UKYA

Celebrating Young Adult fiction by UK authors


Kat Ellis’s Top 10 UKYA books

katWhen I started thinking about my top 10 UKYA picks, I decided I wanted to put something a little  different out there, and highlight some books that are brand new favourites, or maybe haven’t had as much exposure as some other titles. So my picks are ALL (I hope!) books that haven’t yet been featured on this site as Top 10s. In no particular order…

1. THE DEAD HOUSE by Dawn Kurtagich

This doesn’t come out until the summer, but I was lucky enough to read it early. Carly and Kaitlyn are the Johnson sisters – two girls who inhabit one body. Carly gets the day, and Kaitlyn has the night – though nobody believes Kaitlyn is real. Diary entries, psychologists’ reports, and recovered video footage shine a light on The Johnson Incident – the night where Elmbridge Academy burned down, killing several students. Amazingly dark and creepy!

eren2. EREN by Simon P Clark

Tell the story to its end, the monster tells Oli. This is a haunting novel about secrets and stories and finding our own truth, and it’ll appeal to fans of A Monster Calls and Skellig, in particular.

3. THE HANGED MAN RISES by Sarah Naughton

This story is set in a Victorian London where a killer hunts children by night. It has a Jack-the-Ripper-ish feel to it, with a dose of dark magic and creepy supernatural goings on.

prettybadthings4. PRETTY BAD THINGS by CJ Skuse

This was the first of CJ’s books I read, but I could have mentioned any of them as an instant favourite. It tells the story of Paisley and Beau, the ‘wonder twins’, who go on a crime spree across the US in a bid to find their long-lost father. It’s hilarious and heart-wrenching, and just great fun.

5. TINDER by Sally Gardner

This is a fairytale retelling of The Tinderbox, and it has a really dreamy, abstract quality to it that’s totally absorbing. The illustrations in it are wonderful, and bring the story to life.

getimage_195_300_c1_center_center_0_0_16. THE SAVAGES by Matt Whyman

Sasha comes from a family of cannibals, so maybe bringing her vegetarian boyfriend home for dinner wasn’t such a great idea…This book is darkly funny and very original.

7. THE YEAR OF THE RAT by Clare Furniss

Pearl’s mother died giving birth to ‘The Rat’ – Pearl’s baby sister. This is the story of the year that follows, and it’s hilarious as well as heart-breaking. I started crying when I reached page 14, and didn’t really stop until the end. I almost had to be put on a drip.

bunkerdiary8. THE BUNKER DIARY by Kevin Brooks

This won the Carnegie Medal last year, and definitely deserved to. Teenager Linus is abducted and held in an underground bunker with 5 other people, with no way out unless their captor lets them go… Gripping stuff!

9. JON FOR SHORT by Malorie Blackman

This short, weird book with illustrations by Vladimir Stankovic is a twisted little nightmare, where Jon’s limbs are taken one by one each night as he sleeps. I bought this one for the cover, but it has really burned itself into my brain.

killingwoods10. THE KILLING WOODS by Lucy Christopher – I had high expectations after STOLEN broke my heart, and Lucy definitely gave it another shattering with her second YA novel. Emily’s dad, suffering from PTSD, is accused of killing a girl in the woods. But as Emily finds out more about what happens in the woods late at night, it’s not so clear who is to blame for the girl’s death… tense, thrilling, and sinister.

And that’s it! Hopefully I have stuck to my own rules and not duplicated any from other lists, but feel free to call me out on it if I have. I will give a special mention to 3 I would’ve included if they hadn’t already appeared elsewhere: TROUBLE by Non Pratt, SKIN DEEP by Laura Jarratt, and THE UNIVERSE VERSUS ALEX WOODS by Gavin Extence.


Author Gary Meehan’s Top 10 UK YA Books

Gary_Meehan_520x520Gary Meehan is the author of True Fire. He’s chosen his Top 10 “in no particular order.”

The Bone Dragon by Alexia Casale

A girl recovers from post-traumatic stress disorder by retreating into a fantasy world. Or is it fantasy? Beautifully written and thought provoking.

images-4The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13¾ by Sue Townsend

I’ve grown up with Adrian these past — oh my god, thirty years (pause to contemplate mortality). The first remains a devastatingly funny read for anyone who’s ever worried about doing the right thing, the pretty girl in the class, and how long their thingy is.

Geek Girl by Holly Smale

A witty, charming tale of a bullied geeky girl who accidentally becomes a model. Plenty of heart and one of the most surprising meet-cute scenes you’re likely to read.

18482265Boys Don’t Knit by TS Easton

A spiritual successor to Adrian Mole, in that it’s a told as teenage boy’s diary. Very funny, but with a serious message. Many YA books encourage girls to do ‘boy’ things; this one lets boys know it’s okay to be ‘girly’. I still have no idea how knitting actually works though.

