UKYA

Celebrating Young Adult fiction by UK authors


Julie Bertagna’s Top 10 UKYA books

Photo copyright Donald MacLeod

Author Julie Bertagna chooses her Top 10 favourites:

In no order whatsoever, these are just the tip of a very big iceberg…

For Twihards needing a fix of vampires, werewolves and weird, erotic adventures – Angela Carter did it first and best. Check out The Bloody Chamber and other short stories where young heroines in peril defy what’s expected of them.

Philip Reeve’s stunning streampunk adventures in a post-apocalyptic world, renamed Predator Cities, has an opening line I really wish I’d written: ‘It was a dark, blustery afternoon in spring, and the city of London was chasing a small mining town across the dried-out bed of the old North Sea.’

I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith – classic YA territory. A coming of age story set in a dysfunctional family (the father indulging his writer’s block is a brilliant warning about missed chances) yet it’s unique. Strange, dark, funny, quirky and beautifully written, it reduces me to tears every time.

Ostrich Boys by Keith Gray – the aftermath of a teen suicide becomes a crazy road trip that’s laugh-out-loud funny while exploring the emotional fall-out of a group of boys after a friend’s tragic death. Genius.

The Carbon Diaries by Saci Lloyd – diary of a pissed-off teen eco-warrior in a near-future world in crisis.

Philip Pullman’s The Amber Spyglass – the culmination of His Dark Materials is a big, blockbusting love story of two teenagers against the forces of the universe. Bursting with imagination and humanity.

I Am Apache by Tanya Landman – the incredibly powerful voice and story of a young apache girl who becomes a warrior to avenge her brother’s death.

True fairytales are not for fainthearts – Robin McKinley’s Deerskin* is brutal and tender. Spellbinding storytelling.

Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman – a groundbreaking dystopian thriller that turns the world on its head.

Once In A House on Fire by Andrea Ashworth is an unforgettable survival story of a girl in a war zone – her family. For every teen who thinks they’ll never escape.

(*American Robin McKinley has lived and written in the UK for many years so I’m claiming her as ours!)


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La Jongleuse chooses her Top 10 UKYA novels

The blogger knows as Jongleuse chooses her Top 10 books. 

1) Siobhan Dowd A Swift Pure Cry

Simply one of the most beautiful, heartbreaking books in any genre I’ve ever read.

2) Julie Bertagna Exodus and sequels

Julie Bertagna has deservedly cropped up on many best of YA lists. Her post-global warming trilogy spanning generations and continents, as well as being exquisitely written, is a great adventure story.

3) David Almond, My Name is Mina

Prequel to Skellig, but not like any other prequel you’ve read. Anything and everything by David Almond is worth reading.

4) Meg Rosoff, There is No Dog

How I live Now is Meg’s best-known book, but I loved this quirky tale of a teenage boy playing God, delivered, as usual, in Meg’s precise, beautiful prose.

5) Terry Pratchett, The Wee Free Men and sequels

What to say about Sir Terry? If you’re a fan of fantasy, humour and metaphysics in equal quantities, the Tiffany Aching series is a brilliant place to start, although most of his output is eminently YA suitable anyway.

6) Anthony McGowan, Henry Tumour

Funny, sad and outrageous.

7) Celia Rees, Witch Child

This one really pushed the boundaries of historical fiction, away from bodice-rippers to something darker and more thought provoking.

8) Kevin Brooks, Naked

Brooks’ writing is taut and clever. Being (only just) old enough to remember punk first time round I loved this book about a teen punk rock star and her involvement with a young man who has a troubled past. Anything by Brooks is worth reading, however.

9) Jan Mark, They do things differently there

Jan Mark is not much read these days (sadly I think this one’s out of print) but she was outrageously talented. This story of two girls who invent an alternative world (Stalemate) in their boring New Town is brilliantly original.

10) Scarlett Thomas, The End of Mr. Y

Not marketed a YA but older teens would adore this weird, heady fantasy with heavy literary pretensions. I love the idea of the Alex awards in the USA where non-YA books are rewarded for being great teen reads.


Miriam Halahmy’s Top 10 UKYA books

Miriam Halahmy, author of Hidden and Illegal, chooses her favourite UKYA books.

Dirty Work by Julia Bell : Child sex trafficking and a wake-up call for one young English girl who didn’t realise what a good life she already had. A slice of life we would rather turn away from.

Saving Rafael by Leslie Wilson : A mother and daughter hide a Jewish boy in Nazi Berlin. What you would have done in their situation? Love against the odds.

