You don’t realize it but you might actually love backstabbing, manipulative liars… in books.
Hear us out!!! We’re totally aware that these characters are the worst kinds of people. You DO NOT want to experience them in real life. But from the safety of the pages of a book . . . that’s another story (pun intended). They’re awful, but wait for it—in the best way possible! When you’re reading a book and a character turns out to be truly evil, lying and manipulating their way through the story, it’s fascinating to read! There’s no redemption for them and the worse their actions are, the more you want to see them get what’s coming for them in the end.
Scroll down to see which books feature some of the absolute worst but also kind of the best messed up characters ever.
9 YA Books Featuring Some of the Best Manipulative Backstabbing Liars
1. The Lies They Tell by Gillian French
Everyone in Tenney’s Harbor knows of the Garrison tragedy. A mysterious house fire killed all but Tristan, the son of the family. Pearl Haskins knows her father didn’t do it, but the town thinks otherwise. Let’s just say it absolute insanity when we find out who really burnt down the Garrison house, and whether or not they get away with it… well you’ll have to read to find out.
Everyone in Tenney’s Harbor knows about the Garrison tragedy. How an unexplained fire ravaged their house, killing four of the five family members. But what people don’t know is who did it. All fingers point at Pearl Haskins’ father, who was the caretaker of the property, but Pearl just doesn’t believe it. Leave it to a town of rich people to blame “the help.”
With her disgraced father now trying to find work in between booze benders, Pearl’s future doesn’t hold much more than waiting tables at the local country club, where the wealthy come to flaunt their money and spread their gossip. This year, Tristan, the last surviving Garrison, and his group of affluent and arrogant friends have made a point of sitting in Pearl’s section. Though she’s repulsed by most of them, Tristan’s quiet sadness and somber demeanor have her rethinking her judgments.
Befriending the boys could mean getting closer to the truth, clearing her father’s name, and giving Tristan the closure he seems to be searching for. But it could also trap Pearl in a sinister web of secrets, lies, and betrayals that would leave no life unchanged… if it doesn’t take hers first.
2. The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee
Think of this book as Gossip Girl meets the future. In New York City, much of society lives in a tower thousands of stories high. Everyone wants to reach the top, and they’re willing to do just about anything to get there. But the higher you go, the longer the distance you have to fall. And “fall” someone does. ☠☠☠
A hundred years in the future, New York is a city of innovation and dreams. But people never change: everyone here wants something…and everyone has something to lose.
Leda Cole’s flawless exterior belies a secret addiction—to a drug she never should have tried and a boy she never should have touched. Eris Dodd-Radson’s beautiful, carefree life falls to pieces when a heartbreaking betrayal tears her family apart.Rylin Myers’s job on one of the highest floors sweeps her into a world—and a romance—she never imagined…but will her new life cost Rylin her old one? Watt Bakradi is a tech genius with a secret: he knows everything about everyone. But when he’s hired to spy by an upper-floor girl, he finds himself caught up in a complicated web of lies.
And living above everyone else on the thousandth floor is Avery Fuller, the girl genetically designed to be perfect. The girl who seems to have it all—yet is tormented by the one thing she can never have.
3. One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus
The title might say only one person is lying, but we say that’s an understatement. When five students walk into detention, and by the end of it one student is dead, no one is really innocent in that crime. But the four surviving students will try to lie their way out of the aftermath to save themselves.
Pay close attention and you might solve this.
On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.
Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?
4. Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson
Years ago, Albert Ellingham’s wife and daughter went missing, only for his wife to turn up dead and his daughter to never be found. All that was left was a note at the scene of the crime signed Truly, Devious. Cut to present day, where Stevie Bell—attending Ellingham Academy—has made it her goal to finally figure out who the killer was. There’s only one hitch in her plan, Truly Devious might be back… Can she stop the killer who got away with his crime so many years ago?
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.
5. Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard
There have been a lot of books in this series. 16 to be exact. Over the course of those books, there has been an almost unprecedented amount of lying, backstabbing, cheating, manipulation, you name it. More than one character has donned the infamous title of A to torture the rest of the girls. Almost no one walked away from this series with their hands clean. If they made it out alive that is.
Among the mega mansions and perfectly manicured hedges of Rosewood, Pennsylvania, everyone has something to hide—especially four very pretty little liars.
High school juniors Spencer, Hanna, Aria, and Emily have been keeping secrets ever since their best friend, Alison DiLaurentis, disappeared three years ago. But when the girls begin receiving threatening notes from someone named “A,” their secrets—the big ones, the little ones, even the long-buried ones—no longer seem so safe.
6. Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart
The title really lets you know what you’re in for here. Imogen is a runaway heiress, an orphan, a cook, and a cheat. Jule is a fighter, a social chameleon, and an athlete. An intense friendship. A disappearance. A murder, or maybe two. Starting at the end, this story works back to piece together what exactly happened with these two lying girls.
From the author of the unforgettable New York Times bestseller We Were Liars comes a masterful new psychological suspense novel—the story of a young woman whose diabolical smarts are her ticket into a charmed life. But how many times can someone reinvent themselves? You be the judge.
Imogen is a runaway heiress, an orphan, a cook, and a cheat.
Jule is a fighter, a social chameleon, and an athlete.
An intense friendship. A disappearance. A murder, or maybe two. A bad romance, or maybe three. Blunt objects, disguises, blood, and chocolate. The American dream, superheroes, spies, and villains. A girl who refuses to give people what they want from her. A girl who refuses to be the person she once was.
7. Liars, Inc. by Paula Stokes
It all started with a little white lie. And then a few more lies. Max never thought it would spiral how it did. He didn’t think it would end with his friend getting murdered, with him being the main suspect. But when he’s so deep in his web of lies, will he be able to untangle himself quick enough to clear his name?
Max Cantrell has never been a big fan of the truth, so when the opportunity arises to sell forged permission slips and cover stories to his classmates, it sounds like a good way to make a little money. So with the help of his friend Preston and his girlfriend, Parvati, Max starts Liars, Inc. Suddenly everybody needs something, and the cash starts pouring in. Who knew lying could be so lucrative?
When Preston wants his own cover story to go visit a girl he met online, Max doesn’t think twice about it. But then Preston never comes home. And the evidence starts to pile up—terrifying clues that lead to Preston’s body.
Terrifying clues that point to Max as the killer….
8. Unrivaled by Alyson Nöel
The things people will do for fame. In Hollywood, your most desperate dreams can quickly become your worst nightmare. When four normal teens get sucked into a game for fame, they quickly learn just how manipulative and deceitful they have to be to make their dreams come true.
Everyone wants to be someone. Layla Harrison wants to be a reporter. Aster Amirpour wants to be an actress. Tommy Phillips wants to be a guitar hero.
But Madison Brooks took destiny and made it her own a long time ago.
She’s Hollywood’s hottest starlet, and the things she did to become the name on everyone’s lips are merely a stain on the pavement, ground beneath her Louboutin heel.
That is, until Layla, Aster, and Tommy find themselves with a VIP invite to the world of Los Angeles’s nightlife and lured into a competition where Madison Brooks is the target. Just as their hopes begin to gleam like stars through the California smog, Madison Brooks goes missing… And all of their hopes are blacked out in the haze of their lies.
9. All of This is True by Lygia Day Peñaflor
Drama! Gossip! Scandal! Everyone dreams of meeting their favorite author and this book is a cautionary tale of what happens when that friendship turns sour and something BIG happens…but who is in the right and who is in the wrong? This is one addictive read that’ll have you flipping through the pages to find the truth.
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…
Do you like books featuring manipulative liars? Have more books to add to this list? Tell us everything in the comments below!