Interested in reading stories about teens who routinely break the law and get away with it? There's something really compelling about these kinds of books. The teens have to be pretty smart to keep up the criminal lifestyle; often the teens are a lot smarter than the adults in the book. What teen doesn't love reading about stupid adults who get their comeuppance served to them from someone under 20? Not only that, the teens beat the system (usually an unjust one) with their shenanigans, which is even more major. I still find it pretty sweet to read about, even though I'm now on the adult end of it.
Today I have a list of books for you featuring teens who are criminals in some way or another (assassins, spies, mobsters, thieves, and the like). Some of the teens are coerced into the criminal lifestyle and would rather just be normal kids; others relish the opportunity and embrace the fact that they can do what a lot of others can't. Descriptions are from Worldcat. Have any others to add? Please let me know in the comments.
First up are a group of books featuring law-breaking teens with superpowers. Let's look at this realistically: if you had superpowers, would you only use them to save lives and other boring things like that? Or would you actually use them to rob banks? Be honest.
Illusive by Emily Lloyd-Jones
After a vaccine accidentally creates superpowers in a small percentage of the population, seventeen-year-old Ciere, an illusionist, teams up with a group of fellow high-class, super-powered thieves to steal the vaccine's formula while staying one step ahead of mobsters and deadly government agents. Kimberly's review
White Cat by Holly Black
When Cassel Sharpe discovers that his older brothers have used him to carry out their criminal schemes and then stolen his memories, he figures out a way to turn their evil machinations against them. Kimberly's review | Sequels: Red Glove, Black Heart
Sekret by Lindsay Smith
Follows a group of psychic teenagers in 1960s Soviet Russia who are forced to use their powers to spy for the KGB. Kimberly's review
Mind Games by Kiersten White
Seventeen-year-old Fia and her sister, Annie, are trapped in a school that uses young female psychics and mind readers as tools for corporate espionage--and if Fia doesn't play by the rules of their deadly game, Annie will be killed. Kimberly's review
Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
In the fifteenth-century kingdom of Brittany, seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where she learns that the god of Death has blessed her with dangerous gifts--and a violent destiny. Kimberly's review | Sequels: Dark Triumph, Mortal Heart
Graceling by Kristin Cashore
In a world where some people are born with extreme and often-feared skills called Graces, Katsa struggles for redemption from her own horrifying Grace, the Grace of killing, and teams up with another young fighter to save their land from a corrupt king.
Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
Ostracized or incarcerated her whole life, seventeen-year-old Juliette is freed on the condition that she use her horrific abilities in support of The Reestablishment, a postapocalyptic dictatorship, but Adam, the only person ever to show her affection, offers hope of a better future. Sequels: Unravel Me, Ignite Me
Burn Mark by Laura Powell
In an alternate London, England, the lives of a fifteen-year-old girl eagerly awaiting the development of her "fae," or witch abilities, and the son of a man who sentences witches to death by burning, intersect when the son makes a startling discovery. Sequel: Witch Fire
If books about people with regular abilities (smart, but not super-smart; intuitive, but not mind-readers) are more your speed, check these out.
All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin
In a future where chocolate and caffeine are contraband, teenage cellphone use is illegal, and water and paper are carefully rationed, sixteen-year-old Anya Balanchine finds herself thrust unwillingly into the spotlight as heir apparent to an important New York City crime family. Kimberly's review | Sequels: Because it is My Blood, In the Age of Love and Chocolate
Heist Society by Ally Carter
A group of teenagers uses their combined talents to re-steal several priceless paintings and save fifteen-year-old Kat Bishop's father, himself an international art thief, from a vengeful collector. Sequels: Uncommon Criminals, Perfect Scoundrels
Don't Turn Around by Michelle Gagnon
After waking up on an operating table with no memory of how she got there, Noa must team up with computer hacker Peter to stop a corrupt corporation with a deadly secret.
Tokyo Heist by Diana Renn
After a high-profile art heist of three van Gogh drawings in her home town of Seattle, sixteen-year-old Violet Rossi finds herself in Japan with her artist father, searching for the related van Gogh painting.
Money Run by Jack Heath
Fifteen-year-olds Ashley and Benjamin are planning the heist of a lifetime, but they are not counting on a hit man who has plans of his own.
Pretty Crooked by Elisa Ludwig
High school sophomore Willa and her artist mother move to Arizona where Willa starts attending an elite prep school after her mother finally sells some paintings, and Willa attempts to even things out by stealing from the rich students and giving to the poor ones. Sequels: Pretty Sly, Pretty Wanted
I Am the Weapon (previously Boy Nobody) by Allen Zadoff
Sixteen-year-old Boy Nobody, an assassin controlled by a shadowy government organization, The Program, considers sabotaging his latest mission because his target reminds him of the normal life he craves. Sequel: I Am the Mission