UKYA

Celebrating Young Adult fiction by UK authors


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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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Writer Lucy Marcovitch’s Top 10 UKYA books

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA1. Skellig by David Almond – I read this when it was first published and I’ve never read anything so unique, haunting and beautiful since. Although he came very close with My Name is Mina!

2. Dear Nobody by Berlie Doherty – a completely un-judgemental, un-preachy, honest and sensitive book about teenage pregnancy. I wish I could write a book half as real as this one. I think it should be on the sex education curriculum!

3. The Writing on the Wall by Lynne Reid Banks – I read this book in the 80s as a teenager, and it was the one which inspired me to want to write for young adults. It’s the perfect model of everything you’re told in creative writing classes about how to craft a story for YA.

4. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness & Siobhan Dowd – probably the most powerful evocation of grief in any book for children or adults that I’ve read. It’s a true modern classic, and the uniqueness of its authorship makes it more powerful. It also wouldn’t be half as powerful without the illustrations, which sets it apart in another way, as an illustrated YA book.

5. Ways to Live Forever by Sally Nicholls – if only I could write a first novel as beautiful as this one! I wept buckets at the end. I think it’s a shame it was eclipsed by other books with a similar theme that were published at the same time, as I think it is much more superior than any of them, being so under-stated.

6. My Name is Mina by David Almond – I love how David Almond’s characters take on lives of their own, even when they aren’t the main characters. This ia another beautiful book – for a while it was touch and go whether it surpassed Skellig for me!

7. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling – when I was a teacher I kept reading articles by libraries about this brilliant book about a boy wizard. I read it in one weekend, then tried it out on my class. I have never seen 35 10 and 11 year-olds sit so still and beg me to read more after 3.30. It’s hard to remember that in 1996 there wasn’t another book quite like it.

8. The Witch’s Daughter – Nina Bawden is best known for Carrie’s War, but I I always preferred this mystery story. None of the characters are stereotypes – even the baddies have a human face. And the name Perdita always fascinated me, especially as I couldn’t work out how to pronounce it!

9. Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer – classic time slip book that inspired my favourite teenage band The Cure. What could be more exciting for a young adult?!

10. The Edge of the Cloud by KM Peyton – I’d choose all the Flambards books, but at a push this one is my favourite. It’s a beautiful combination of love story and historical novel, romantic and exciting – Christina and Will are living the life all older teenagers would dream of. And of course it makes the opening tragedy of the third novel even more unbearably tragic!

Check out Lucy’s blog http://lucymarcovitch.wordpress.com or follow her on Twitter @lucym808


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Dear Nobody by Berlie Doherty

The story of two teenagers and an unplanned pregnancy.

It is told from two viewpoints – that of Helen as she writes her thoughts in a series of letters to the unborn baby, the Dear Nobody of the title, and of Chris as he reads the letters and relives events as Helen is in labour.

Read more about the book at Berlie’s website

Dear Nobody is on our UKYA Top 100 list.