When I started thinking about my top 10 UKYA picks, I decided I wanted to put something a little different out there, and highlight some books that are brand new favourites, or maybe haven’t had as much exposure as some other titles. So my picks are ALL (I hope!) books that haven’t yet been featured on this site as Top 10s. In no particular order…
1. THE DEAD HOUSE by Dawn Kurtagich
This doesn’t come out until the summer, but I was lucky enough to read it early. Carly and Kaitlyn are the Johnson sisters – two girls who inhabit one body. Carly gets the day, and Kaitlyn has the night – though nobody believes Kaitlyn is real. Diary entries, psychologists’ reports, and recovered video footage shine a light on The Johnson Incident – the night where Elmbridge Academy burned down, killing several students. Amazingly dark and creepy!
Tell the story to its end, the monster tells Oli. This is a haunting novel about secrets and stories and finding our own truth, and it’ll appeal to fans of A Monster Calls and Skellig, in particular.
3. THE HANGED MAN RISES by Sarah Naughton
This story is set in a Victorian London where a killer hunts children by night. It has a Jack-the-Ripper-ish feel to it, with a dose of dark magic and creepy supernatural goings on.
This was the first of CJ’s books I read, but I could have mentioned any of them as an instant favourite. It tells the story of Paisley and Beau, the ‘wonder twins’, who go on a crime spree across the US in a bid to find their long-lost father. It’s hilarious and heart-wrenching, and just great fun.
5. TINDER by Sally Gardner
This is a fairytale retelling of The Tinderbox, and it has a really dreamy, abstract quality to it that’s totally absorbing. The illustrations in it are wonderful, and bring the story to life.
6. THE SAVAGES by Matt Whyman
Sasha comes from a family of cannibals, so maybe bringing her vegetarian boyfriend home for dinner wasn’t such a great idea…This book is darkly funny and very original.
7. THE YEAR OF THE RAT by Clare Furniss
Pearl’s mother died giving birth to ‘The Rat’ – Pearl’s baby sister. This is the story of the year that follows, and it’s hilarious as well as heart-breaking. I started crying when I reached page 14, and didn’t really stop until the end. I almost had to be put on a drip.
8. THE BUNKER DIARY by Kevin Brooks
This won the Carnegie Medal last year, and definitely deserved to. Teenager Linus is abducted and held in an underground bunker with 5 other people, with no way out unless their captor lets them go… Gripping stuff!
9. JON FOR SHORT by Malorie Blackman
This short, weird book with illustrations by Vladimir Stankovic is a twisted little nightmare, where Jon’s limbs are taken one by one each night as he sleeps. I bought this one for the cover, but it has really burned itself into my brain.
10. THE KILLING WOODS by Lucy Christopher – I had high expectations after STOLEN broke my heart, and Lucy definitely gave it another shattering with her second YA novel. Emily’s dad, suffering from PTSD, is accused of killing a girl in the woods. But as Emily finds out more about what happens in the woods late at night, it’s not so clear who is to blame for the girl’s death… tense, thrilling, and sinister.
And that’s it! Hopefully I have stuck to my own rules and not duplicated any from other lists, but feel free to call me out on it if I have. I will give a special mention to 3 I would’ve included if they hadn’t already appeared elsewhere: TROUBLE by Non Pratt, SKIN DEEP by Laura Jarratt, and THE UNIVERSE VERSUS ALEX WOODS by Gavin Extence.