UKYA

Celebrating Young Adult fiction by UK authors


The Road of Bones by Anne Fine

838833Told who to cheer for, who to believe in, Yuri grows up in a country where no freedom of thought is encouraged – where even one’s neighbours are encouraged to report any dissension to the authorities.

But it is still a shock when a few careless words lead him to a virtual death-sentence – sent on a nightmare journey up north to a camp amidst the frozen wastes.

What, or who, can he possibly believe in now? Can he even survive? And is escape possible … ?

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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!)


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Author Sally Nicholls’ Top 10 UKYA books

images-25Skellig by David Almond

A boy finds a tramp with angel wings in an abandoned garage. Is he an angel, or a new kind of human? A simply-told, but surprisingly complex and utterly beautiful story about how to be human. True fact: I once left a friend waiting for over an hour outside Tesco, because I couldn’t bear to put this book down.

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

Sex, death, war, incest, first love, country houses, freedom, adolescence, magical children, dangerous journeys, foraging for food, and some more sex. This is a coming-of-age story that sits perfectly between the adventure stories I loved as a child, with the darker edge I love as an adult. Meg Rosoff is American, but this is a very English book.

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Dear Nobody by Berlie Doherty

If you loved Rainbow Rowell’s ‘Eleanor and Park’, you need to read ‘Dear Nobody’. Chris and Helen take turns to narrate the story of their relationship, and everything that happens when seventeen-year-old Helen discovers she is pregnant. Another very well written novel with a simple story, this felt very true to my adolescent experience and was a worthy winner of the 1991 Carnegie Medal.

Saffy’s Angel by Hilary McKay

I love Saffy’s Angel. I love it. I love all the Cassons. I love their mother Eve, who is flawed but totally human, and utterly sympathetic. I love Sarah-down-the-road and her evil schemes. I love long-suffering Michael. I love the jokes, and I love the characters and I love the dialogue and … I wish I’d written this book. Go and read it. Do not pass go. Do not collect £200. Read it now.

images-4The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 ¾ by Sue Townsend

Clever, funny, well-observed and occasionally sad. What can I say? There are just not enough books about working-class 13-year-old intellectuals living in Ashby-de-la-Zouch. Do you weep, Mrs Thatcher, do you weep?

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

If you don’t love I Capture the Castle, I’m not sure we can be friends. Think Pride and Prejudice, but set in a half-ruined castle in 1920s Britain, narrated by a book-loving seventeen-year-old waiting for love, with a stepmother who roams the countryside wearing only Wellington books. This book is everything you dreamed a book with that plot summary could be. Only better.

The Tiger in the Well by Philip Pullman

I wavered between this book and Northern Lights, but I’m not sure Northern Lights is technically YA, while this definitely is. There are four novels about Victorian detective Sally Lockhart, and while you should start with The Ruby in the Smoke, The Tiger in the Well is my favourite, if only because the premise is so chilling. What if someone altered the records that define your whole life? What if your paperwork now said that your house, your money and even your daughter no longer belonged to you? And what if that person then arrived to claim them?

The Seeing Stone by Kevin Crossley-Holland

Set in a castle on the Welsh marshes at the end of the twelfth century, this is the story of Arthur. Arthur wants to be a knight, but he’s worried that his father will send him to a monastery. The castle is full of secrets, and none of the secrets is more important than the stone in which he sees stories about another boy called Arthur, who grew up to be king of England. Kevin Crossley-Holland is a poet, and it shows. The medieval history is a bonus.

382229Flour Babies by Anne Fine

I have a soft spot for novels about a whole school class, and Anne Fine excels at them. When the boys of 4C (bottom set Year Ten) are each given a flour baby to care for, it kick-starts a meditation on fatherhood and responsibility for class dunce Simon Martin. Brilliantly observed, occasionally sad, and very funny. (If you liked this, also try her other Carnegie winner, Goggle Eyes.)

