UKYA

Celebrating Young Adult fiction by UK authors


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 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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The Top 10 Best-Ever UKYA novels – as voted by YOU

I know, I know, it’s taken a while, but we had over 1000 votes – how brilliant is that? So here, without further ado, are (in reverse order)…

THE TOP 10 BEST-EVER UKYA NOVELS (as voted by YOU):

10) A Monster Calls – Patrick Ness and Siobhan Dowd

9) Lila series – Sarah Alderson

8) C.H.E.R.U.B. series – Robert Muchamore

7) Chaos Walking trilogy – Patrick Ness

6) The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 and 3/4 – Sue Townsend

5) I Capture the Castle – Dodie Smith

4) The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – Mark Haddon

3) Noughts & Crosses – Malorie Blackman

2) His Dark Materials series – Philip Pullman

1) Harry Potter series – JK Rowling


The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 ¾ by Sue Townsend

At thirteen years old, Adrian Mole has more than his fair share of problems – spots, ill-health, parents threatening to divorce, rejection of his poetry and much more – all recorded with brilliant humour in his diary.

Adrian Mole’s first love, Pandora, has left him; a neighbor, Mr. Lucas, appears to be seducing his mother (and what does that mean for his father?); the BBC refuses to publish his poetry; and his dog swallowed the tree off the Christmas cake. “Why” indeed.

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 3/4 is number 6 on our Top 10 Best-Ever UKYA Novels list.

Visit Sue’s website