Diversify Your Shelves with WNDB--August 3, 2015

Contributed by Karen Sandler


Riveting page­turners with lots of twists and surprises are so much fun to read. They’re the ones that keep you up late at night, on the edge of your seat with each new revelation. The excitement of suspenseful thrillers can steal your breath when the main character that you’ve come to know and love confronts high­stakes peril. Who can go to sleep without finding out what happens after that cliff­hanger moment?

I’ve recently read three “unputdownable” young adult suspense/thriller novels with a bonus—all three were written by diverse authors (and featuring diverse characters). Their stories were so gripping, I tore through them at a lightning pace. These books are my personal recommendations, and I hope you’ll check them out.


Endangered by Lamar Giles

Author Lamar Giles demonstrated his skill at penning thrillers with his debut book, Fake ID. With his second novel, Endangered, he introduces us to a new set of characters, including our African­American heroine, Lauren “Panda” Daniels, and her adversary, the mysterious Admirer.

Panda, a photoblogger, likes to keep a low profile. She specializes in catching classmates and teachers in compromising situations then posts the pictures on her anonymous blog. The Admirer claims to know Panda’s true identity and threatens to expose it unless Panda goes along with a serious of dangerous dares—dares that eventually turn deadly.


Why you’ll love this book:

  •  Panda is tough but likeable, with a backstory that explains her mission of exposing others’ missteps

  •  If you’re a photography buff, you’ll enjoy the details of how Panda gets her pictures, but even if you’re not into photography, the window Giles provides into that world is intriguing

  •  The tension just keeps getting wound tighter and tighter as the stakes get raised with each page

  •  The climax is jaw­dropping
    If you loved
    Fake ID, you’ve got to pick up Endangered. If you haven’t yet read Giles’s first 
    book, you’ll want to pick it up after reading Endangered.



  • The Living & The Hunted by Matt de la Peña


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Yes, I’m cheating here recommending two books instead of one. And while I read The Hunted recently, I actually read Matt de la Peña’s apocalyptic thriller, The Living, at least a year ago. But you’ll get the most enjoyment out of The Hunted if you read The Living first.

In The Living, Shy Espinoza, a Mexican­American teen from Southern California, takes a summer job on a cruise ship to make some extra money to help out his mom and sister. It seems like a dream job—bikinis, free food, maybe even a girl or two while he’s raking in tips from the rich passengers. But then the Big One hits California and the cruise ship is wiped out by a tsunami. Shy survives, but there’s even worse to come.

In The Hunted, Shy and a couple friends, including Carmen, the girl he loves, make it back to California. But they face the utter destruction of the state, society, and everything they knew. As if the earthquake and tsunami weren’t enough, a virulent disease is wiping out the population. Only Shy and his friends can save what’s left of the Golden State.


Why you’ll love these books:

  •  Reading them is like watching a high stakes, special effects­laden action film

  •  Shy is an engaging character who manages to be strong and capable while still being a

    regular kid

  •  The disaster is horrifying (de la Peña doesn’t pull any punches) but not gratuitous

  •  The plot twists are clever and unexpected

    As someone who’s a native Californian, these books were especially gripping for me. But anyone who likes action and great characters will love reading The Living and its sequel The Hunted.



    Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton

    Who knew a book about ballerinas would be so jam­packed with suspense? by co­authors Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton is not about adorable little girls in tutus—although they’re featured in the story (and referred to as petit rats—little rats). The main characters in Tiny Pretty Things are savvy, been­around­the­block teens, dancers who would kneecap you if it meant they’d get a starring role in The Nutcracker.

    Gigi, Bette, and June all want to be prima at their competitive NY ballet school. But the pressures of being number one bring out the weaknesses in each of them—Gigi, a physical problem that could kill her, Bette, the shadow of her stellar ballerina older sister, and June, the overwhelming expectations of her mother. The three main characters alternate telling the story, and what seems true one moment shifts the next until you’re not sure what’s real and what isn’t.page2image22424 page2image22584 page2image22744 page2image22904 page2image23064

Why you’ll love this book:

  •  Utterly compelling characters, mesmerizing even when they’re doing something awful to each other

  •  A fascinating look at the world of ballet

  •  A diverse cast of characters who in are turns totally likeable and completely hateable (is that a word?)

  •  A story you really won’t be able to put down until the last page

    Full confession—I’ve never seen an actual ballet. I lasted through a month of ballet in my teens (not prima material, believe me). But I devoured Tiny Pretty Things. It was that phenomenal a read.


  • Karen Sandler is the author of nineteen novels for adults, as well as TANKBORN, AWAKENING, and REBELLION, a YA science fiction trilogy from Lee & Low/Tu Books. Just a few felines short of being a full­fledged Cat Lady, she loves chocolate, horses, and folk dancing. She is a founding member of We Need Diverse Books