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling

This is obviously the best Harry Potter book. Do not argue with me. Professor Lupin! Snape in a dress! Quiddich matches you actually care about! And the best plot twist in the history of Harry Potter plot twists. Also, the only book with no Lord Voldemort. And did I mention Professor Lupin?


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Helena Pielichaty’s Top 10 UKYA books

My all time number one is The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole by Sue Townsend but someone’s nicked my copy so I couldn’t refer to it. Love it to bits. My Top 10 is based on books that have ‘stayed’ with me long after I’ve read them.

In alphabetical order of title:

I Am Apache by Tanya Landman (2007)

‘He was in his fourth summer when the Mexicans rode against us. Tazhi, my brother: the child who delighted the hearts of all who looked upon him. The wind flowed in his veins and the sun itself seemed to shine through his eyes when he smiled. 

Only Tahzi stood and faced them.

And for that, he was cut down. In a flash of reddening steel, Tazhi was sent to the afterlife, condemned to walk for ever headless, and alone.’

So begins Tanya Landman’s beautiful and moving story of 14-year old Apache Indian girl Siki, already orphaned and now witnessing the brutal death of her little brother. Published in 2007, Landman whisks us back to the Mexican border in the mid nineteenth century and drops us there. Rarely do we hear the woman’s side of the Native American’s story. Even rarer still are we taken on such a gripping adventure. Read it. Read it now!

The Commitments by Roddy Doyle (1993)

This is not strictly a young adult novel but who else would relate to the characters better than young adults? Who else knows what it feels like to have all this energy trapped inside you and no outlet for it, except through music? Not just any old music, but sweet, soul music.  Dublin lad Jimmy Rabbitte, that’s who. So when his mates ask him to manage a band it’s obvious he’s the right man for the job, right?

This was Doyle’s first novel, published in 1988. It might seem a bit dated now but it’s still a laugh a minute. Half play, half narrative, its style seemed refreshing and brave. Above all, it was hilarious. Give it a go.

The Death Defying Pepper Roux by Geraldine McCaughrean (2009)

I adore Geraldine McCaughrean; she is such a good writer. Every book she writes is different from the last. Pepper Roux is probably my favourite. Like Apache it has one of those arresting openings: On the morning of his 14th birthday, Pepper had been awake for fully two minutes before realizing it was the day he must die.’   His death on this day, he has always been led to believe, was inevitable, following his Aunt Mireille’s prediction. ‘Saint Constance, she told the family, ‘has decreed it.’ What follows is a rip-roaring adventure of high seas, crazy characters and high-jinx as Pepper tries to avoid his fate.

Flour Babies by Anne Fine (1991)

Again, another old one but a groundbreaker. Anne Fine went through a period in the 1980s and 1990s of writing books that caught the zeitgeist. The Granny Project, Bill’s New Frock and this one, Flour Babies. Then, as now, society’s dread of teens having sex – and worse – having all those babies as a result of all that sex – resulted in shedloads of ‘prevention’ projects. One was Flour Babies. Flour Babies were simply bags of flour that Y10s had to take home and look after as if they were real babies. They had to ‘feed’ them during the night, organise babysitters, take them out to parties etc. In her story, Anne Fine doles out these Flour Babies to her characters – the hapless Y10s in Mr Cartwright’s science class. The results are both moving and funny.

The Hard Man of the Swings by Jeanne Willis (2000)

Willis is better known for her picture books so the Hard Man of the Swings was a huge departure for her. However, there was no dipping the toe in the water of YA fiction here –Willis plunged us, head first, into the icy depths of sexual abuse. Based on a true story her builder told her, I found Mick’s journey almost unbearable at times. I even wrote an Amazon review questioning whether the book was suitable for young adults as the neglect and abuse Mick endures was so appalling. But while it makes for uncomfortable reading, Hard Man of the Swings is an important book, well written, on a subject we ignore at our peril. That’s why, as well as questioning its suitability, I also gave it a five star rating on Amazon.

