When Lucy over at ProjectUKYA asked me about writing a post for UKYA Day, I immediately wondered what my angle would be. I’m luckier than most, as I have only just started this wonderful blogging adventure, and so the world is my oyster. I started thinking about my favourite UKYA authors. And I realised something. My top 5 UKYA authors are actually my top 5 favourite authors of ALL TIME, no question. I read *a lot* and am happy to give anything a go if it piques my interest, from picture books to middle-grade to “grown up” fiction to non-fiction to YA from anywhere in the world. But there is just something about UKYA that speaks to me more than any other type of book.
I react to my favourite authors the same way that most people would to rock stars. At the mere mention of their name, I go all misty eyed. I freak out when they favourite or retweet or, ohmygodohmygodohmygod, REPLY to my tweets. Through my many UKYA-related escapades I have even been lucky enough to meet some of my idols and that adds a whole new layer to the onion of my love. When I am actually in the same room, I start to shake and sweat and threaten to pass out. This is the truth. There are many people who can and will quite happily testify to this fact. And you know what, I don’t care. The authors I love have touched me (hey, minds out of the gutter guys!) with their wonderful creations and, in the immortal words of Depeche Mode, I just can’t get enough.
So without further ado…
My Top 5 UKYA Authors:
1) TANYA BYRNE (Heart-Shaped Bruise, Follow Me Down)
I don’t know if there are many YA authors who, when faced with a woman in her late twenties who is shaking from head-to-toe with uncontained fangirlyness, will simply smile and ask ‘do you want a hug?’ Yes Tanya, the answer to this will always be yes! And she gives great hugs, just saying.
I was lucky enough to meet her at the Bath Kids Lit Fest last year when I was filming her interview with Lucy and Niamh of the Vlogsquad, which you can see here, followed by proof of my complete and utter lameness: http://trowbridgeyoungwriters.wordpress.com/2013/10/05/niamh-and-lucy-interview-tanya-byrne/
Tanya has this amazing talent when it comes to keeping her readers guessing. In fact, I was so surprised by the ending of ‘Follow Me Down’ that I instantly had to go back and figure out how she’d done it! She creates these flawed yet endearing main characters who are smart and eloquent- Emily from ‘Heart-Shaped Bruise’ is one of my favourite characters of all time; a complicated and conflicted girl who has done something terrible and refuses to be sorry, but is ultimately, for me anyway, lovable.
Tanya has become a powerful advocate for diversity in YA and is a firm believer that young people can change the world. Hell yeah!
Her next book is out in October.
2) CAT CLARKE (Entangled, Torn, Undone, A Kiss in the Dark)
There is something about Cat’s books that is so *brave*. She is never afraid to tackle dark and controversial subjects: suicide, bullying, sexuality. And she does this with such confidence and deftness of touch that leaves me speechless every time.
You actually *feel* what the characters feel.
Like Tanya, Cat’s characters are not perfect, and it is their flaws that make them all the more real and all the more captivating. I love Grace from ‘Entangled’- to the extent I even dyed my hair red pretty soon after reading it for the first time. Her life is a mess and she sees only one way out, and Cat deals with this decision so powerfully and tells Grace’s story in such an intriguing way.
I finished ‘A Kiss in the Dark’ yesterday (review to follow next week) and while I managed to hold it together throughout the entire book, the very last line completely broke me. And just thinking about it brings a tear to my eye. Beautiful, just beautiful. And so, so, so brave.
Cat also has also written a short novel, ‘Falling’, designed for dyslexic/reluctant teen readers, which I hope to read soon and she will be releasing a new book in 2015. I can’t wait to meet her at the YALC in July!
3) LUCY CHRISTOPHER (Stolen, Flyaway, The Killing Woods)
I first met Lucy when I was the Children’s Specialist Bookseller at Borders in Cardiff. I had been sent a proof copy of ‘Stolen’, fell instantly in love with it (and Ty) and was telling anyone who would listen about this amazing new talent that *I* had discovered. Then I get this message from a colleague in the staffroom: ‘oh by the way, some author came in looking for you the other day. Lucy Christopher?’ I think I spat my coffee across the table.
