The Best Puzzle Solvers in Young Adult Fiction

In the past, we have assembled super-teams of the best puzzle solvers in horror films, television, and literature. The goal was to highlight characters who stand out, the ones you’d want on your side, because they’re clever, decisive, and immensely capable.

In the fourth installment in this delightful series, we turn our attention to books for young adult readers, seeking out the quickest minds and the deftest problem solvers from the printed page.

So let’s meet (or revisit) some wickedly bright minds from teen-centric reads.

nancy drew

[Image courtesy of Amazon.]

Nancy Drew

Originally created as a female counterpart to the Hardy Boys, detective Nancy Drew has largely eclipsed them at this point, cementing her reputation as one of the most prominent teen detectives in literature. Nancy’s interest in numerous fields — psychology, language, and many others — served her well as she dove headlong into each case.

Her gift for association — making connections others miss — gave her a leg-up in locating clues and building cases before her lawyer father and the local police could do so. The criminal element in River Heights never left a puzzle that the diligent and outspoken Nancy couldn’t solve.


[Image courtesy of Claire Fox Writes.]

Hermione Granger, Harry Potter series

When you’re a student of magic at one of the most dangerous schools in the world, you need to be sharp and ready. And Hermione Granger has those qualities in abundance. As studious as they come, Hermione is one of the puzzliest characters in modern literature. She brewed the notoriously difficult Polyjuice Potion, solved Professor Snape’s potion riddle, and deduced that Remus Lupin was a werewolf.

She’s as comfortable bending time to enhance her coursework (and save a few lives) as she is battling the gossip and lies of the treacherous Rita Skeeter. Numerous mysteries surrounding Hogwarts and Voldemort are solved by the trio of Ron, Harry, and Hermione, but without the stalwart and clever Miss Granger, Ron and Harry would’ve been out of luck.

wide window

[Image courtesy of Thrifty Teachers.]

Violet Baudelaire, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events

The eldest of the three Baudelaire orphans, Violet has the most mechanical mind of the trio. She is a prolific inventor, making marvelous contraptions out of whatever’s handy, and often getting her and her siblings out of dangerous situations in the process. Pursued by the malevolent and greedy Count Olaf, Violet outwits Olaf on more than one occasion, paying close attention to him and tailoring her behavior accordingly.

Whether she’s inventing a grappling hook to save her sister or picking a lock to find evidence against Count Olaf, Violet has a mind made for puzzles, whether she’s putting things together or taking them apart. As imaginative as she is capable, no mechanical brain teaser could stymie her for long.

ender game

[Image courtesy of Heritage Auctions.]

Ender Wiggin, Ender’s Game series

Although Ender’s story is not as happy as some of the others in this list, as mistreated and manipulated as he is throughout the first book, he should absolutely be counted among the best puzzlers in young adult literature. He is a phenomenal tactician, first in laser tag competitions in zero gravity, then later in simulated interstellar combat scenarios as part of his command training.

Ender uses his cleverness to circumvent the final test and win an unwinnable battle. And when he discovers that the battle was NOT simulated, and he had in fact won a war through his clever ruthlessness, he turns his puzzly mind to figuring out the mistakes that led to the war in the first place. As his adventures continue, he unravels numerous mysteries, often saving lives in the process.

ready player one

[Image courtesy of Goodreads.]

Parzival, Aech, and Art3mis, Ready Player One

In a virtual world known as the OASIS — a fully immersive Internet where work, school, and recreation are conducted — the characters of Ready Player One are on the ultimate puzzle hunt. For five years, the prize has remained unclaimed, no matter how expansive or expensive the methods employed to find it. Entire corporations are dedicated to solving it, because the prize is nothing less than control of the OASIS itself.

Which makes it all the more impressive that game and puzzle-loving teenagers are the ones to uncover several of the keys needed to complete the hunt. They are clever, determined, and resourceful puzzlers who combine a thirst for knowledge, top-notch gaming skills, and impressive deductive reasoning to accomplish the seemingly impossible.

westing game

[Image courtesy of Amazon.]

Turtle Wexler, The Westing Game

When you find yourself — and everyone else in your apartment building — on the list of possible heirs for a dead millionaire’s fortune, you know something strange is going on. And if it’s a race to a fortune predicated on solving an intricate puzzle, solving a murder, and uncovering a mysterious secret, then Turtle Wexler is the person you want on your side.

Possessing a keen mind and some serious analytical chops — after all, she plays the stock market at 13 years old — Turtle’s intellect is nearly as quick as her shin-kicking feet. Another strong tactician, Turtle takes advantage of opportunities (and creating a few of her own), eventually winning the Westing Game.

queen's thief

[Image courtesy of Christina Reads YA.]

Eugenides, The Queen’s Thief Series

The puzzles that Eugenides concerns himself with are far different than the ones tackled by other characters on this list. Eugenides is a master strategist, a chess player who must treat entire countries as his gameboard. Eugenides is observant and patient, playing out slow-burn tactics that can take months or years to come to fruition, all in the hopes of protecting those he serves.

It’s quite something to solve a puzzle in front of you, but it’s something else entirely to solve the next five puzzles before they’ve even shown themselves. Over the course of The Queen’s Thief series, Eugenides shows a tremendous understanding of how others think, what motivates them, and who can be trusted. There’s not a logic problem or a brain teaser around that Eugenides couldn’t plot his way past.


[Image courtesy of Amazon.]