Keeper by Mal Peet (2003)

This is the first of two I’ve selected by Mal Peet, whom I believe is one of the top YA writers in the UK today. Keeper was a book I couldn’t get into at first; I had to give it a second chance. Once I did, and really engaged with Paul Faustino, the central character, I was hooked. Don’t let the topic of football put you off if you don’t like football; Keeper is more of a ghost story really, with a magical-reality setting.  We’re taken from TV studios to South American rainforests. The writing is masterful.

Killing Honour by Bali Rai (2011)

Good young adult fiction should be unafraid to tackle difficult subjects. They should tell readers the things parents can’t or won’t; they should tackle issues in a subtle way and they should break taboos. No one’s better at this than Bali Rai. Killing Honour is a gripping crime story, first and foremost. We have sleazy nightclubs, dodgy dealings and drugs. We also have Jas, Sat’s married sister, who has disappeared. The explanation from her husband, Amar, is that she’s run off with some guy. Adultery is frowned upon in Sat’s Sikh family. No one thinks to look for her; she’s dead to them now. Sat’s uncomfortable, though. The explanation just doesn’t ring true; Jas wasn’t like that.  She’d never run off with another man –  even though he knew she’d been unhappy with Amar – she’d never do that. So Sat sets out to find his sister and walks straight into danger. What follows is heart-in-the-mouth storytelling. Warning: box of tissues a must (king-size).

Rowan the Strange by Julie Hearn (2009)

Another dark one, I’m afraid.  Rowan has always been strange. Good as gold one minute, behaving oddly – dangerously – the next. His family are at their wits’ end and when Rowan hurts his sister they know it’s time to seek help. He is diagnosed with schizophrenia and sent to a mental hospital where he is put on a ward with other children. Set against the backdrop of the Second World War, Hearn deftly weaves a powerful story of family ties, unlikely friendships and heart-rending incident.  One for historical fiction lovers.

Tamar by Mal Peet (2005)

‘When her grandfather dies, Tamar inherits a box containing a series of clues and coded messages,’ reads the blurb.

Historical fiction again. World War 2 again. This is a multiple narrative with the story flicking between past (Nazi occupied Holland) and present (England). It’s gripping stuff. Like in Keeper, Peet doesn’t talk down to his YA readers; he expects them to be mature enough to cope with the things his characters have to endure. At its heart Tamar is a love story but it’s a bittersweet one with a twist that will make you gasp. Beautifully written.

Tall Story by Candy Gourlay (2010)

Puberty sucks; everyone knows that. But what poor Bernardo wouldn’t give to have problems like spots or bad breath – at least you can get stuff to hide things like that. There’s no way you can hide the fact that you’re EIGHT FOOT TALL. Fortunately for Bernardo he lives in San Andres, a small village in the mountains of the Philippines where being tall is seen as a lucky omen and revered. Unfortunately Bernardo’s mother lives in London and wants her son to live with her, her new husband William, and his half sister Andi. So Bernardo, with great trepidation, his steps down from the plane at Heathrow and into a strange, new world. I loved this book. Told alternately between Bernardo and Andi, it’s a story that covers so much and leaves the reader with a warm glow. Highly recommended (and not too dark!)

http://www.helena-pielichaty.com

Helena’s YA books, Saturday Girl, Never Ever and Accidental Friends are available on Kindle. 


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Flour Babies by Anne Fine

Eleven days into The Great Flour Baby Experiment, the rest of the boys in Room 8 – the classroom for underachievers and troublemakers – are ready to drop-kick their six-pound flour “babies” into the creek, but not Simon. He’s keeping his flour baby clean and dry, maintaining its weight, and never, never leaving its side, even if the rest of the class thinks he’s crazy.

Maybe he is. But Simon’s flour baby is helping Simon figure out his own life – why his father walked out on him, and how strong his mother is, raising him alone. In fact, Simon might not be able to give up his flour baby as the day of the giant, glorious Flour Free-for-All approaches…

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Flour Babies is on our UKYA Top 100 list.