Being Billy by Phil Earle : What would it be like to be rejected by your mother and end up in care for 8 years? A realistic portrayal of the experience of being in care for many young people.

Killing Honour by Bali Rai : Tells the horrific story of the practice of killing young women for honour in some communities and how dangerous it can be for the whistle blower.

Double Cross by Malorie Blackman : Gritty and realistic portrayal of how kids end up in gangs and of postcode gang warfare. Fourth book in Noughts and Crosses series.

Exodus by Julie Bertagna : Dystopian novel set in a flooded world after climate change. Great depiction of a teenage girl taking the lead.

After the Snow by S.D. Crockett : Another dystopian or is it? You decide. Survival techniques in a freezing world, way more realistic than the Hunger Games.

The Brothers Story by Katherine Sturtevant : Atmospheric coming-of-age story set in 1683 in London during the famous ice fair.

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff : If Holden Caulfield had been a girl he would have Daisy’s voice in this funny and powerful story of teenage love ( and sex) in war torn, near future England.

The Long Weekend by Savita Kalhan : Two boys get in a car with a strange man. Read on if you dare. Powerful, dark, unpredictable.


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Andy Robb’s Top 10 UKYA books

If I was asked my Top Ten Books were, it’d be relatively simple – but with the YA tag attached it makes it a lot harder: there’s so much to choose from! But, I think I’ve narrowed it down. Here we go, then – in no particular order:

The Bartimaeus Books by Jonathan Stroud. I love these for a number of reasons, but mainly for Bartimaeus himself; he’s a sassy, jaded, arrogant gargoyle determined to come out on top. I also loved Bart’s pairing up with Nathaniel – who is an equal jerk, just a different kind. Action, humour and pathos all rolled into one. Can’t wait for the fifth.

The Borribles, by Michael de Larrabeiti. This book has a bit of a cult following. In this world, disaffected young adults drop out of society, grow pointed ears and live in tribes across London. It’s quite dark and bloody but, at the same time, quite Tolkienesque; the Borribles have a rich history and an incredibly-defined culture of their own. Plus there are the bad guys, the Rumbles’ giant rat-like creatures that want to see all Borribles destroyed. Plus it’s the first book I read to features the word ‘arse’.

Young Sherlock Holmes Black Ice, by Andrew Lane. I’d always loved Conan Doyle’s creation, but it was interesting to see just how Lane has humanised the young Sherlock and hints at how he will become the distant detective of the future. Although they are packed with intrigue, mystery and detail, they are easy to read.

Wereworld, Rise of the Wolf, by Curtis Jobling. If I’m honest, I was prepared not to like this. I love my werewolves, but I think I’m a bit of a traditionalist and see them as lone, tormented creatures. Jobling has created a world where were-creatures are part of society and, to my surprise, I loved it! 16 year-old Drew is a great character, fraught with the worries that come with that age, which made it all the more interesting to read.

Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress, by Sarwat Chadda. What I loved about this book was the way Chadda has created a world of his own from Indian myths and legends and dropped a 21st Century geek, slap-bang in the middle of it. Ash isn’t your typical hero, but then this isn’t your typical YA book. Great stuff.

The Mortal Engines books, by Philip Reeves. These books are almost too big to be contained by pages. I don’t mean that they’re long, but the scale of Reeves’ vision is epic. And the characters are beautifully flawed, some of them wearing their scars as testament to their fallibility. It’s Steampunk at its best, because the ‘s world he’s created doesn’t overshadow the characters, but you’re always aware that it’s there.

The Suicide Club, by Rhys Thomas. Like the title suggests, this is a dark book – but only in as much as it explores the darker side of the teenage psyche. It’s also about love, friendship and betrayal and is an utterly absorbing read. I really enjoyed it.

Exodus, by Julie Bertagna. Set in an alternative reality, where Earth has flooded, this is a great novel about betrayal on a personal and a global scale. The sequel, Zenith, is just as action-packed and engaging. The unsettling aspect of this book is not only the potential for the world to end up underwater, but the way that the remaining societies organise themselves. The three survivors, Mara, Tuck and Fox are superbly engaging.

The Black Book of Secrets, by FE Higgins. It’s a brilliant conceit, brilliantly executed: Joe Zabbidou buys people’s secrets and he’s looking for an apprentice. Enter Ludlow Fitch, the hero of the piece. I loved the idea, the writing and pretty much everything about this book. I have read it several times and don’t get tired of it.

