Who knew this was a fairly large genre in YA (I didn’t. I saw the occasional book.), but if crime fighting, battling terrorists with gadgets and avoiding capture for stealing secret government documents is your thing. Check out the list below.
Books are listed by author’s last name. A series will be counted as one entry. The summary of the first book will be the only summary given as later book summary may include spoilers. Titles are hyper-linked to their Goodreads page.
jennifer lynn BARNES
Bayport High operates like any other high school–jocks at the top, outsiders at the bottom, and everyone else in between. Enter Toby Klein, a sophomore computer hacker who doesn’t play well with others. She has zero school spirit, a black belt in karate, and what her guidance counselor calls an attitude problem. She’s the last person you’d expect to be invited to join the varsity cheerleading squad. But things are different at Bayport. Bayport’s varsity cheer squad is made up of the hottest of the hot. But this A-list is dangerous in more ways than one. The Squad is actually a cover for the most highly trained group of underage government operatives the United States has ever assembled. Athletically, they’re unmatchable, though they make it all look easy on the field. Mentally, they’re exceptional–but with one flash of their gorgeous smiles, you’ll completely forget that. Socially, they’re gifted, so they can command and manipulate any situation. And above all, they have the perfect cover, because, beyond herkies and highlights, no one expects anything from a cheerleader. Toby Klein might not seem like the most likely recruit, but she’s never been one to turn down a challenge. If she can handle the makeover, Bayport Hight may just have found its newest cheerleader.
Which is more dangerous: being an international spy… or surviving high school? Maggie Silver has never minded her unusual life. Cracking safes for the world’s premier spy organization and traveling the world with her insanely cool parents definitely beat high school and the accompanying cliques, bad lunches, and frustratingly simple locker combinations. (If it’s three digits, why bother locking it at all?). But when Maggie and her parents are sent to New York City for her first solo assignment, her world is transformed. Suddenly, she’s attending a private school with hundreds of “mean girl” wannabes, trying to avoid the temptation to hack the school’s elementary security system, and working to befriend the aggravatingly cute son of a potential national security threat… all while trying not to blow her cover.
When her father is killed in a coup, 15-year-old Laila flees from the war-torn middle east to a life of exile and anonymity in the U.S. Gradually she adjusts to a new school, new friends, and a new culture, but while Laila sees opportunity in her new life, her mother is focused on the past. She’s conspiring with CIA operatives and rebel factions to regain the throne their family lost. Laila can’t bear to stand still as an international crisis takes shape around her, but how can one girl stop a conflict that spans generations?
Gallagher Girls: I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You (book 1); Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy (book 2); Don’t Judge a Girl by Her Cover (book 3); Only the Good Spy Young (book 4); Out of Sight, Out of Time (book 5); Untitled (book 6)
Cammie Morgan is a student at the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women, a fairly typical all-girls school-that is, if every school taught advanced martial arts in PE and the latest in chemical warfare in science, and students received extra credit for breaking CIA codes in computer class. The Gallagher Academy might claim to be a school for geniuses but it’s really a school for spies. Even though Cammie is fluent in fourteen languages and capable of killing a man in seven different ways, she has no idea what to do when she meets an ordinary boy who thinks she’s an ordinary girl. Sure, she can tap his phone, hack into his computer, or track him through town with the skill of a real “pavement artist”-but can she maneuver a relationship with someone who can never know the truth about her? Cammie Morgan may be an elite spy-in-training, but in her sophomore year, she’s on her most dangerous mission-falling in love.