To cut a long story short, we ended up organising an event together and have been friends ever since, although I have to try to contain my hero worship whenever I see her otherwise it all gets a bit uncomfortable. It was Lucy who suggested I think about doing a Masters in Writing for Young People at Bath Spa, the university at which she was studying for her PhD (that’s right, it’s DOCTOR Lucy to you). Turns out she was lecturing for them too and so, after the miracle of being accepted onto the course, I ended up in a class with my good friend. Having Lucy critique my writing might have been the highlight of those two wonderful years.
Lucy is not only a fantastic writer, but a great ambassador for YA and writers of YA. She is honest about the fact that sometimes writing is hard and things don’t always go to plan – three years passed between her second book, Flyaway, and the release of her latest. But my word was it worth the wait! Music was the driving force behind ‘The Killing Woods’, and it is the only book I know that has it’s own original EP, courtesy of the super talented band Quiet Marauder.
Lucy is currently working on the screenplay of ‘Stolen’. Oh yeah, and it looks like we’re going to be climbing a very big mountain (literal, not figurative) together very soon!
4) CJ SKUSE (Pretty Bad Things, Rockaholic, Dead Romantic)
I first heard about ‘Pretty Bad Things’ through book publicist Mary Byrne. We were chatting books with Sophia Bennett over coffee in Borders and she let me know about this book that was coming out soon that I would simply adore. I promised to read it as soon as I got the chance.
It wasn’t long after that I became unemployed when Borders crashed and burned. I was miserable and wondering what the hell I was going to do with my life, but I was writing. I was in town with my husband one day, with a horrendous case of period pain, and although funds were running perilously low, I just thought ‘sod it, I deserve a new book.’ I grabbed ‘Pretty Bad Things’ off the shelf, took it home and went straight to bed. I read the whole thing from cover to cover and completely forgot about the womb ache from hell. ‘Pretty Bad Things’ was powerful and brave and overflowing with attitude- *this* was the kind of writer I wanted to be.
So I did a bit of research on CJ (not in a stalky way, I swear) and read that she had studied at Bath Spa too. This was it- the moment I knew I had to apply for the MA, no matter how scary and daunting, no matter what I’d have to do to pay for it (I sold my soul to Starbucks pretty soon after). At my interview, the wonderful Julia Green and Steve Voake asked me what I liked to read. I raved about CJ, about how I felt about ‘Pretty Bad Things’ and Steve just looked at me and smiled, saying ‘Yes, that’s exactly the kind of book she wanted to write.’ I had found my spiritual home.
I finally met CJ at the launch of ‘Very Big Things’, my year’s MA anthology. While everyone was rushing round, talking to agents and publishers, I was hiding in a corner, freaking out. I ended up talking to CJ and found her to be just as cool and honest as her books. She gave me the confidence boost I needed to get out there and hobnob with all those scary publishing people, along with a glass of bubbly and a kick up the behind from Lucy Christopher.
CJ’s books are quirky and daring and funny and she gets an extra thumbs up for her reference to Cardiff in ‘Rockaholic’!
CJ is currently working on her fourth novel and looking for a new publisher.
5) NATASHA DESBOROUGH (Weirdos vs. Quimboids)
She is the voice of all the Weirdos out there, and a real kindred spirit for a music-obsessed YA writer like myself. Her writing is witty and yet tender. It is a real talent to make your reader laugh out loud and move them to tears in one novel.
Natasha’s next book, Weirdos vs. Bumskulls is out at the beginning of May- I can’t wait!
Finally, a bit of shameless promotion here. You guys are in for a serious treat. I am so proud that 4 of my writing buddies will have their UKYA debuts published over the next year or so. So look out for these names: Clare Furniss (who is *already* causing a stir with her amazing ‘The Year of the Rat’- out on Thursday!), Sarah Benwell, Lu Hersey and David Hofmeyr. You can thank me later.