What is it about true crime podcasts that makes them sooooo addictive?!
The possibilities are endless. It might be the tension-filled pacing, the “ripped from the headlines” scenarios, or the unpredictable plot twists. Then, on top of all of those, we have the voices that have come out so strong, snappy and sarcastic and relatable in ways that actually make murder and mysteries seem fun. We vote all of the above, and these are also the things we look for when we’re in the mood for a YA mystery.
We’ve compiled a list of our favorite reads that kept us on the edge of our seats with jaw-dropping twists—perfect for when you’re looking for a read full of the thrills and chills of your favorite podcasts. And hey, bonus: You can also listen to them as audiobooks!
9 True Crime Books Perfect for Podcast Fans
1. Broken Things by Lauren Oliver
This chilling mystery revisits a cold case that isn’t as cold as everyone thinks—the world has agreed that Mia and Brynn killed their best friend. After all, Summer’s death was eerily similar to a scene straight out of a fanfiction the girls co-wrote for their fave novel. But when a new break pulls the girls back together, they’re forced to confront everything they left behind.
It’s been five years since Summer Marks was brutally murdered in the woods.
Everyone thinks Mia and Brynn killed their best friend. That driven by their obsession with a novel called The Way into Lovelorn the three girls had imagined themselves into the magical world where their fantasies became twisted, even deadly.
The only thing is: they didn’t do it.
On the anniversary of Summer’s death, a seemingly insignificant discovery resurrects the mystery and pulls Mia and Brynn back together once again. But as the lines begin to blur between past and present and fiction and reality, the girls must confront what really happened in the woods all those years ago—no matter how monstrous.
2. Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand
If you want something more sinister and tinged with mythology reminiscent of Stranger Things, you need to read Sawkill Girls. This brutal, feminist, magical book takes place on an island, set against the whispers of a monstrous legend. Girls have been disappearing for decades, and only now are they ready to fight back.
Who are the Sawkill Girls?
Marion: The newbie. Awkward and plain, steady and dependable. Weighed down by tragedy and hungry for love she’s sure she’ll never find. Zoey: The pariah. Luckless and lonely, hurting but hiding it. Aching with grief and dreaming of vanished girls. Maybe she’s broken—or maybe everyone else is. Val: The queen bee. Gorgeous and privileged, ruthless and regal. Words like silk and eyes like knives; a heart made of secrets and a mouth full of lies.
Their stories come together on the island of Sawkill Rock, where gleaming horses graze in rolling pastures and cold waves crash against black cliffs. Where kids whisper the legend of an insidious monster at parties and around campfires. Where girls have been disappearing for decades, stolen away by a ravenous evil no one has dared to fight…until now.
3. The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
After her sister’s killer goes free, Alex Craft turns vigilante in this dark and stunning tale of justice and revenge. And that’s only the beginning. This incredible (and fast-paced) novel tackles rape culture, romance, expectations… and you will be blown away.
Alex Craft knows how to kill someone. And she doesn’t feel bad about it.
Three years ago, when her older sister, Anna, was murdered and the killer walked free, Alex uncaged the language she knows best—the language of violence.
While her own crime goes unpunished, Alex knows she can’t be trusted among other people. Not with Jack, the star athlete who wants to really know her but still feels guilty over the role he played the night Anna’s body was discovered. And not with Peekay, the preacher’s kid with a defiant streak who befriends Alex while they volunteer at an animal shelter. Not anyone.
As their senior year unfolds, Alex’s darker nature breaks out, setting these three teens on a collision course that will change their lives forever.
- Find out more about The Female of the Species
- Add The Female of the Species to your Goodreads shelf!
4. Sadie by Courtney Summers
Considering half this book is told, post-narrative, in the form of a podcast exploring the story of the titular character, this might just be the perfect book to bridge the gap between podcast and fiction. The voice will remind you of a podcast host you know, and, well, we can’t really say anything else without spoiling, but the twists will have you gasping.
Sadie hasn’t had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she’s been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water.
But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie’s entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister’s killer to justice and hits the road following a few meagre clues to find him.
When West McCray—a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America—overhears Sadie’s story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie’s journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it’s too late.
5. Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson
Mary was convicted of committing an unspeakable crime at nine years old, and has been living with the consequences ever since. It explores the gray areas in both truth and the justice system, and it’s perfect for anyone who likes a little more context and commentary with their crime. This unpredictable page turner will have you guessing until the very last page.
Mary B. Addison killed a baby.
Allegedly. She didn’t say much in that first interview with detectives, and the media filled in the only blanks that mattered: a white baby had died while under the care of a churchgoing black woman and her nine-year-old daughter. The public convicted Mary and the jury made it official. But did she do it?