When Katarina Bishop was three, her parents took her on a trip to the Louvre…to case it. For her seventh birthday, Katarina and her Uncle Eddie traveled to Austria…to steal the crown jewels. When Kat turned fifteen, she planned a con of her own—scamming her way into the best boarding school in the country, determined to leave the family business behind. Unfortunately, leaving “the life” for a normal life proves harder than she’d expected. Soon, Kat’s friend and former co-conspirator, Hale, appears out of nowhere to bring Kat back into the world she tried so hard to escape. But he has a good reason: a powerful mobster has been robbed of his priceless art collection and wants to retrieve it. Only a master thief could have pulled this job, and Kat’s father isn’t just on the suspect list, he is the list. Caught between Interpol and a far more deadly enemy, Kat’s dad needs her help. For Kat, there is only one solution: track down the paintings and steal them back. So what if it’s a spectacularly impossible job? She’s got two weeks, a teenage crew, and hopefully just enough talent to pull off the biggest heist in her family’s history–and, with any luck, steal her life back along the way.
Sixteen-year-old Noa has been a victim of the system ever since her parents died. Now living off the grid and trusting no one, she uses her computer-hacking skills to stay safely anonymous and alone. But when she wakes up on a table in an empty warehouse with an IV in her arm and no memory of how she got there, Noa starts to wish she had someone on her side. Enter Peter Gregory. A rich kid and the leader of a hacker alliance, Peter needs people with Noa’s talents on his team. Especially after a shady corporation called AMRF threatens his life in no uncertain terms. But what Noa and Peter don’t realize is that Noa holds the key to a terrible secret, and there are those who’d stop at nothing to silence her for good.
margaret peterson HADDIX
Thirteen-year-old Jonah has always known that he was adopted, and he’s never thought it was any big deal. Then he and a new friend, Chip, who’s also adoped, begin receiving mysterious letters. The first one says, “You are one of the missing.” The second one says, “Beware! They’re coming back to get you.” Jonah, Chip, and Jonah’s sister, Katherine, are plunged into a mystery that involves the FBI, a vast smuggling operation, an airplane that appeared out of nowhere — and people who seem to appear and disappear at will. The kids discover they are caught in a battle between two opposing forces that want very different things for Jonah and Chip’s lives. Do Jonah and Chip have any choice in the matter? And what should they choose when both alternatives are horrifying?
More than anything, Tom Raines wants to be important, though his shadowy life is anything but that. For years, Tom’s drifted from casino to casino with his unlucky gambler of a dad, gaming for their survival. Keeping a roof over their heads depends on a careful combination of skill, luck, con artistry, and staying invisible. Then one day, Tom stops being invisible. Someone’s been watching his virtual-reality prowess, and he’s offered the incredible–a place at the Pentagonal Spire, an elite military academy. There, Tom’s instincts for combat will be put to the test and if he passes, he’ll become a member of the Intrasolar Forces, helping to lead his country to victory in World War III. Finally, he’ll be someone important: a superhuman war machine with the tech skills that every virtual-reality warrior dreams of. Life at the Spire holds everything that Tom’s always wanted–friends, the possibility of a girlfriend, and a life where his every action matters–but what will it cost him?
andy McNAB & robert RIGBY
Danny Watts’ grandfather, Fergus, was a Deniable Operator in the SAS before he was betrayed, imprisoned, and falsely denounced as a traitor. Now Fergus has escaped, but the real traitor is determined to silence Fergus and Danny for good. Together Danny and Fergus are forced to go on the run in an against-the-odds battle for survival. As they try to clear Fergus’ name, Danny learns all the military field craft, trade skills, and covert operations techniques that are second nature to his grandfather. When Fergus is recaptured, Danny must put those skills to the test and rescue Fergus before it’s too late.
A meth dealer. A prostitute. A serial killer. Anywhere else, they’d be vermin. At the Mandel Academy, they’re called prodigies. The most exclusive school in New York City has been training young criminals for over a century. Only the most ruthless students are allowed to graduate. The rest disappear. Flick, a teenage pickpocket, has risen to the top of his class. But then Mandel recruits a fierce new competitor who also happens to be Flick’s old flame. They’ve been told only one of them will make it out of the Mandel Academy. Will they find a way to save each other—or will the school destroy them both?
