Serial Killers in YA: A (Creepy) History

Welcome to the second (and final!) week of Spies, Alter Egos and Serial Killers.  Last week I looked at Spies and Alter Egos, with a review of  Sekret and a look at Author Alter Egos.

This week we'll turn to serial killers. Today, I'll look at YA serial killer books over the past decade, and on Wednesday I'll compare and contrast two upcoming books about teen girl serial killers, Killer Instinct and Dear Killer. On Trending Thursday, I'll look at serial killer trends and discuss the YA Serial Killer Book Credibility Problem, and on Friday I'll have another serial killer book giveaway.

There have been a fair number of YA serial killer books over the last decade. Synopses are mine and links lead to the books' Goodreads pages.

Acceleration by Graham McNamee (Wendy Lamb, 2003)
In the lost and found of the Toronto subway, a boy finds the secret diary of a serial killer and hopes to stop him. 

The Christopher Killer by Alane Ferguson (Viking, 2006)
A girl who assists her father, the county coroner, finds herself stalked by a serial killer.

Wish You Were Dead by Todd Strasser (Egmont, 2009)
After an anonymous blogger wishes a popular girl would die, she turns up dead and everyone wonders who will be next.

The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting (Harper, 2010)
A girl who can sense the "echoes" of the dead becomes embroiled in a murder investigation.

I Am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells (Tor, 2010)
A fifteen year old boy who fears he'll become a serial killer helps the police in a murder investigation.

Slice of Cherry by Dia Reeves (Simon Pulse, 2011)
The two daughters of a notorious serial killer go on a vengeful murder spree.

Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson (Putnam, 2011)
A girl arrives at a London boarding school to discover that a Jack the Ripper copycat is on the loose.

Envy by Gregg Olsen (Splinter, 2011)
Twins Hayley and Taylor use their telepathic powers to solve murders in their creepy town.

I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga (Little, Brown, 2012)
The son of a notorious serial killer uses his unique insights to aid the police in the hunt for a killer.

Ripper by Stefan Petrucha (Philomel, 2012)
A young boy in turn-of-the-century New York helps the Pinkerton Agency and Police Commissioner Teddy Roosevelt search for a serial killer.

Slide by Jill Hathaway (Balzer + Bray, 2012)
Vee uses her ability to "slide" into others' consciousnesses to solve a series of murders at her school.

Ripper by Amy Carol Reeves (Flux, 2012)
A young girl in turn-of-the-century-London has visions of Jack the Ripper.

The Diviners by Libba Bray (Little, Brown 2012)
In 1920s New York, smalltown girl Evie realizes that her psychic gift might help catch creepy serial killer Naughty John. 

Slide by Jill Hathaway (Balzer + Bray 2012)
A girl with a paranormal ability to "slide" into others' consciousness tries to stop a serial killer at her high school.

Ten by Gretchen McNeil (Balzer+ Bray 2012)
In this Agatha Christie update, a group of teens is trapped on a remote island with a vengeful killer.

Velveteen by Daniel Marks (Delacorte 2012)
After being murdered by a serial killer, Velveteen lands in purgatory and is determined to haunt her murderer.

Shadowlands by Kate Brian (Hyperion 2013)
A girl who survived an attack by a serial killer enters witness protection on a mysterious island.

Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer by Katie Alender (Scholastic 2013)
Colette's class trip to Paris is marred by a ghostly Marie Antoinette on a murder spree.

Impostor by Susanne Winnacker (Razorbill 2013)
A girl with the ability to transform into others changes herself into a murder victim to stop a serial killer.

The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (Hyperion 2013)
The FBI gathers a team of teens with psychic abilities to help solve murders.

New Additions 2014:

Nearly Gone by Elle Cosimano (Kathy Dawson 2014)
A high school student and an undercover cop team up to stop a serial killer preying on high school students.

Dear Killer by Katherine Ewell (Katherine Tegen 2014)
A high school student in London works as a hired killer.

Killer Instinct by S. E. Green (Simon Pulse 2014)
A teenager with dark urges starts researching serial killers.

YA Serial Killer Books tend to have certain elements,  some of which overlap in a single book:

Paranormal: There are a lot of "special abilities" and "psychic gifts" going on in books like The Body Finder, The Naturals, Impostor, Slide and The Diviners. Other books, like Name of the Star and Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer have ghostly twists.

Historical: Serial killer books like Ripper, The Diviners, The Name of the Star, and Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer either take place in the past, or have past killers who haunt the present.

Psychology and Identity: In books like Slice of Cherry, I Am Not a Serial Killer, or I Hunt Killers, a teen protagonist grapples with his or her own family history and dark urges.

