Gary Meehan is the author of True Fire. He’s chosen his Top 10 “in no particular order.”
The Bone Dragon by Alexia Casale
A girl recovers from post-traumatic stress disorder by retreating into a fantasy world. Or is it fantasy? Beautifully written and thought provoking.
The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13¾ by Sue Townsend
I’ve grown up with Adrian these past — oh my god, thirty years (pause to contemplate mortality). The first remains a devastatingly funny read for anyone who’s ever worried about doing the right thing, the pretty girl in the class, and how long their thingy is.
Geek Girl by Holly Smale
A witty, charming tale of a bullied geeky girl who accidentally becomes a model. Plenty of heart and one of the most surprising meet-cute scenes you’re likely to read.
Boys Don’t Knit by TS Easton
A spiritual successor to Adrian Mole, in that it’s a told as teenage boy’s diary. Very funny, but with a serious message. Many YA books encourage girls to do ‘boy’ things; this one lets boys know it’s okay to be ‘girly’. I still have no idea how knitting actually works though.
Heart-Shaped Bruise by Tanya Byrne
Proof you don’t need a likeable or even sympathetic heroine to make a story compelling. You know something bad’s gonna happen, but you can’t stop reading.
Nowhere by Jon Robinson
Ah, some good old-fashioned sci-fi. An intriguing premise — why have all these kids been snatched and locked up — a fast-paced adventure, and hints of something manipulating the fundamental nature of the universe.
Trouble by Non Pratt
An honest story of teenage lust and its consequences, shot through with comic moments. Read it, kids, and let your next purchase be a jumbo pack of condoms.
Half Bad by Sally Green
A tale of brutality and paranoia, unbending bureaucracy and the nature of good and evil — a bit of light reading, then. Tense and thought-provoking.
Code Red Lipstick by Sarah Sky
A fun, lively adventure with a kick-ass, kick-head, kick-everything heroine. Not everything has to be dripping in angst, you know.
A Tale Etched in Blood and Hard Black Pencil by Christopher Brookmyre
My stretching-the-definition-of-YA entry. It’s a tale of bunch of kids growing up wrapped in a murder mystery set when the kids are adults, but it’s the acutely observed school scenes that stick in the mind. If it’s a measure of book you’re a little heartbroken to leave the characters behind, then this measures up.