Farrah “Digit” Higgins may be going to MIT in the fall, but this L.A. high school genius has left her geek self behind in another school district so she can blend in with the popular crowd at Santa Monica High and actually enjoy her senior year. But when Farrah, the daughter of a UCLA math professor, unknowingly cracks a terrorist group’s number sequence, her laid-back senior year gets a lot more interesting. Soon she is personally investigating the case, on the run from terrorists, and faking her own kidnapping– all while trying to convince a young, hot FBI agent to take her seriously. So much for blending in . . .
In this riveting thriller, 14-year-old Steven “Steel” Trapp sets off with his mom and their dog, Cairo, on a 2-day Amtrak journey to compete in the National Science Competition in Washington, DC. Steel is both blessed and cursed with a remarkable photographic memory–just one look and whatever he sees is imprinted for keeps. Trying to be a good Samaritan on the train, he instead becomes embroiled in an ingenious, international plot of kidnapping and bribery that may have links to terrorists. Federal agents (first seen in Pearson’s adult thriller, “Cut and Run”) track Steel and his new-found science geek accomplice, Kaileigh Augustine, as they attempt to put together the pieces of a complex puzzle. Using Steel’s science contest invention–and with the help of Cairo–Steel and Kaileigh lead readers on an action-packed chase adventure as they attempt to prevent the unimaginable, before it’s too late.
When sixteen-year-old Violet agrees to spend the summer with her father, an up-and-coming artist in Seattle, she has no idea what she’s walking into. Her father’s newest clients, the Yamada family, are the victims of a high-profile art robbery: van Gogh sketches have been stolen from their home, and, until they can produce the corresponding painting, everyone’s lives are in danger–including Violet’s and her father’s. Violet’s search for the missing van Gogh takes her from the Seattle Art Museum, to the yakuza-infested streets of Tokyo, to a secluded inn in Kyoto. As the mystery thickens, Violet’s not sure whom she can trust. But she knows one thing: she has to solve the mystery–before it’s too late.
Wally was adopted from a Russian orphanage as a child and grew up in a wealthy New York City family. At fifteen, her obsessive need to rebel led her to life on the streets. Now the sixteen-year-old is beautiful and hardened, and she’s just stumbled across the possibility of discovering who she really is. She’ll stop at nothing to find her birth mother before Klesko – her dark eyed father – finds her. Because Klesko will stop at nothing to reclaim the fortune Wally’s mother stole from him long ago. Even if that means murdering his own blood. But Wally’s had her own killer training, and she’s hungry for justice.
When Zak Darke’s parents die in an unexplained mass murder he’s left alone in the world. That is until he’s sought out by a mysterious man: “I work for a government agency,” the man tells him. “You don’t need to know which one. Not yet. All you need to know is that we’ve had our eye on you. There’s a possibility you could help us in certain… operational situations.” Zak becomes Agent 21. What happened to the 20 agents before him he’ll never know. What he does know is that his life is about to change forever.
It’s prom night—and Perry just wants to stick to his own plan and finally play a much-anticipated gig with his band in the Big Apple. But when his mother makes him take Gobija Zaksauskas—their quiet, geeky Lithuanian exchange student—to the prom, he never expects that his ordinary high school guy life will soon turn on its head. Perry finds that Gobi is on a mission, and Perry has no other choice but to go along for a reckless ride through Manhattan’s concrete grid with a trained assassin in Dad’s red Jag.
Boy Nobody is the perennial new kid in school, the one few notice and nobody thinks much about. He shows up in a new high school, in a new town, under a new name, makes few friends and doesn’t stay long. Just long enough for someone in his new friend’s family to die — of “natural causes.” Mission accomplished, Boy Nobody disappears, and moves on to the next target. When his own parents died of not-so-natural causes at the age of eleven, Boy Nobody found himself under the control of The Program, a shadowy government organization that uses brainwashed kids as counter-espionage operatives. But somewhere, deep inside Boy Nobody, is somebody: the boy he once was, the boy who wants normal things (like a real home, his parents back), a boy who wants out. And he just might want those things badly enough to sabotage The Program’s next mission.