Good day, Wonderlings!
After much thinking, I realized that something I’ve been meaning to talk about and haven’t had the chance to yet is how little UKYA is recognized in the overall book world. Every day, I see talks of great US YA novels either already out, slated to come out, or about to be released in the near future and yet sometimes, UK YA is met with some nose-crinkling. Many a time, especially on Twitter, I see a UK novel recommended to another reader with the message, “Although it’s UK YA…” or “It’s a UK book but…”
Although? But? UK YA has been glorious in the past. The UK brought you Harry Potter and The Golden Compass and Lord of the Rings, and classics like A Tale of Two Cities and Pride & Prejudice. Guys, UK YA is glorious in every shape or form. And sometimes, it’s not publicized enough.
The #UKYA tag was created and is used by Twitter user @LucyTheReader, who hosts a bi-weekly book chat under the hashtag #ukyachat which, although I don’t participate in because I’m usually working, I love reading when on break or on my way home. It started off talking about UK YA books written by UK authors but has branched out to include all novels, including diverse reads and #ownvoices.
I love the tag because UK YA really does have some hidden gems, and I feel like more people should be excited by the prospect of more UK novels flitting into existence.
And so, without further ado, I shall list UK books written by UK authors that I have loved in the past.
1. A Swift Pure Cry by Siobhan DowdPublished by Definitions (Young Adult) on July 30th 2015
After Shell's mother dies, her obsessively religious father descends into alcoholic mourning and Shell is left to care for her younger brother and sister. Her only release from the harshness of everyday life comes from her budding spiritual friendship with a naive young priest, and most importantly, her developing relationship with childhood friend, Declan, charming, eloquent and persuasive. But when Declan suddenly leaves Ireland to seek his fortune in America, Shell finds herself pregnant and the centre of a scandal that rocks the small community in which she lives, with repercussions across the whole country. The lives of those immediately around her will never be the same again.
2. Lucas by Kevin BrooksPublished by Scholastic Paperbacks on March 1st 2004
Lucas, the dramatic story of a young woman's encounter with the ugly side of humanity and her struggle to defeat it. British novelist Kevin Brooks's masterpiece is set on the island community of Hale over one summer, as 15-year-old Caitlin McCann realizes her small world is changing. Her brother is acting strangely, hanging out with the neighborhood reprobates and getting drunk, and her best friend follows his lead. To make matters worse, the son of an influential local has begun making lewd advances. And Caitlin feels she has no one in whom to confide: Her mother died in a car accident years ago, and her father, though loving and supportive, is a writer who spends much of his time holed up in his study.
It's in this confusing context that Caitlin encounters Lucas, a lean, blond, blue-eyed stranger who mysteriously appears on the island. Caitlin feels drawn to him, but the other local kids are not: they call him a gypsy, and even throw rocks at him. Before long, Lucas is accused of a crime he did not commit, and Caitlin finds herself in a moral quandary.
Lucas is filled with the kind of pain, love, and anguish that teenage readers adore. And Caitlin's quest to find her place in the world and to determine what's right is a struggle to which every teenager will relate. Why not start your own parent/teen book club with Lucas? Neither of you will be disappointed. (Summer 2003 Selection)
3. A Monster Calls by Patrick NessPublished by Walker Books on September 27th 2011
The monster showed up after midnight. As they do.
But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming…
This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.
It wants the truth.
4. Forbidden by Tabitha SuzumaPublished by Definitions on May 27th 2010
She is pretty and talented - sweet sixteen and never been kissed. He is seventeen; gorgeous and on the brink of a bright future. And now they have fallen in love. But... they are brother and sister.
Seventeen-year-old Lochan and sixteen-year-old Maya have always felt more like friends than siblings. Together they have stepped in for their alcoholic, wayward mother to take care of their three younger siblings. As defacto parents to the little ones, Lochan and Maya have had to grow up fast. And the stress of their lives—and the way they understand each other so completely—has also brought them closer than two siblings would ordinarily be. So close, in fact, that they have fallen in love. Their clandestine romance quickly blooms into deep, desperate love. They know their relationship is wrong and cannot possibly continue. And yet, they cannot stop what feels so incredibly right. As the novel careens toward an explosive and shocking finale, only one thing is certain: a love this devastating has no happy ending.
5. Noughts & Crosses by Malorie BlackmanPublished by Corgi Childrens on August 8th 2006
Two young people are forced to make a stand in this thought-provoking look at racism and prejudice in an alternate society.
Sephy is a Cross -- a member of the dark-skinned ruling class. Callum is a Nought -- a “colourless” member of the underclass who were once slaves to the Crosses. The two have been friends since early childhood, but that’s as far as it can go. In their world, Noughts and Crosses simply don’t mix. Against a background of prejudice and distrust, intensely highlighted by violent terrorist activity, a romance builds between Sephy and Callum -- a romance that is to lead both of them into terrible danger. Can they possibly find a way to be together?
6. Tamar by Mal PeetPublished by Candlewick Press on January 23rd 2007
Now available - the Carnegie Medal winner comes to the U.S.
When her grandfather dies, Tamar inherits a box containing a series of clues and coded messages. Out of the past, another Tamar emerges, a man involved in the terrifying world of resistance fighters in Nazi-occupied Holland half a century before. His story is one of passionate love, jealousy, and tragedy set against the daily fear and casual horror of the Second World War -- and unraveling it is about to transform Tamar’s life forever.
From acclaimed British sensation Mal Peet comes a masterful story of adventure, love, secrets, and betrayal in time of war, both past and present.
7. The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughreanon January 1st 1970
I have been in love with Titus Oates for quite a while now—which is ridiculous, since he's been dead for ninety years. But look at it this way. In ninety years I'll be dead, too, and the age difference won't matter.
Sym is not your average teenage girl. She is obsessed with the Antarctic and the brave, romantic figure of Captain Oates from Scott's doomed expedition to the South Pole. In fact, Oates is the secret confidant to whom she spills all her hopes and fears.
But Sym's uncle Victor is even more obsessed—and when he takes her on a dream trip into the bleak Antarctic wilderness, it turns into a nightmarish struggle for survival that will challenge everything she knows and loves.
In her first contemporary young adult novel, Carnegie Medalist and three-time Whitbread Award winner Geraldine McCaughrean delivers a spellbinding journey into the frozen heart of darkness.
8. Skellig by David AlmondPublished by Laurel Leaf on September 11th 2001
Unhappy about his baby sister's illness and the chaos of moving into a dilapidated old house, Michael retreats to the garage and finds a mysterious stranger who is something like a bird and something like an angel...
9. Girl, Missing by Sophie McKenziePublished by Simon & Schuster on December 1st 2006
Lauren has always known she was adopted but when a little research turns up the possibility that she was snatched from an American family as a baby, suddenly Lauren's life seems like a sham. How can she find her biological parents? And are her adoptive parents really responsible for kidnapping her?
10. Sara’s Face by Melvin BurgessPublished by Andersen on June 1st 2006
Sara is going to have a face transplant. She has allowed herself to be drawn into the orbit of a highly manipulative and ruthless pop-star. He is going to take her discarded face to cover his own scarred and damaged one. But as the time of the operation approaches, those closest to her suspect that Sara is changing her mind. Is she being pressured into it? Is the wealthy pop-star her benefactor - or her gaoler?
What local books do you love? Have you read any of the books above? Do you want to? Let me know in the comments below!