The best suspense novels with emotionally intelligent characters

Ashley Nikole Author Of Fallout
By Ashley Nikole

Who am I?

I love studying the ins/outs of humanity and our interactions, but especially, EI (emotional intelligence). A lot of emphasis is put on being “smart” and analytical (think IQ), but EI is largely ignored. Relationships thrive (and die) on EI! In the novels I write, I explore the emotional side of relationships and how, if we pay attention to this other side of intelligence, beautiful interactions happen. Typically, I don’t find riveting EI in books—and so when I do, I gobble the book up once, then twice, and possibly a third time, then tell everyone I know to GO READ THAT BOOK!

I wrote...


By Ashley Nikole,

Book cover of Fallout

What is my book about?

Four months of torture in an undisclosed location. Four months of silence. Four months of praying she won’t lose her mind and give away secrets she’s fought so hard to keep.

Avery Kent escapes with her life, but she is pursued deep into the heart of the British Columbia wilderness by the men who almost took her life—and shattered her mind. After wandering for two days in the mountains, she stumbles upon a cabin—but little does she know that the man inside is not the sheltering protector he claims to be.

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is readers supported. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

The Secret History of Us

By Jessi Kirby,

Book cover of The Secret History of Us

Why this book?

I’ve always been deeply fascinated with any amnesia-related plot. A teenager who survives a near-death experience and cannot remember the last several years of her life? And, despite this being YA novel, as an older reader, I could not put this book down. It kept me guessing, constantly deducing as everything unfolded, and though the main characters are young, their emotional processes are so raw and beautiful. I’ve reread this one many a time. For any Nancy Drew gamers out there, The Secret History of Us is like a ND game/Nicholas Sparks’ novel hybrid.

Six Months Later

By Natalie D. Richards,

Book cover of Six Months Later

Why this book?

Again, the amnesia thing! Imagine waking up in class and realizing six months have lapsed—and you have no idea what happened. Six Months Later reminds me of the high-school version of The Bourne series—suspects are everywhere, people know too much but say too little…you don’t know who to trust but something is majorly off and you have to figure it out—despite not being able to remember…

I think adult readers often write off (pun intended) Young Adult fiction as being juvenile, but some of the best thrillers I’ve read have had high-school/college-age characters. I adore reading books where characters are not merely analytical—they are deeply emotionally intelligent.

If I Run

By Terri Blackstock,

Book cover of If I Run

Why this book?

Who else loves a good “Fall-guy + I’ve-been-framed-for-murder” suspense novel? Kinda like The Fugitive movie with Harrison Ford? 

Casey Cox has been framed for the murder of her boyfriend and is made the target of a national manhunt. I finished reading If I Run at almost three in the morning—it was that riveting. Though the main plot deals with highly emotional elements (PTSD, living on the run, etc.), the subplots are equally as gut-wrenching. Read this book and you will be left with wide eyes and—possibly—a gaping mouth.

Wolfsbane (Discarded Heroes Vol. 3)

By Ronie Kendig,

Book cover of Wolfsbane (Discarded Heroes Vol. 3)

Why this book?

Dani barely escapes captivity in Venezuela with her life, but after coming back to the United States, she struggles to live past the trauma she was subjected to. When she meets Canyon Metcalfe, an ex-soldier with troubled eyes—and an undeniable pull between them—little does she know that he will draw her back into her worst nightmare…in Venezuela.

Wolfsbane deals with the tough question of—if we’ve been put through the worst of traumas and are at our wits end trying to figure out how to cope, what is the point of living? This book has it all, high EI (emotional intelligence), suspense, romance, and adventure. It’s also another book I finished at three in the morning, so, there’s that.

Life After

By Katie Ganshert,

Book cover of Life After

Why this book?

The sole survivor of a train wreck, Autumn Manning lives crippled with guilt. When she meets the husband of one of the women who died in the wreck, sparks fly, and Autumn’s guilt only increases. And, while very likely the saddest book I’ve recommended thus far, Life After paints a beautiful, cathartic picture of grief that few authors have. Grief is part of life, but people don’t like to talk about what happens to our hearts/psyches when it descends. While Life After may elicit a few tears, it is a stunning, beautiful book that I highly recommend.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in survival, love triangle, and murders?

5,215 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about survival, love triangle, and murders.

Survival Explore 98 books about survival
Love Triangle Explore 34 books about love triangle
Murders Explore 292 books about murders

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Flight, What the Dead Leave Behind, and Where the Crawdads Sing if you like this list.