Heart-Shaped Bruise by Tanya Byrne

Proof you don’t need a likeable or even sympathetic heroine to make a story compelling. You know something bad’s gonna happen, but you can’t stop reading.

UnknownNowhere by Jon Robinson

Ah, some good old-fashioned sci-fi. An intriguing premise — why have all these kids been snatched and locked up — a fast-paced adventure, and hints of something manipulating the fundamental nature of the universe.

Trouble by Non Pratt

An honest story of teenage lust and its consequences, shot through with comic moments. Read it, kids, and let your next purchase be a jumbo pack of condoms.

Unknown-1Half Bad by Sally Green

A tale of brutality and paranoia, unbending bureaucracy and the nature of good and evil — a bit of light reading, then. Tense and thought-provoking.

Code Red Lipstick by Sarah Sky

A fun, lively adventure with a kick-ass, kick-head, kick-everything heroine. Not everything has to be dripping in angst, you know.

A Tale Etched in Blood and Hard Black Pencil by Christopher Brookmyre

My stretching-the-definition-of-YA entry. It’s a tale of bunch of kids growing up wrapped in a murder mystery set when the kids are adults, but it’s the acutely observed school scenes that stick in the mind. If it’s a measure of book you’re a little heartbroken to leave the characters behind, then this measures up.


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Author Louisa Reid’s Top 10 UKYA books

picLouisa Reid, author of Black Heart Blue and Lies Like Love, picks her Top 10 UKYA books “in no particular order!”

1. Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner

This book made me cry. It’s terrifying and clever and beautifully written in clear, sharp prose with an ending so heart-breaking and powerful that it had me reeling for ages after. An amazing piece of fiction.

follow-me-down2. Follow Me Down by Tanya Byrne

I love Tanya’s writing for its originality and vivid detail and also because she isn’t afraid of the dark side. A brilliant book about boarding school mayhem, teenage danger and desire. I read this with relish.

3. Heroic by Phil Earle

Heroic is a fabulous novel with wonderful characters and relationships that feel really real. Definitely one to read if you want something fast-paced but also tender.

127434724. Slated trilogy by Teri Terry

I love dystopian fiction and Teri’s novels are wonderful. I couldn’t pick one out of all of them so I’m having them all! The twists and turns are brilliantly plotted and keep you on the edge of your seat throughout. Also these novels are a perfect example of how to use dream sequences to brilliant effect.

5. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

I’m a sucker for war novels and this one really is well written. The powerful friendships and the heroism of the main characters is wonderfully portrayed.

unknown56. A Swift Pure Cry by Siobhan Dowd

This is a brilliant and beautiful book. It engrossed me from start to finish with its powerful evocation of grief and the frightening consequences of loneliness and alcoholism.

7. Trouble by Non Pratt

I’d have loved this book as a teenager and I loved it as an adult reader, even going so far as to badger its poor author for a sequel because I couldn’t bear for it to end! Fab characters and themes – teenage pregnancy, in particular, is dealt with in an original and challenging way and the moral questions posed really had me thinking.

looking-for-jj8. Looking for JJ and Finding Jennifer Jones by Anne Cassidy

Another cheat, sorry! Two for the price of one. I have to admit to only just reading the brilliant Looking for JJ but I’m glad I waited as it meant I could binge on the sequel too. I love that book box set feeling because I have no patience and have to guzzle everything all at once. Anyway, these are fascinating novels with a tricky and challenging premise. Wonderful.

9. The Tulip Touch by Anne Fine

An old favourite. I first encountered this book early in my teaching career and remember the class loving its darkness, just as did I. Twisted friendships and horrific family secrets make this one a gripping and taut read.

pop_cover10. Pop! by Catherine Bruton

I love Catherine’s writing. She creates wonderful characters with distinctive and original voices. I could really see and hear every detail of this book. It’s a great read with a setting that’s perfect for someone who often misses the grim North (only joking about the grim bit!)


Author C.J. Skuse’s Top 10 UKYA books

050CJ Skuse is the author of PRETTY BAD THINGS, ROCKOHOLIC and DEAD ROMANTIC. Here are her Top 10 favourite UKYA books!

Lobsters by Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison

I picked this when I read for the Chicken House Times Children’s Fiction Competition a few years ago and I knew it was my favourite by the time I’d got to the bottom of the first page. It has an Inbetweenersy kind of humour to it and a very sweet love story right at its heart. Ticks all my boxes.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling

Because Sirius Black. That is all.

soulmates-by-holly-bourneSoulmates by Holly Bourne

I love the central premise of this book and I think Holly is an exceptionally talented new writer with a fine sense of humour. That ending though. Damn her #heartbroken

Martyn Pig by Kevin Brooks

I could have picked any of Kevin’s books as I love them all but I’ve picked Martyn Pig because it was the first of his that I read and I found it just so fresh. I think I get my love of dubious endings from this great man.

untitledDoing It by Melvin Burgess

When I was trying to get published, I always had in my mind that I wanted to be a female version of Melvin Burgess but I’m still nowhere near his calibre. Doing It is my favourite book of his because it’s just so unafraid and matter-of-fact about sex.

