Being blackmailed sucks, but we love reading about it
There are few moves from the villain playbook quite as well-employed as blackmail. Leveraging private information to force someone to do things they would otherwise not do definitely qualifies as despicable. Of course, blackmail IRL is an absolute no-go, morally abhorrent and potentially seriously illegal to boot. However, in the wonderful world of YA, a little bit of blackmail goes a long way. Stir in some scheming, add a pinch of plotting, and throw in some outright threatening. Lo and behold, you’ve got yourself a deliciously frothy YA tale. Here are some of our favorite blackmailers you should avoid (but actually don’t avoid them at all because they make books soooo much better).
Rise by Ellen Goodlett
Sisters Akeylah, Ren, and Zofi are all a step closer to their dying father’s throne, a step closer to the crown that will allow one of them to rule over Kolonya. But the sisters’ pasts continue to haunt them. Each hides a secret marked with blood and betrayal, and now their blackmailer is holding nothing back. When King Andros discovers the sisters’ traitorous pasts, the consequences will shake the entire kingdom to its core. If the sisters are going to survive, they’ll have to learn to trust each other above all else and work together, not only to save themselves, but to protect everyone and everything they hold dear.
The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
Jude was seven years old when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King. To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences. In doing so, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, discovering her own capacity for bloodshed. But as civil war threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.
The Hearts We Sold by Emily Lloyd-Jones
Dee Moreno is out of options. Her home life sucks (to put it mildly), and she's about to get booted from her boarding school—the only place she's ever felt free—for lack of funds. But this is a world where demons exist, and the demons are there to make deals: one human body part in exchange for one wish come true. The demon who Dee approaches doesn't trade in the usual arms and legs, however. He's only interested in her heart. And what comes after Dee makes her deal is a nightmare far bigger, and far more monstrous than anything she ever could have imagined.
Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor
In the wake of tragedy, neither Lazlo nor Sarai are who they were before. One a god, the other a ghost, they struggle to grasp the new boundaries of their selves as dark-minded Minya holds them hostage, intent on vengeance against Weep. Lazlo faces an unthinkable choice—save the woman he loves, or everyone else?—while Sarai feels more helpless than ever. But is she? Sometimes, only the direst need can teach us our own depths, and Sarai, the muse of nightmares, has not yet discovered what she's capable of.
An Assassin’s Guide to Love & Treason by Virginia Boecker
When Lady Katherine's father is killed for being an illegally practicing Catholic, she discovers treason wasn't the only secret he's been hiding: he was also involved in a murder plot against the reigning Queen Elizabeth I. With nothing left to lose, Katherine disguises herself as a boy and travels to London to fulfill her father's mission, and to take it one step further--kill the queen herself. Katherine's opportunity comes in the form of William Shakespeare's newest play, which is to be performed in front of Her Majesty. But what she doesn't know is that the play is not just a play—it's a plot to root out insurrectionists and destroy the rebellion once and for all.