Top Ten UKYA books
There is so much happening in the UKYA world right now and it’s a very exciting place to be for new writers (and old!), but with so many new books coming out all the time, it’s also hard to keep up with the reading. Frankly, I don’t know how bloggers do it. Here are ten of the UKYA books I’ve read and loved in the past few years, all of which I really wish I’d written. There’s a brilliant tradition of YA writing which we’re so lucky to have in the UK and which only seems to get better. I’m in awe of all of these writers: the tightness of their plots and prose and their characters who have you utterly rooting for them.
- Maggot Moon: Sally Gardner This book will always be at the top of a ‘best of’ list for me because of the way it made me weep. It is so heart-breaking, so frightening and so full of love that it’s an absolute must-read.
- Cuckoo Song: Frances Hardinge I love the magical, fairytale quality of this story. It manages to be truly frightening and mind-bendingly clever at the same time. But what really sets Frances Hardinge apart is the quality of her writing. Every single sentence is a joy. The doubling in the story is another thing that draws me to this one. Anything which is features this motif is always a hit with me.
- Bunker Diary: Kevin Brooks This book caused so much controversy that I don’t think I need to say too much about it, other than it is harsh, completely brutal and utterly gripping. But it is a story that is not without love and not without hope and all the more devastating because of this. The main character is beautifully humane and I loved the relationships he builds with other captives, despite their horrendous circumstances.
- A Song For Ella Grey: David Almond I am in awe of David Almond’s writing and this book is pure poetry. I love the depiction of female friendship and the intensity of feelings that he portrays in this magical, dreamy story. It grabbed my imagination from the outset and the evocation of the north-east of England is irresistible. I’ll be getting my husband, who’s a Sunderland chap, to read it too. We’re both David Almond fans.
- Before I Die: Jenny Downham Another weepy. A fantastically written story that I never hear mentioned these days. The ending has stayed with me ever since I first read the book about five years ago - it’s just so powerful and had me in floods of tears. I can’t wait to read her new book, which I believe is coming soon.
- Looking for JJ: Anne Cassidy A fascinating and gripping story with a tragic premise. This is a YA must-read. I could not put it down.
7. Code Name Verity: Elizabeth Wein A very clever WWII story with a big feminist message. It’s beautifully written too, and really gripping.
8. A Swift Pure Cry: Siobhan Dowd Grief, love and growing up are dealt with in this novel so sensitively and beautifully that it’s irresistible.
9. The Weight of Water: Sarah Crossan Such a quick and gripping read, made extra special by the really interesting stylistic choice of writing a novel as a prose poem. I think she deals brilliantly with bullying and the frustration and alienation felt by immigrants. It’s an important book, I think, for our times.
10. Heart Shaped Bruise by Tanya Byrne A wonderful premise, brilliantly executed. Tanya’s writing is so punchy and vivid and her narrator is fabulously twisty. I can’t wait for For Holly, coming this summer, I believe!
Louisa Reid is a writer and teacher living on the Fen Edge. Her debut novel, BLACK HEART BLUE was published in 2012 by Penguin and was shortlisted for the North East Teen Book Award and longlisted for the Carnegie and Branford Boase awards. Her second novel, LIES LIKE LOVE was published in July 2014 by Penguin.
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