Stolen by Lucy Christopher

Anything written by Lucy Christopher just has the mark of quality on it and this book stayed with me for a long time. The premise is so simple yet so powerfully written. I could live a 100 years and not write anything as great as this.

forget me notForget Me Not by Anne Cassidy

Everyone always talks about Looking for JJ but this is my favourite Anne Cassidy book. It’s quite sinister and the ending is very brave and I found it incredibly satisfying.

The Madolescents by Chrissie Glazebrook

This book never gets talked about but it is the book which made me want to write for teens in a humorous style. It’s dated a bit now but the comedy still holds up and the main character was almost certainly an inspiration for Paisley in my first book Pretty Bad Things.

TornTorn by David Massey

Loved this book from start to finish. To be frank, I’d never read anything regarding the war in Afghanistan which really interested me until this came along. And I fancied the pants off the hot American Lieutenant, I’ll admit it.

Mothertime by Gillian White

This one isn’t technically YA but I had to add it because Gillian White is THE writer who made me want to write when I was 17. I wrote her a letter and she sent me 2 signed novels and a very encouraging note which spurred me on. I’ve never forgotten that note. Mothertime is about five young brothers and sisters, led by 12-year-old Vanessa, who lock their alcoholic mother in the sauna over Christmas to dry her out. I may have subconsciously locked a certain rock star in a garage thanks to this book.


Guest Post: Aurelia B Rowl on writing sexy YA (and a sneaky Top almost-10)

Aurelia B RowlI was supposed to come and share my top ten UKYA books, but the more I looked through the books on my ‘favourites’ shelf on Goodreads, the more ashamed I became. There was a HUGE disparity between the number of UK authors, and the number of US authors on that virtual shelf. It was a travesty, honestly, and I’ve since made the mental note that “I must do better.”

Seeing as I don’t have a top ten to share with you after all, I figured I ought to talk about my book instead. It’s called Popping the Cherry, and yes, it’s about sex…or rather, it’s one girl’s journey towards losing her virginity and establishing a relationship with her peers.

So what possessed me to write a YA book with sex in it?

When I’m not writing YA, you will find me writing contemporary romances, so the actual writing of a love scene doesn’t faze me. The trickiest part was actually figuring how much detail was too much, and just how far I could push the YA genre boundaries in order to pass on what I hope is a positive message. It was a very delicate balance between trying to keep the storyline real and not getting all preachy, and that’s where a huge cast of characters helped. Popping the Cherry is basically the kind of book I wish I’d had when I was younger, trying to navigate my way through the jungle that is rife with peer pressure and insecurities, and it has already been compared to Forever by Judy Blume, which is an absolute honour.

Popping_the_CherryPopping the Cherry is the first in a series of standalone companion novels, but due to the nature of the stories and the ages of the main characters increasing with each title, the series will veer more towards New Adult with the issues this fabulous cast of characters will have to face and overcome.

Oh and if you’re interested, this is how far I got with my top ten, where you’ll notice I am a MASSIVE fan of series, and paranormal shenanigans in particular:

Harry Potter series – J.K. Rowling

This one needs no introduction really, but it was a series that got me reading regularly again, lapping up every word.

Witchblood series – Emma Mills

If you like you vampire series, with witches and angels thrown it too, then you can’t go far wrong with this series by Indie author, Emma Mills.

Stella Mayweather series – Camilla Chafer

Another fabulous ‘witchy’ series worth checking out.

Discworld series – Terry Pratchett

Although not strictly YA, this is what I was reading when I was a teenager. I had a weekend job when I was at school, and would save up to buy as many of the books as I could.

Shalean Moon series – J. Lilley

I discovered this series last year, based around a clan of leopard shifters…I use the work ‘clan’ because the stories are set in The Trossachs and written by Scottish author J. Lilley.

Rae Wilder series – Penelope Fletcher

Another fantasy/paranormal series by an Indie author, and I absolutely loved the first three books in the series so they are well worth checking out.

Kisses for Lula – Samantha Mackintosh

This a was a super cute, fun, read that left me smiling and put a spring in my step.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon

A classic and one that I have read several times, yet each time I seem to discover something new that I’d missed a previous time.

I’m rather hoping that I will have more to add to this list, the next time I am asked for my favourite UKYA books.