Disappearing Acts

By Jarrett Dapier

In each of these sharply written, psychological YA mystery thrillers (plus one comedy) someone important to our hero goes missing, often under disturbing circumstances. Each entry also has that "something more" that will leave you thinking, imagining, and caring about the characters while your heart races out of your chest. Now, go get lost in these books.

  • Shift

    2008 by Jennifer Bradbury

    Best friends Chris and Win embark on a cross-country bike trek to celebrate their high school graduation. Only one returns. The FBI investigates and the mystery deepens. This moving debut novel by Jennifer Bradbury combines elements of a great road trip book, a clever missing person mystery, and the story of two friends ready for new but very different lives.

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  • Reality Check

    2009 by Peter Abrahams

    When his girlfriend Clea disappears from a boarding school, 16-year-old high school dropout Cody sets out to find her. As he joins the search in and around the Vermont town where she disappeared, he enters a world rocked by the resentments of working class locals, investigators, and hyper-privileged private school teens. Cody refuses to give up on his search for Clea and proves to himself and the world that an average guy can do great things with little more than dogged persistence and a caring heart.

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  • Last Seen Leaving

    2016 by Caleb Roehrig

    Roehrig's debut novel combines the best elements of a coming-of-age novel with a missing-person whodunit. When Flynn's girlfriend goes missing he's a suspect, but to clear his name he needs to reveal one of his deepest secrets before he's ready. Flynn's struggle is intensely rendered and the mystery shocks and twists like a lightning bolt. Along with Harlan Coben's Shelter, this one is one of my favorite YA mysteries.

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  • Zahra's paradise

    2011 by Amir

    In the midst of the stolen 2009 Iranian election and subsequent mass protests, a young man, Mehdi, goes missing. His brother, a blogger, and his mother are determined to find him. Their investigation leads them across Tehran where they encounter mass graves, run afoul of terrifyingly corrupt government officials, and witness the violent suppression of their fellow citizens. This is a sharply illustrated graphic novel for readers interested in Iran. It is rightfully compared to modern classics, Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis and Art Spiegelman's Maus.

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  • Shelter : a Mickey Bolitar novel

    2011 by Harlan Coben

    Mickey Bolitar's girlfriend is missing and his quest to find her is full of contorted twists, danger, even chilling horror elements. This book is full of hair-raising suspense, action, and leads the reader deep into a terrifying criminal underworld. Cohen connects this world to little-known WWII Nazi history in surprising ways. I think this is one of the best YA mystery thrillers out there.

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  • Scat

    2009 by Carl Hiaasen

    Meet Bunny Starch. Bunny is a six foot tall biology teacher who loves the smell of eighth grader fear. One day she disappears during a class field trip in a dangerous Florida swamp. Was she eaten by alligators and black widows or did Smoke, the class pyromaniac, kidnap her? As Nick and Marta dig for the truth they discover a tangled knot of hapless fools, rightous eco-warriors, and two corrupt businessmen who would rather kill an endangered panther and burn down a jungle than go to jail.

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  • Girl, Stolen

    2010 by April Henry

    Girl, Stolen is told from the point of view of the missing person herself, making it less a mystery and more a suspense-thriller. Cheyenne is blind and suffering pneumonia. We follow her story as she fights for her life against Griffin, her accidental abductor. Griffin just meant to steal Cheyenne's mom's car as it idled in a parking lot; he didn't know there was a girl in the backseat. When he discovers that Cheyenne is the daughter of a wealthy CEO, he refuses to let her go. How will Cheyenne get out of this one alive? Read it and find out.

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  • Everybody Sees the Ants : a novel

    2011 by A. S. King

    This one is my outlier pick: not exactly a mystery but definitely mysterious. It's the story of endlessly bullied Lucky Linderman who has a secret; when he falls asleep he enters the Laos jungle with his grandfather who went missing in the Vietnam War. Are these dreams or are they real events? A.S. King's novel is a brilliantly original look at personal trauma, the pain suffered by families of MIA/POW soldiers, and friends who challenge us to grow into our better selves.

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  • Bone Gap

    2015 by Laura Ruby

    Everyone in the small town of Bone Gap thinks they know what happened to Roza, the girl who disappeared, but only Finn knows the truth: she was kidnapped. And he’s going to find the man who did it. Only, Finn has a cognitive disability that makes this task all but impossible. It’s a mystery. It’s a myth. It’s magical. It’s a book about summer, beauty, bees, love, loss, and the ways others see us and the ways we see ourselves. You won’t read another one like it.

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