Celebrating Young Adult fiction by UK authors

UKYA Books of the Year 2013: Part 1

It’s that time of year again…we’re asking writers, bloggers and other bookish people to pick their UKYA books of the year.  Starting today with picks from awesome UKYA authors Lee Weatherly, Zoe Marriott, James Dawson and Rhian Ivory.  Feel free to add your picks of the year in the comments.

More tomorrow!

untitledGeek Girl by Holly Smale. Picked by Lee Weatherly, author of the Angel trilogy: ‘ I really loved it; thought it was SO funny.’  Good news for other Geek Girl fans –  and there are many-  Holly has been signed for three more Geek Girl books.




ShadowsShadows by Robin McKinley. Picked by Zoe Marriott, author of the Name of the Blade trilogy: ‘Shadows shows exactly why the author is a legend. Her magical world – almost but not quite like the real one – is so multi-textured and well-grounded that it was a surprise everytime I put it down and realised I didn’t live there myself. And anyone who has ever been oppressed by the supreme delight of McKinley’s animal characters will also find much to love in Shadows’.




tinderTinder by Sally Gardner. Picked by James Dawson, author of  Cruel Summer: ‘ A scary, evocative gothic fairytale.’




James also picked Dawn O’Porter’s Paper Aeroplanes: ‘A gritty but hilarious coming-of-age untitledfriendship story.




untitledThe Bone Dragon by Alexia Casale, picked by Rhian Ivory, author of The Bad Girls Club (as Rhian Tracey) : ‘Beautifully written, dealing with a very sensitive subject matter in an innovative and believable manner.’

Julie Bertagna’s Top 10 UKYA books

Photo copyright Donald MacLeod

Author Julie Bertagna chooses her Top 10 favourites:

In no order whatsoever, these are just the tip of a very big iceberg…

For Twihards needing a fix of vampires, werewolves and weird, erotic adventures – Angela Carter did it first and best. Check out The Bloody Chamber and other short stories where young heroines in peril defy what’s expected of them.

Philip Reeve’s stunning streampunk adventures in a post-apocalyptic world, renamed Predator Cities, has an opening line I really wish I’d written: ‘It was a dark, blustery afternoon in spring, and the city of London was chasing a small mining town across the dried-out bed of the old North Sea.’

I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith – classic YA territory. A coming of age story set in a dysfunctional family (the father indulging his writer’s block is a brilliant warning about missed chances) yet it’s unique. Strange, dark, funny, quirky and beautifully written, it reduces me to tears every time.

Ostrich Boys by Keith Gray – the aftermath of a teen suicide becomes a crazy road trip that’s laugh-out-loud funny while exploring the emotional fall-out of a group of boys after a friend’s tragic death. Genius.

The Carbon Diaries by Saci Lloyd – diary of a pissed-off teen eco-warrior in a near-future world in crisis.

Philip Pullman’s The Amber Spyglass – the culmination of His Dark Materials is a big, blockbusting love story of two teenagers against the forces of the universe. Bursting with imagination and humanity.

I Am Apache by Tanya Landman – the incredibly powerful voice and story of a young apache girl who becomes a warrior to avenge her brother’s death.

True fairytales are not for fainthearts – Robin McKinley’s Deerskin* is brutal and tender. Spellbinding storytelling.

Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman – a groundbreaking dystopian thriller that turns the world on its head.

Once In A House on Fire by Andrea Ashworth is an unforgettable survival story of a girl in a war zone – her family. For every teen who thinks they’ll never escape.

(*American Robin McKinley has lived and written in the UK for many years so I’m claiming her as ours!)


Deerskin by Robin McKinley

As Princess Lissla Lissar reaches womanhood, it is clear to all the kingdom that in her beauty she is the image of her dead mother, the queen. But this likeness forces her to flee from her father’s lust and madness; and in the pain and horror of that flight she forgets who she is and what it is she flees from: forgets almost everything but the love and loyalty of her dog, Ash, who accompanies her.

But a chance encounter on the road leads to a job in another king’s kennels, where the prince finds himself falling in love with the new kennel maid . . . and one day he tells her of a princess named Lissla Lissar, who had a dog named Ash…

Visit Robin’s website

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Zoe Marriott’s Top 10 UKYA books

Author Zoe Marriott chooses her Top 10 favourite UKYA books.

HEXWOOD by Diana Wynne Jones. I give this book my highest accolade, which is that every time I’ve read it (nearly ten times at last count) I’ve learned something new. It’s a mind-bending mixture of science fiction and fantasy, mystery and folklore, contemporary adventures and dream logic. Like all of the late great Diana Wynne Jones’ work, it is brilliant.

THE SPELLGRINDER’S APPRENTICE by N. M. Browne. This author is the best British YA fantasy writer you’ve probably never heard of. Most of her books are standalones, but the richness and depth of the worlds she creates is just fabulous. There are ideas in this book that blow me away; I’ve always wished for a sequel but there isn’t one yet. *Sigh*

ENTANGLED by Cat Clarke. Utterly unputdownable, and kept me guessing to the last. The main character, Grace, is one of the most complex, interesting and realistic contemporary teen characters I’ve ever read. Not for the faint of heart, this book made me want to curl into the fetal position at times, but in the end it was totally worth it.

CHALICE by Robin McKinley. I know Ms McKinley used to live in the U.S. but she’s married to the writer Peter Dickinson now and lives in the UK. This book was written in the UK. So I claim it as British! It’s one of my favourite comfort reads. The way Robin McKinley uses language still leaves me spellbound twenty years after I first opened one of her books, and I hope it always will.

THE WEE FREE MEN by Terry Pratchett. If you don’t love Tiffany Aching and her heavy iron frying pan (years before Tangled was made, I might add) I’m not sure we can be friends. Hilarious, moving, terrifying and wonderful, all of the Tiffany Aching books are must read.

JESSIE HEARTS NYC by Keris Stainton. This book is a complete antidote to angsty-grim-dark stuff about vampires and is another perfect comfort read. An enchanting love story that deals with fate, and choices, and parental relationships, and which uses New York like the starry faraway kingdom of a fairytale. Adorable.

LARKLIGHT by Philip Reeve. Having read this writer’s darker stuff (like the wonderful but very grim HERE LIES ARTHUR) I was completely taken by surprise by the insane, laugh-out-loud, penny dreadful glory of LARKLIGHT. I got into the bath with it intending to read one page, and didn’t leave until the book was finished and I was all white and wrinkled like a cave fish. True story.

FLY BY NIGHT by Francis Hardinge. I can still remember one of my friends exploding with excitement about this book, giving me this incredibly confused description of the whole thing and finishing with: and there’s a goose called Saracen who is the heroine’s best friend and bodyguard. Um… sold!

THE WINDSINGER by William Nicholson. I get such bittersweet feelings when I think about this book, because it’s the first of a wonderful trilogy that had me almost on my knees by the end. The author creates the most wonderful characters and then tests them to their absolute limits. You never know what will happen next, and no one is ever all or only what they appear to be.

HOW I LIVE NOW by Meg Rosoff. Another book by a U.S. transplant to British soil. Try to pry this book away from me on the grounds of Patriotism and there will be blood, I tell you. This is one of those stories that leaves you feeling subtly but profoundly changed by the end. Romantic, ugly, magical and tragic, this is one of my all time favourite YA novels.