Scooby Gang/Teen Sleuth: This is an element in most, if not all, YA Serial Killer books. In books like I Am Not a Serial Killer, Slide, Acceleration, or Velveteen, the protagonist falls more into the "lone wolf" investigator that you'd see in an adult serial killer book, while books like The Body Finders, Impostor, the Naturals, and Name of the Star feature the ever-popular Scooby Gang.

What are your favorite YA Serial Killer books? Did I miss any? Please let me know in comments.

Then stop back on Wednesday, when I talk about a new-ish trend, I Am a Girl Serial Killer, Hear Me Roar and on Thursday, when I discuss various Serial Killer Trends, some of which are good news indeed...


  1. I m not a huge fan of thrillers, but I do love The Body Finder series!

    Kate @ Ex Libris

    1. That's definitely a more PNR book with a serial killer element, so it makes sense that you like that even if you find other books too dark..

  2. You listed some great books up there! A lot on my TBR as well! The Diviners was so creepy, and one of my favorite recent books! The story and the characters were wonderful, although it did scare me quite a bit! The Name of the Star also was really good, and the ending had me scared to death for the MC! I also really liked I Hunt Killers, and I LOVE the Body Finder series!

    1. Those books I talked about were all 5 star reads for me, by the way ;)

    2. Ha -- you really do love this kind of book. I've read about half the ones on the list!

  3. Quite a few of these are on my to read list-I need to get on that. I couldn't get into the Body Finder series, I didn't think book 1 was that good.

    1. Like I told Kate (above) it may be that you need a grittier book. Try one of the others!

  4. Love the I Hunt Killers series!!!

  5. Serial killer books are always the ones that I hesitate to read. I have a highly overactive imagination and tend to believe that a serial killer could be around any corner as soon as I read one. Doesn't make for very restful living. haha

    1. Well, stop by on Thursday and I will assure you that is NOT the case....

  6. I haven't read very many books about serial killers. I think the only one was The Body Finder and it was super creepy! Right now I'm actually reading a book about serial killers though, Serial Hottie by Kelly Oram. But, as you can tell from the title, it's more a comedy than actually creepy. Can't wait to hear more about this trend!

  7. This is a fantastic post and just what I've been looking for :) I've been trying to find books like this, but didn't really know where to start and now I have a few to add to my tbr!

    Janina @ Synchronized Reading

  8. I love a good thriller, add in a serial killer and it is even better. The Body Finder series was awesome and so was Name of the Star. Another one that I thought was a good was Another Little Piece, it had a paranormal aspect to it.

  9. I've read a couple serial killer books like The Body Finder Series & Shadowlands but I don't like anything too dark or gruesome. Shadowlands was actually really hard for me to stomach. It's definitely a popular trend right now though.

  10. I hunt killers was really good. I read Acceleration years ago. I read a lot of adult serial killer books and started reading some of the YA. They are pretty good. :)

  11. Great topic! You made all the books sound very interesting, and I can't wait to read your Wed post. :)

  12. Very interesting post. I don't read that many novels with creepy serial killers in them, so I don't know most of the books you've mentioned:)

  13. I love the concept of serial killer books but this list just made me realize how little of them I have actually read. I think the thing with thrillers like this for me is a sense of believability in its own world. That determines if I like the book. I enjoyed the two Body Finder books I've read and would love to finish the series. I also want to read I Hunt Killers.

  14. Great roundup! I really liked The Body Finder series, and The Name of the Star and The Diviners. Velvetten and I Hunt Killers were awesome too. Can't wait to read more this week!

  15. I love The Name of the Star series, can't wait for the 3rd book!

  16. Wow such a large collection of YA serial killer books! Didn't quite realise that there were so many. I Hunt Killers was AMAZING! Can't wait for the third book in that series to come out :D
    I really need to read I Am Not a Serial Killer too, I've heard a lot of great things about that book!

  17. I think Gretchen McNeil's TEN would fall into the serial killer category--it was only okay for me though I love the whole kids trapped on an island with a serial killer angle:) this post reminds me that I still need to read the Barry Lyga book!

  18. I'm not a thriller girl, but sometimes I do find one I like. They're just hit and miss with me. Love your comparison to the "Scooby gang!" Very fun! My kids actually like that show. :)

  19. I find it really sad that I've only read two of the books on your list. I must change this! I need to read Slice of Cherry, I Hunt Killers, The Diviners, Ten, and The Naturals. They all look really good.

  20. Whoa am I impressed with this list-I would not have picked serial killer as such a popular plot point for YA but apparently I was wrong. The Diviners has long been on my to-read list and I'm hoping to bump it up now that I know it features a serial killer.


Post a Comment

Thanks so much for stopping by. I hope you will share your thoughts on this post!