When we were kids, my sisters and I were spy enthusiasts.
Our summer nights were spent sleuthing around the backyard, pretending to be experts of espionage. We loved watching spy movies, coming up with code names (my oldest sister’s was always Krystal), and imagining the kinds of high tech gadgets we would use to save the world from supervillains.
It’s probably no surprise that we loved spy books as well.
From tales of international espionage to stories about secret code crackers, spy books offer an exhilarating and entertaining escape to readers of all ages—even those teens that may be reluctant to pick up a book. If your child is one of these reluctant readers (or is simply on the hunt for their next read), a spy book could be just the thing they need.
So, without further ado, let’s put on some night vision goggles and sneak our way into Troomi’s list of the best spy books for teens.
Code Name Verity (2012)
Code Name Verity tells the story of Maddie and Julie, a pilot and a spy fighting for Britain in World War II. When their plane goes down in Nazi-occupied France, Julie is captured by the enemy and forced to write a confession detailing her involvement in the war. Maddie, on the other hand, avoids capture. Using spy knowledge gained from Julie, the pilot takes it upon herself to sneak into danger and rescue her best friend before it’s too late.
A gripping work of historical spy fiction, Code Name Verity is full of twists and turns that keep readers guessing. In addition to the thrilling narrative, this spy book for teens also delves into themes of friendship and loyalty as it celebrates the women who played significant roles in World War II.
Alex Rider series (2000–2023)
Fourteen-year-old Alex Rider is a regular teen—except for the fact that he’s secretly a spy. After the mysterious death of his uncle, Alex is recruited by the British intelligence agency MI6 to take his relative’s place as an international superspy. His first mission: investigate Stormbreaker, a recently invented supercomputer, and its shady inventor, billionaire Herod Sayle.
Stormbreaker, the first novel in Anthony Horowitz’ Alex Rider series, was released in 2000 and became an instant phenomenon. Since then, the author has written 13 sequels and adapted the first six stories into graphic novels. And don’t worry if your teen can’t get enough of Alex Rider: there’s an Alex Rider film and TV-series to keep their appetite for spy books sated.
Gallagher Girls series (2006–2018)
Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls series follows teenager Cammie Morgan, a student at the Gallagher Academy of Exceptional Young Women. However, Gallagher Academy isn’t your everyday prep school; it’s actually a top-secret training facility for young spies. Throughout the series, Cammie and her friends must learn how to juggle the everyday challenges of high school with their secret lives as covert agents.
The first book in the series, I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You was released in 2006 and introduces readers to the world of Gallagher Academy. Cammie’s story is then continued in six more novels. If your teen enjoys strong female characters, tales of international intrigue, and non-stop action, this could be the series for them!
Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two (2006)
There’s more to spies than fancy gadgets and sleek suits. In Joseph Bruchac’s Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two, readers are introduced to Ned Begay, a sixteen-year old spy who uses his native language, Navajo, to transmit secret messages during World War II. The novel follows Ned’s life from his youth on the Navajo reservation in Arizona to his role as a Code Talker in the Pacific Islands.
While fictional, this novel is based on the stories of real-life Navajo code talkers who played a crucial role in the United States war effort. If you’re looking for a spy book that’s based on American history, keeps readers entertained, and celebrates Navajo voices, then this book could be for you.
Young Bond series (2005–2017)
Ever wondered what James Bond was like before he became a world famous superspy? Wonder no more with Charlie Higson’s Young Bond series!
The first novel in this exciting series of spy books for teens, SilverFin, introduces readers to a thirteen-year old James Bond. As a new student at Eton College, the young spy discovers that he has an eye for observation and a talent for espionage. When he finds himself entangled in a mystery surrounding a strange classmate, his family estate, and a lake full of eels, James must put his newfound skills to the test and do his best to solve the problem…before it’s too late.
Projekt 1065: A Novel of World War II (2016)
At the height of World War II, Irish-born Michael O’Shaunessey lives in Berlin with his parents. Like all boys living in Nazi Germany at the time, Michael is part of the Hitler Youth—but unlike most boys, he has a secret. You see, Michael and his parents are spies. They steal German secrets and send them back to the British Secret Service. When Michael gets involved in a dangerous mission to learn more about “Projekt 1065,” he must use his skills to avoid detection and put a stop to the secret German initiative.
Like Code Name Verity and Code Talker, Alan Gratz’ Projekt 1065: A Novel of World War II tells the fictional story of a teenage spy working during the second World War. The novel is suspenseful and packed with edge-of-your-seat action, while simultaneously shedding light on the realities of life in Nazi Germany. This spy book for teens is a great choice for the history buffs and spy enthusiasts out there.
The Mysterious Benedict Society (2007)
Trenton Lee Stewart
When Reynie Muldoon responds to an advertisement in the newspaper challenging children to complete a series of mind-bending tests, he doesn’t expect to become part of a secret society of sleuths—but that’s exactly what happens. Joining him are three other children: Kate, Sticky, and Constance. As members of The Mysterious Benedict Society, Reynie and his friends must use their intelligence to sneak undercover into The Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened and put a stop to its villainous principal, Ledroptha Curtain.
While not about spies in the traditional sense, The Mysterious Benedict Society is filled to the brim with espionage, mystery, and adventure. This captivating series celebrates the power of intelligence and resourcefulness, while reminding readers that friendship conquers all. And if your teen loves this spy book, I have some good news: there are three more books in the series, a prequel, and a television series streaming on Disney+!
Etiquette and Espionage (2013)
Set in an alternate version of Victorian England, Etiquette and Espionage follows Sophronia Temminnick, a student at Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. As is the case with many other spy books for teens, this is no ordinary school—it’s actually a secret training facility that teaches young ladies the arts of deception and espionage. Here, Sophronia learns vital skills like curtsying, dancing, and how to turn an everyday hand fan into a formidable weapon.
The first book in Gail Carriger’s Finishing School series, Etiquette and Espionage is an imaginative ride for readers of all ages. This novel fantastically blends history, fantasy, and espionage to create a spy book that truly transcends genre. If your teen is a fan of steampunk and spies, then this is the novel for them.
Start a Spy Book Club!
It’s no wonder that spy books have captivated young readers, including my sisters and me, for years. These tales are thrilling, intriguing, and imaginative. From stories about historical spies serving in World War II to the students at a Victorian era sleuthing school, spy books for teens have something for everyone.
And when I say everyone, I mean everyone—even you parents out there.
If you’re intrigued by any of the novels on this list, don’t hesitate to pick up two copies of the same book and start an at-home book club with your teen! Reading and discussing books is a great way to bond with your child while developing a shared love for literature. Who knows—your spy book club could have monthly meetings for years to come!
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