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I’m a setting junky (as we’ve already established). A strong sense of place is especially great in books that take place in locales I’ve never visited in real life, but I also love well-written settings in places that are familiar to me. Reading about places I know in real life feels like a secret conversation between me and the author. Vermont is one of my favorite states, and mystery is one of my favorite genres, so naturally these three YA mysteries set in the Green Mountain state were bookish catnip for me.
Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson
Stevie Bell is a true crime aficionado, so she leaps at a chance to attend Ellingham Academy, an exclusive boarding school in Vermont with a decades-old cold case. But once at Ellingham, strange occurrences escalate into murder, and that murder points to Truly Devious, the nameless villain from more than seventy years ago.
I loved this twisty mystery and Johnson’s offbeat humor as the mystery ramps up, but my favorite page of this book occurs early on: Stevie and her housemates go to the cafeteria and behold how wonderfully bonkers Vermont is about maple everything and seltzer. It was like Maureen Johnson has been standing right next to me my first week of grad school!
White Rabbit by Caleb Roehrig
Rufus is just getting over his ex-boyfriend, Sebastian, when Seb shows up at a party, wanting to talk. But before they can, Rufus is summoned by his half-sister, April, to a house in the woods. There, Rufus and Sebastian find April’s boyfriend, dead, and April, covered in blood and no memory of what happened. That’s just the start of a dangerous, whirlwind night as Rufus and Sebastian must stay one step ahead of the police—and the killer—to clear April’s name, all the while wondering if there is anything still between them.
White Rabbit takes place in and around Burlington. I’ve not spent a lot of time there, but it was really cool to read about landmarks I know and had visited! This book also explores the opioid and drug crisis, which is an aspect of Vermont life you don’t often get.
Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn
Andrew Winston Winters is haunted. He lives at a Vermont boarding school, where a man has recently been found mauled to death in the woods. But he’s plagued by thoughts and memories of his childhood with his two siblings, and the summer everything unraveled. To say much more is to give away what makes reading this book so enticing. Kuehn jumps back and forth in Drew/Win’s past and presence, building to a shocking reveal.
Less procedural than the others, this is a really fascinating book with a mystery at its heart. While half of the book takes place elsewhere, the Vermont woods and boarding school settings factor into this deliciously thrilling book, giving it a slightly Gothic vibe.
Need more YA mysteries in your life? We have 50 must-reads for you!
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