There wasn’t a point to setting the record straight before, but now she’s got Ted—and their unborn child—to think about. When the state threatens to take her baby, Mary’s fate now lies in the hands of the one person she distrusts the most: her Momma. No one knows the real Momma. But does anyone know the real Mary?
6. Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson
With snarky wit and a cast of quirky characters, this whodunnit mystery perfectly blends the hilarity and jaw-dropping twists of some of our favorite podcasts. Put your headphones on and disappear into the world of a boarding school with a campus like a puzzle, a main character who’s a true crime aficionado herself, and not one, but two unsolved mysteries.
Ellingham Academy is a famous private school in Vermont for the brightest thinkers, inventors, and artists. It was founded by Albert Ellingham, an early twentieth century tycoon, who wanted to make a wonderful place full of riddles, twisting pathways, and gardens. “A place,” he said, “where learning is a game.”
Shortly after the school opened, his wife and daughter were kidnapped. The only real clue was a mocking riddle listing methods of murder, signed with the frightening pseudonym “Truly, Devious.” It became one of the great unsolved crimes of American history.
True-crime aficionado Stevie Bell is set to begin her first year at Ellingham Academy, and she has an ambitious plan: She will solve this cold case. That is, she will solve the case when she gets a grip on her demanding new school life and her housemates: the inventor, the novelist, the actor, the artist, and the jokester. But something strange is happening. Truly Devious makes a surprise return, and death revisits Ellingham Academy. The past has crawled out of its grave. Someone has gotten away with murder.
7. All of This Is True by Lygia Day Peñaflor
Lygia described this book, not as a whodunnit, but as a whydunnit, and it practically blew our minds. We could NOT put this one down, and the fact that its told through incredibly unique, strong, and snappy voices by way of diaries, interviews, and more should appeal to ANY true crime fan. It might not be unsolved, but there’s more than meets the eye.
In this genre-defying page-turner from Lygia Day Peñaflor, four teens befriend their favorite YA novelist, only to find their deepest, darkest secrets in the pages of her next book—with devastating consequences.
Miri Tan loved the book Undertow like it was a living being. So when she and her friends went to a book signing to hear the author, Fatima Ro, they concocted a plan to get close to her.
Soleil Johnston wanted to be a writer herself one day. When she and her friends started hanging out with her favorite author, Fatima Ro, she couldn’t believe their luck—especially when Jonah Nicholls started hanging out with them, too.
Penny Panzarella was more than the materialist party girl everyone at the Graham School thought she was—and she was willing to share all her secrets with Fatima Ro to prove it.
Jonah Nicholls had more to hide than any of them. And now that Fatima’s next book is out in the world, he’s the one who is paying the price…
8. People Like Us by Dana Mele
Some of our favorite podcasts do what they do best by introducing the people involved before deconstructing their actual involvement, their close proximities and associations with the events as they’re unfolding. People Like Us is a whirlwind of twists set against a murder investigation, and as Kay’s life crumbles, she steps up to keep it in shape.
Kay Donovan may have skeletons in her closet, but the past is past, and she’s reinvented herself entirely. Now she’s a star soccer player whose group of gorgeous friends run their private school with effortless popularity and acerbic wit. But when a girl’s body is found in the lake, Kay’s carefully constructed life begins to topple.
The dead girl has left Kay a computer-coded scavenger hunt, which, as it unravels, begins to implicate suspect after suspect, until Kay herself is in the crosshairs of a murder investigation. But if Kay’s finally backed into a corner, she’ll do what it takes to survive. Because at Bates Academy, the truth is something you make…not something that happened.
9. The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas
Ready to start peeling back a mystery, layer by layer? The Cheerleaders has all the same components as our fave podcasts: a snappy voice, a ghastly mystery, and secrets being kept that ever-so-slowly see the light of day.
There are no more cheerleaders in the town of Sunnybrook.
First there was the car accident—two girls gone after hitting a tree on a rainy night. Not long after, the murders happened. Those two girls were killed by the man next door. The police shot him, so no one will ever know why he did it. Monica’s sister was the last cheerleader to die. After her suicide, Sunnybrook High disbanded the cheer squad. No one wanted to be reminded of the girls they lost.
That was five years ago. Now the faculty and students at Sunnybrook High want to remember the lost cheerleaders. But for Monica, it’s not that easy. She just wants to forget. Only, Monica’s world is starting to unravel. There are the letters in her stepdad’s desk, an unearthed, years-old cell phone, a strange new friend at school… Whatever happened five years ago isn’t over. Some people in town know more than they’re saying. And somehow Monica is at the center of it all.
There are no more cheerleaders in Sunnybrook, but that doesn’t mean anyone else is safe.