Sticky, Constance, Kate, and Reynie, The Mysterious Benedict Society

If you’re looking for the most overtly puzzly quartet in young adult lit, this should be your first stop. These books are loaded to the brim with puzzles and mysteries, and this fearsomely brilliant foursome is equipped to handle any riddle, cipher, or brain teaser in their way.

Whether it’s Reynie’s logical deduction skills, Kate’s incisive ability to find shortcuts, Sticky’s memory and recall, or Constance’s penchant for finding patterns in plain sight, the sinister plans of Mr. Curtain (and any other puzzly evildoer out there) don’t stand a chance.

Did I miss any world-class puzzlers from famous (or obscure) works of young adult lit? Let me know in the comments section below! I’d love to hear from you!

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It’s Follow-Up Friday: Harold and the Hashtag Game edition!

Welcome to Follow-Up Friday!

By this time, you know the drill. Follow-Up Friday is a chance for us to revisit the subjects of previous posts and bring the PuzzleNation audience up to speed on all things puzzly.

And today, I’m posting the results of our #PennyDellKidsBooks hashtag game!

You may be familiar with the board game Schmovie, hashtag games on Twitter, or@midnight’s Hashtag Wars segment on Comedy Central.

For over a year now, we’ve been collaborating on puzzle-themed hashtag games with our pals at Penny Dell Puzzles, and this month’s hook was #PennyDellKidsBooks, mashing up Penny Dell puzzles and anything and everything having to do with picture books, storybooks, kids books, nursery rhymes, anything!

Examples include Oh the Places Please You’ll Go!, Charlotte’s Spider’s Web, and The Giving Three from Nine.

So, without further ado, check out what the puzzlers at PuzzleNation and Penny Dell Puzzles came up with!

The Wonderful Wizard Words of Oz

The Jumble Book

The Tail Tags of Peter Rabbit

Horton Hears a Who’s Calling? / Horton Hears a Sudoku! / Horton Hears a Guess Who! / Horton Hears a Word Games

Gerald McBingo Bingo

The Cat in the Hat Comes Back Around the Block

The Categories in the Hat / The Categories in the Hategories

One and Only Fish, Two by Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
One and Only Fish, Two at a Time Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
Pine Cone Fish, Two by Two Fish, Assembly Required Fish, Blue Fish

Green Eggs and Piggybacks

Dr. Seuss’s Sleep Bookworms

Hopscotch on Pop / Hop on Top to Bottom

Oh Say Can You Say That Again?

How the Grinch Stole Crisscross / How the Grinch Split and Splice Christmas

A Great Day for Ups and Downs

Shuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale

Fox In and Around Socks / Fox in Shadowbox

The Very Hungry Caterpill-around the Block / The Very Hungry Bookworm / The Very Hungry Crackers-pillar

Where the Wild Animal Crackers Are / Where and There the Wild Things Are / Where the Wild Wacky Words Are

A Wrinkle in Timed Word Seek / A Wrinkle in Two at a Time

The Secret Word Garden

Mad-End of the Line / MadeLine ‘Em Up

Love You ForEverything’s Relative

Harold and the Purple Pencil Pusher / Harold and the Point-the-Way Crayon

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Wheels Bus / Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus Wheels

The Story of Ferdinand and the Bull’s-Eye Spiral

One Morning in Mystery State

Chips for Sal

Harry Potter and the Samurai Sudoku / Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secret Words

Hubcaps for Sale

If You Give A Mouse Crackers / If You Give a Mouse a CooKeyword / If You Give A Mouse a Crostics / If you Give a Mouse a Codeword

Alice in Wonderland: By Another Name: Everything’s Relative All Mixed Up / Alice’s Adventures in Word Seek Land

Goodnight, Sunrays

Are You My Mother? Who’s Calling?

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel Build A Pyramid

Curious George Goes to the Crypto-Zoo

Where the Crossroads End: A Visual Deduction Problem

Crisscross Country Cat

The Windowboxes in the Willows

Patchwords the Bunny / Patmatch the Bunny

Make Word Ways for Ducklings

The Cricket in Times Square Deal


These Three Blind Mice

Rub-A-Dub-Dub, These Three Men in a Tub

Snow White and The Seven-Up Dwarfs

Good Night Moon, Good Night Star Words

The Itsy-Bitsy Spider’s Web went up the water spout

Crisscross Moo: Cows that Type

The Dial-a-Grams of a Wimpy Kid

The Little Puzzler That Could / The Logic Problem That Could

James and the Puzzler’s Giant Peach

The Give & Take Tree

The Giver and Take

A Crisscross in Time

Penny and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Decisions

One Topsy-Turvy Crazy Summer Fill-in

Anagrams of Green Gables

The Lion, the Which Way Words and the Wardrobe

The Tales of Uncle Rebus

The Word Maze Runner

The Hardy Boys “Hunting for Hidden Word Squares”

Nancy Drew “The Secret Word at Shadowbox Ranch”

Put me in the Crypto-zoo

The Magic Scrambled Up Bus

Several of my fellow puzzlers went above and beyond with these, launching such gloriously wordy titles as:

Alexander and the “Takeout”, “Hubcaps”, “No-List”, Very “Blips” Day


Make Way for Crackers (er, quackers) as they Crossblocks and Dash-It (Mother Duck heard to quack: Keep On Moving! as they Shuffle along in the Middle Of The Road)

Talk about a mouthful!

And members of the PuzzleNation readership also got in on the fun! On Twitter, @HereLetty submitted Where the Wizard Words Are!

Have you come up with any Penny Dell Kids Books entries of your own? Let us know! We’d love to see them!

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on everything PuzzleNation!

You can also share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!