Celebrating Young Adult fiction by UK authors


Author Susie Day, on YA with a Welsh Setting

I grew up with the sea at the end of my road. Writing a summer story set on a beach was kind of inevitable.

Penarth Pier

Mmm, beachy. Penarth Pier and, um, some mud. (It looks lovely when the tide’s in!)

I’m from Penarth, a few miles from Cardiff: a Victorian seaside resort, where sickly people would come to ‘take the air’ on the promenade. It’s also a few miles from Barry Island, the more traditional bucket-and-spade hangout – and where the sitcom Gavin & Stacey was set. For my currently-living-in-England self, that show was like some sort of magical gift. After years of trying to explain the mere concept of ‘Wales’, I could just point at the telly and go ‘I’m from there, sort of.’ (Penarth and Barry are not remotely the sam as any local will tell you – while laughing – but I did learn how to do hill starts outside Uncle Bryn’s house. Cracking for your clutch control, Barry is.)

log flume

Nessa and co on the soon-to-be demolished Barry Island Pleasure Park Log Flume. *sniffs*

My book The Twice-Lived Summer of Bluebell Jones is set in Penkerry, a fictional Welsh seaside town that borrows from Penarth, Barry, Porthkerry and bits of Pembrokeshire at random. There’s a fairground, and a pier; an island (loosely based on Caldey Island off Tenby); a pebbly beach, and dangerous tides, horror stories about which were drummed into me as a kid.

The Twice-Lived Summer of Bluebell Jones

The Twice-Lived Summer of Bluebell Jones: certified harp/goblin-free.

It’s the first time I’ve written a YA novel with a strong sense of place. Big Woo and My Invisible Boyfriend took place in a sort of ‘everyland’, an unobtrusive Could Be Your Town. Intentionally, I should add. As a teen, if I found a YA book set in the UK, it took place in England, probably London (the geography of which the author seemed to assume I’d recognise): hugely annoying. Meanwhile, anything set in Wales was invariably fantasy, with runes and harps and mystical retellings of the Mabinogion by a goblin up a hill. (Which is fine, of course, but not really my cup of tea.)

So I wanted to write a contemporary story that was firmly set in Wales, even if Penkerry itself isn’t real: the story I would’ve loved to read back then.

My relationship with my own Welshness isn’t simple, though. On the train back to Cardiff to see my family I’m always reassured by the old familiar voices and phrases, that sense of coming home – but I also feel a bit of an imposter. I’ve got an English accent these days (unless I’m shouting at the rugby). I’m one of those Welsh traitors that left and never went back.

So I decided to use that unease. In the book, Bluebell is on the brink of ‘true’ teenagerness, the sudden blossoming of self-confidence she imagines will arrive automatically with her 13th birthday – wrongly, of course. I made her English (with a Welsh Dad), a visitor for the summer holidays. Her lurking sense of foreignness in a Welsh-accented landscape is yet another worry, one more for the list of ways she fears she’ll never fit in.

Luckily for Blue, she meets a bunch of lovely, accepting – and very Welsh – teens at Penkerry funfair, ready and waiting to help her figure herself out.

This post is part of the Twice-Lived Summer of Bluebell Jones blog tour. Click here for more info, and for a chance to win a Bluebell Jones-style retro camera enter the Summer Snap! competition.

Lottie Biggs is (Not) Mad by Hayley Long

My name is Lottie Biggs and in three weeks time, I will be fifteen years old. At school, most people call me Lottie Not-Very-Biggs. I’ve never found this particularly funny . . .

My current hair colour is Melody Deep Plum which is not as nice as Melody Forest Flame but definitely better than the dodgy custard colour I tried last week . . .

And this is my book – it’s about important things like boys and shoes and polo-neck knickers and rescuing giraffes and NOT fancying Gareth Stingecombe (even though he has manly thighs) and hanging-out with your best friend having A BLATANTLY FUNNY TIME. It is definitely not about sitting in wardrobes or having a mental disturbance of any kind!

Painfully honest and laugh-so-hard-you-forget-to-breathe funny.

Visit Hayley’s website

1 Comment

Big Woo! by Susie Day

OMG shiny new laptop! Shiny new blog! Behold my interestingness!

Serafina67 has a Happiness Deadline, and she’s got everything she needs to turn her life around by April 22nd: a new laptop for capslocky blogging, Crazy Pete the therapist, and the delectable patchworkboy. But her Dad’s marrying a Monster, her best friend’s not so friendly any more, and she’s eaten so many comfort Pringles she looks Pringnant. The clock is ticking. Can LOLs lead the way to happiness, or is life online about to take an unexpected twist?

Read Chapter 1

Visit Susie’s website