Celebrating Young Adult fiction by UK authors

Writer Susie Day’s UKYA Books of the Year

Kiss Date Love HateKiss Date Love Hate by Luisa Plaja

A Sims-style game allows a teenage girl to redesign her life – and her friends’ – at the flick of a switch. It was never going to work out quite as perfectly as she’d hoped, right? Clever, acutely observed, and so very  funny.

AdorkableAdorkable by Sarra Manning

Jeane is the UK’s answer to Tavi Gevinson, a teen blogger with real-world clout – but behind the online quips and Twitter friends she’s also a real, vulnerable girl. This book kicks bottom. Sexy, witty, and filled with positive feminist stuff for young women readers.

Code Name VerityCode Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Two young women, unlikely friends, both working for the British war effort in World War Two: one captured by the Gestapo and tortured for information; the other a pilot. This book broke me into little pieces and made my heart swell up with joy all at once. Read it.

The LookThe Look by Sophia Bennett

Two sisters: Ted, the lanky outsider, and Ava the beautiful. But it’s funny-looking Ted who the model scout approaches, and funny-looking Ted who has the chance of fame and fortune – while Ava must face a devastating cancer diagnosis. Contemporary UKYA at its best: smart, emotionally resonant, and with real recognisable characters.

The Weight of WaterThe Weight of Water by Sarah Crossan

Outstanding, uncompromising verse novel about a Kasienka, a Polish girl newly arrived in England with her mother, desperately trying to track down her father. Friendships are hard to come by, but the swimming team might just float her through. The spareness of the verse captures the bleakness of their situation, and Kasienka’s devastating acceptance of it.

And finally…

The Greengage SummerThe Greengage Summer by Rumer Godden

I meant to keep this to only 5 books, and ones published in 2012 – but I read this 1958 novel this year solely because it was listed in the UKYA Top 100 Books, and it sounded like my cup of tea. Narrated by 13-year-old Cecil, it’s the story of a close-knit family trapped by their mother’s illness in a claustrophobic hotel in rural France. The plot is increasingly daft (down to the lustful object of their affection being revealed to be a jewel thief) but despite the period trappings, it’s rammed with familiar adolescent anxiety about rules, romance, and sexuality. If you’ve ever been told that UKYA didn’t exist until the 21st century, look this way (along with plenty of others on that Top 100 List!).


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