Celebrating Young Adult fiction by UK authors

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Guest post: Emma Haughton’s Top 5 UKYA Contemporary Thrillers

NowYouSeeMe_frontcover_green Oh god, the agonising! So hard to pick five. But here goes, and in no particular order.

1. Daylight Saving by Ed Hogan

I loved this book, and am on a one-woman mission to get everyone to read it. I am cheating a bit because although it is a contemporary YA thriller, it does have a supernatural element. A thriller ghost story – what’s not to love? But actually what I liked best about this book is its humour. Hogan does great comedy, and the portrayal of Daniel’s hapless, somewhat depressed father had me laughing out loud. But the story is also moving and poignant, and impossible to put down. Go on, go and read it right now!

2. The Glass Demon by Helen Grant

So many things to love about this book, and many of them unusual. The setting of a small German town, the beautiful prose, and slow build give The Glass Demon the feel of a literary classic, but Grant can do scary and sinister like no one else. I loved the spooky, horror elements, and warmed to the protagonist Lin and her reluctant relationship with a neighbouring boy. But more than anything I loved the portrayal of her utterly narcissistic step-mother, Tuesday, whose laziness and blithe self-regard are painfully funny. And I so worried about the fate of the legendary Allerheiligen stained glass, which has me just as anxious for its safety as the priceless painting in Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch.

3. Cruel Summer by James Dawson

Cruel Summer offers a wonderfully tongue-in-cheek twist on the classic whodunit, with a cast of the impossibly young and beautiful in a glamorous Mediterranean setting. Sharp, sassy and uber-cool, like Josh Whedon’s meta-horror flick Cabin in the Woods Dawson grabs all the horror tropes and turns them inside out, playing out all the clichés with conscious irony through Ryan, who narrates everything in his head as if it were a TV show. A clever, postmodern blend of horror and suspense, chilling and amusing by turns.

4. Looking for JJ by Anne Cassidy

Taking us deep into the psyche of a convicted child killer, Looking for JJ has rightly become something of a YA classic. A brave and daring novel, whose author manages to keep us completely on the side of protagonist Alice Tully; despite knowing what she’s done, Cassidy has us rooting for her success in establishing a new life. It’s not an entirely comfortable read, in that Cassidy doesn’t take the easy route of exonerating Alice from her crime, but shows by slow, painful degrees just how one child might be driven to kill another, and how our only just response is forgiveness and understanding. Harrowing stuff, and I can’t wait to read the recently released sequel, Finding Jennifer Jones.

5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

Okay, I may be stretching the definition of YA just a little here, and possibly that of a thriller too, but I couldn’t resist including Mark Haddon’s masterpiece. Fifteen-year-old Christopher Boone is one of literature’s great teenage sleuths, and The Curious Incident is a fabulous whodunnit, albeit if the victim is a dog. By showing us the everyday through the prism of profound Asperger syndrome, Haddon gives us the world afresh. Clever, profound and deeply moving.

Emma Haughton’s own contemporary YA thriller, Now You See Me is published by Usborne today. A one-time family and travel journalist, Emma’s second novel, Better Left Buried, comes out next year.

Visit Emma’s website at for more details, connect with her on Facebook at or chat with her on Twitter: @Emma_Haughton #NowYouSeeMe

Guest Post: Aurelia B Rowl on writing sexy YA (and a sneaky Top almost-10)

Aurelia B RowlI was supposed to come and share my top ten UKYA books, but the more I looked through the books on my ‘favourites’ shelf on Goodreads, the more ashamed I became. There was a HUGE disparity between the number of UK authors, and the number of US authors on that virtual shelf. It was a travesty, honestly, and I’ve since made the mental note that “I must do better.”

Seeing as I don’t have a top ten to share with you after all, I figured I ought to talk about my book instead. It’s called Popping the Cherry, and yes, it’s about sex…or rather, it’s one girl’s journey towards losing her virginity and establishing a relationship with her peers.

So what possessed me to write a YA book with sex in it?

When I’m not writing YA, you will find me writing contemporary romances, so the actual writing of a love scene doesn’t faze me. The trickiest part was actually figuring how much detail was too much, and just how far I could push the YA genre boundaries in order to pass on what I hope is a positive message. It was a very delicate balance between trying to keep the storyline real and not getting all preachy, and that’s where a huge cast of characters helped. Popping the Cherry is basically the kind of book I wish I’d had when I was younger, trying to navigate my way through the jungle that is rife with peer pressure and insecurities, and it has already been compared to Forever by Judy Blume, which is an absolute honour.

Popping_the_CherryPopping the Cherry is the first in a series of standalone companion novels, but due to the nature of the stories and the ages of the main characters increasing with each title, the series will veer more towards New Adult with the issues this fabulous cast of characters will have to face and overcome.

Oh and if you’re interested, this is how far I got with my top ten, where you’ll notice I am a MASSIVE fan of series, and paranormal shenanigans in particular:

Harry Potter series – J.K. Rowling

This one needs no introduction really, but it was a series that got me reading regularly again, lapping up every word.

Witchblood series – Emma Mills

If you like you vampire series, with witches and angels thrown it too, then you can’t go far wrong with this series by Indie author, Emma Mills.

Stella Mayweather series – Camilla Chafer

Another fabulous ‘witchy’ series worth checking out.

Discworld series – Terry Pratchett

Although not strictly YA, this is what I was reading when I was a teenager. I had a weekend job when I was at school, and would save up to buy as many of the books as I could.

Shalean Moon series – J. Lilley

I discovered this series last year, based around a clan of leopard shifters…I use the work ‘clan’ because the stories are set in The Trossachs and written by Scottish author J. Lilley.

Rae Wilder series – Penelope Fletcher

Another fantasy/paranormal series by an Indie author, and I absolutely loved the first three books in the series so they are well worth checking out.

Kisses for Lula – Samantha Mackintosh

This a was a super cute, fun, read that left me smiling and put a spring in my step.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon

A classic and one that I have read several times, yet each time I seem to discover something new that I’d missed a previous time.

I’m rather hoping that I will have more to add to this list, the next time I am asked for my favourite UKYA books.


The Top 10 Best-Ever UKYA novels – as voted by YOU

I know, I know, it’s taken a while, but we had over 1000 votes – how brilliant is that? So here, without further ado, are (in reverse order)…


10) A Monster Calls – Patrick Ness and Siobhan Dowd

9) Lila series – Sarah Alderson

8) C.H.E.R.U.B. series – Robert Muchamore

7) Chaos Walking trilogy – Patrick Ness

6) The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 and 3/4 – Sue Townsend

5) I Capture the Castle – Dodie Smith

4) The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – Mark Haddon

3) Noughts & Crosses – Malorie Blackman

2) His Dark Materials series – Philip Pullman

1) Harry Potter series – JK Rowling


The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

Christopher is fifteen and has Asperger’s Syndrome. He knows a very great deal about maths and very little about human beings. He loves lists, patterns and the truth. He hates the colours yellow and brown and being touched. He has never gone further than the end of the road on his own, but when he finds a neighbour’s dog murdered he sets out on a terrifying journey which will turn his whole world upside down.

Visit Mark’s website

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time is in our Top 10 Best-Ever UKYA novels.