent point about how YA mysteries are genre-busters. And I haven’t read any Ally Carter yet, so I’d love to win… tweeting this @writerWyoming


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