It’s so hard to choose because there are just SO MANY amazing UKYA books out there. I’ve gone for my all time Top Five, the books that inspired me to write myself. So here we go (in no particular order - I love them all!):
i] I CAPTURE THE CASTLE by Dodie Smith
Written in 1949, this is UKYA before YA was even invented. Written from the point of view of brilliantly eccentric would-be writer Cassandra Mortmain, it tells the story of a teenager living with her eccentric, bohemian family in a ramshackle castle in the middle of nowhere. It has romance and unrequited love, it has sibling rivalry, but most of all it has the most memorable cast of characters. This book shows how powerful a strong narrative voice can be. You love Cassandra, she’s funny, quirky, funny, naive and wise all at once.
ii] HOW I LIVE NOW by Meg Rosoff
It’s the voice of spiky, vulnerable, funny Daisy that makes this book so instantly appealing and memorable but there’s much more to it than that. It’s an adventure set against the background of an imagined war in the near future, which disrupts the idyllic, adult-free life that New Yorker Daisy has found with her English cousins. Rosoff uncompromisingly shows the devastating and brutal effects of war. But at its heart it’s a love story, the story of Daisy and Edmund, how their love sustains them. It’s full of energy and humour and life and emotion, and for me personally it was reading this book that made me want to go off and write a book of my own.
iii] THE KNIFE OF NEVER LETTING GO by Patrick Ness
This was one of those books that I picked up and instantly got lost in, completely forgetting where I was, what time it was, and that I was supposed to be picking my son up from nursery (oops!) It’s a breathless adventure, a brilliantly clever concept, has a main character Todd you love straight away and best of all, it has a talking dog, Manchee. But as well as being a fantastically inventive story it explores darker themes too in an accessible but thought-provoking way.
iv] NOUGHTS AND CROSSES by Malorie Blackman
This is a standout classic of UKYA, it’s a masterclass in how to address huge, serious issues through a gripping love story. It’s a simple concept: racism, with the roles reversed. The dark-skinned Crosses are dominant and powerful in a segregated society, the pale-skinned Noughts, previously slaves, are still the underclass. Sephy is a Cross, Calum is a Nought. Their heart-breaking love story is told brilliantly, and will make you think again about what prejudice and injustice can drive people to.
v] JUNK by Melvin Burgess
Melvin Burgess is the ‘Godfather’ of UKYA and Junk typifies why. It was incredibly controversial when it first came out. Why? Because it did what Melvin’s books so often do: it dealt honestly and openly with a difficult issue, in this case drug abuse. And it doesn’t preach, it trusts the reader to make their own mind up. But although it’s an ‘issue’ book, it’s also a fantastic story - a love story. This book changed the landscape of UKYA forever.
Clare Furniss's debut novel The Year of the Rat hit the shelves on April 24th and already has had rave reviews. Summary: I always thought you'd know, somehow, if something terrible was going to happen. I thought you'd sense it, like when the air goes damp and heavy before a storm and you know you'd better hide yourself away somewhere safe until it all blows over.Thank you so much for being here Clare! Have you read her debut novel yet? What did you think? What are your Top Five UKYA novels?
But it turns out it's not like that at all. There's no scary music playing in the background like in films. No warning signs. Not even a lonely magpie. One for sorrow, Mum used to say. Quick, look for another.
The world can tip at any moment … a fact that fifteen-year-old Pearl is all too aware of when her mum dies after giving birth to her baby sister. Told across the year following her mother's death, Pearl's story is full of bittersweet humour and heartbreaking honesty about how you deal with grief that cuts you to the bone, as she tries not only to come to terms with losing her mum, but also the fact that her sister - The Rat - is a constant reminder of why her mum is no longer around…- goodreads