Triskellion, by Will Peterson. I liked this book because of its simplicity. Yes, there are plenty of twists and turns but, at its heart, it’s a Good vs Evil kind of ride. It’s set in a quiet, English village where two American kids, Rachel and Adam, sent to stay with their grandmother. And, of course, everything is not what it seems… The great thing is that the author doesn’t dumb-down; I think may writers underestimate Young Adults but, if you think back, you were easily capable of pretty sophisticated thoughts and feelings. And, nostalgically, this book reminds me of episodes of Classic Dr Who, where everything was a slow-burner, capped of with a cracking reveal.

While I’m here, I’d just like to offer up my thanks to all the bloggers and reviewers who’ve taken the time to give my book the once-over. I can only hope that it ends up on someone’s Top Ten, somewhere down the line…


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Raimy of Readaraptor’s Top 10 UKYA novels

Raimy of Readaraptor shares her Top 10 UKYA reads.

When Keris asked me to write this post I thought “Of course I’ll do that, that won’t be hard at all.” Oh how wrong was I?! I am now sat here at the computer thinking, “how can I narrow this down to ten?!” and they say that UKYA isn’t as big as USYA! HA!

1. First up I have to put the queen of UKYA from when I was a little sprog myself – Louise Rennison and her Georgia Nicholson series.

This is the series I was hooked on when I was younger. I read the first one over and over until I got the second and then read them both over and over, until I got the third (You can see where this is going right, you don’t need me to carry on?)

I think this is a pretty much timeless series, it would apply to kids of that age now just as much as it did back then.

2. I’m sorry for including the book that EVERYONE picks but the Harry Potter series are the books that got me into reading. All I had read before Harry Potter was the Animal Ark series, Jacqueline Wilson’s entire catalogue (up to that point) and good ol’ Georgia Nicholson.

Harry Potter made me realise there were different genres and not everything was the same as my boring old life! It changed my perspective on the world and brought me closer to my sister.

3. Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses series came to me when I was around 15. This is UKYA at its most amazing, I believe. It was my favourite dystopian read before I knew what dystopia was.

4. Looking for JJ by Anne Cassidy has to be one of the most amazing thrillers I have ever read and it has stuck with me for years now. I even squandered valuable food (and booze) money to go see a stage version of this book in my first year of Uni. Unfortunately I have yet to go back and find more Anne Cassidy books but I think that’s because I thought this one was SO good I’m scared the others won’t live up to it!

5. The Opposite of Chocolate by Julie Bertagna is another one from my 15-year-old days (I read some amazing UKYA books in my teens!) that I could not put down. This book is so atmospheric that you can’t help but feel like you are inside Sapphire’s world. I think I even wrote fan fiction for this book a long, long time ago!

6. Where do I go now!? I think I’ll have to go for yet another book I read back in the day… This author is amazing and is still very prominent in todays UKYA circles with her new book Adorkable due for release this year. Pretty Things by Sarra Manning was an amazing read for me because at around the time I was busy trying to work myself out. I think this was the first book I read with an LGBT character in it and I loved that there were people as confused as I was out there!

7. Sticking with LGBT this next book is on this list partly for an AMAZING book but also because of the way LGBT is handled in it. Hollow Pike by James Dawson came out this year and ever since I read it, it has been stuck in my head. I adored the book in itself and then when the LGBT element came around I was so enamoured by it that this book went to my favourite book of the year. This was James’ debut novel which is shocking because I don’t know how he’s going to top it!

8. Doing It by Melvin Burgess has to have been the most brilliantly funny yet epically “WTF?!” book I read when I was a teen. I loved this book more than anything at the time and it’s so raw and real that I don’t think any teen could read it and not love it. Its written from a male POV (a rare thing for the books that I read at the time and still now, sadly) and it’s all about sex so it captured my interest straight away (sorry, but I was 15 – what do you expect?)

9. Its time for a bit of fantasy. Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott is a beautiful oriental story that’s based loosely on Cinderella. Zoe is an incredible young writer from the UK and all her books are just as beautiful as each other, but this one has to be my favourite. I never thought I’d enjoy this type of fantasy but as soon as I started reading I could not put it down. I have raved about this to everyone and am eagerly awaiting Zoe’s next book.

10. Naked by Kevin Brooks gets the last spot on this list. Naked is a unique story about London in the 70s during the rise of the Punk movement. It was amazing and I have other books of his just sat on my shelf that I can’t wait to read because I loved this one so much.