Our latest recommendation for young readers is a crime story aimed at over 14s – here’s why it’s worth a read.

One of the areas that’s been heavily cut back on as newspapers and magazines trim their budgets in current times is reviews of books for young readers. As such, it’s getting trickier and trickier for authors of books for children and younger readers to get their work noticed. This weekly spot on the site is our attempt to do something about that. If you see a book you like here, please do spread the word. And who knows? We may see some of these stories on the big screen in the future.

Within young adult literature, there seems to be one genre really on the rise. That’d be the thirst for crime fiction for teens; whether that’s induced by the amount of (varying degrees of quality) crime documentaries on Netflix, or the two serving as mutual companions of interest and intrigue is unclear. What is clear however the popularity of YA crime novels – Karen M Mcamanus’s One Of Us Is Lying was a New York Times Bestseller for 129 weeks. Holly Jackson’s A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder stayed on the list for over half a year.

If you, or a young reader in your life, are looking for a similarly criminally minded book, then you’re going to want to check out They Wish They Were Us by Jessica Goodman.

In it, Jill Newman is in her final year of high school. She appears to be living the kind of life that everyone else at her school looks on wistfully and enviously. She’s got the perfect boyfriend, both belong to the most popular and most prestigious group at school – The Players. She gets some of the best grades in school and has a bright future ahead of her pursuing her love of astrophysics.

But the first day of school begins the same way it has done the past couple of years; an assembly in memory of her best friend Shaila, who was murdered three years ago by boyfriend Graham on the day of their final initiation into The Players. Yet when Jill starts receiving texts proclaiming Graham’s innocence, Jill’s future looks less certain – how much will she have to sacrifice to finally get to the truth?

Although set throughout Jill’s last year at school, following her over the course of the year as her life comes at increasing risk of being completely upended, there’s something about this book that makes it a terrific read for grey and cold February. Maybe it’s the escapism, of reading about a not-so-secret, secret society and all the perks they have in life. Or, more likely, it’s hearing how such a golden life is centred on a rotten core – that privilege comes with a cost, and who gets to decide how that’s paid.

Goodman effortlessly skips between the past and the present: how Jill became who she is, what she did to get there and how, finally, she may be able to really process what actually happened – not just to Shalia, but to all of them.

Set at a more gradual pace than you might expect, this is a real slow burner that is more than worth sticking with. There’s lies, secrets, scandal, and betrayals aplenty. Think Gossip Girl meets Pretty Little Liars via M. A. Bennett’s S.T.A.G.S. A tale that’s compulsively entertaining and ripe for adapting.

Title: They Wish They Were Us
Author: Jessica Goodman
Reading age: 14+
Publisher: Razorbill
Release date: Out now
Purchase / more info

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