Could This Be My Year for YA?

Yesterday I told you about the incredible novel that was ‘A Monster Calls’ and now I want to try his Chaos Walking series, at the same time the book that is currently highest on my wish list at the moment (and this has come completely out the blue as I don’t really like horses or war in real life or books) is ‘War Horse’ by Michael Morpurgo. ‘Erm, and, so what?’ I can hear you cry. Well, the thing that these two books have in common is that they are YA novels. What makes that all the more interesting is that I will admit that I have been somewhat of a YA snob, hey honesty is the best policy, in the past. So I am wondering if 2012, and oddly the year I go into my thirties, might be the year that I start to become a convert to YA novels.

I got talking about this rather a lot on twitter the other day and there were several novels discussed that came from that stable. One was ‘The Hunger Games’ which I have tried (loathed) and failed with and sadly got a bit cross and bored with everyone talking about when it came out, the next were the ‘Twilight’ series  which I tried and read some of but then decided the films were better. The two titles that came up that I fancied were ‘My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece’ by Annabel Pitcher which I was sent last year and have yet to read and the other was ‘Life: An Exploded Diagram’ by Mal Peet about the Cold War which The Book Boy has read and really enjoyed.


Naturally I thought I would ask you all for recommendations as people aren’t on twitter 24/7 (not that I am saying any of you are on Savidge Reads all day either, ha) and your thoughts on adult dipping their toes into YA. I should note I was asking my 13 year old sister for some recommendations at Xmas but she was re-reading SJ Watson’s ‘Before I Go To Sleep’ though will be reading ‘The Knife of Never Letting Go’ by Patrick Ness next, as might her big brother. So what say you, which titles modern or classics have you loved and would recommend giving a whirl?

We will be discussing this on The Readers in a few weeks too.


Filed under Book Thoughts

55 responses to “Could This Be My Year for YA?

  1. Trash is a really good one. The author currently eludes me.

    About kids in a slum x

  2. I just finished the Chaos Walking series over the Christmas holiday – I did not have any plans to read the series, but after finishing The Knife of Never Letting Go I ran to my local library and picked up books 2 & 3.
    Great series

    • Annabel

      go for it Simon. since I started reading ya books, I’ve found the best are just as good as grown-up ones with less swearing and sex but still brilliant writing. Recommend anything by MArcus Sedgwick they are all ace.

    • I am looking forward to it on that recommendation Jayme. Sounds like its something that I shouldnt be missing! I need to talk to my little sister about how she got on with the first.

  3. I read a LOT of YA but prefer the thought provoking sort of read to those about vampires and werewolves.
    Try Nothing by Janne Teller (Danish but published here by Strident) Teenage boy decides he’s had enough of school and studying, and decides to spend life up a plum tree instead. The novel isn’t so much about him but about his friends who feel their world is undermined by his behaviour and are determined to change his mind.
    Similar in tone are
    Wasted by Nicola Morgan – should life-making decisions be made by tossing a coin?
    Entangled and Torn by Cat Clarke (Quercus)

    Something more light-hearted? Lia’s Guide to Winning the Lottery by Keren David (Frances Lincoln) – 16 yr old Lia scoops huge win with her very first lottery ticket – don’t we all wish we could? – but that’s when her problems start.

    or if you fancy fantasy try Gillian Philip’s Rebel Angels series, Firebrand and Bloodstone, (Strident) – yes, there’s fairies but rough, tough, not remotely angelic fairies, and writing to make grown men cry.

    There are reviews of all on the blog for further details

    • Well “prefer the thought provoking sort of read to those about vampires and werewolves” sounds just up my street so I will be taking these recommendations on board and checking some of these books out. Thanks vrey much indeedy.

  4. Layla

    I actually loved The Hunger Games trilogy, Twilight though, is awful, a badly written diatribe on not having sex before marriage.
    Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series is amazingly good, and Blood Red, Snow White by Marcus Sedgewick was very good – I haven’t read any of his others but they’re also meant to be great. I liked that one because it’s about Arthur Ransome, kind of, and I’m a huge fan of his.

    • Loads of people loved The Hunger Games though Layla, I am very much in a minority there. I just couldnt get into it, maybe the film will change that. Oh my goodness did I say that out loud, but it might be a Twilight syndrome – watch the films instead.

      I used to love Arthur Ransomes books and thought Blood Red, Snow White was amazing.

  5. Pastworld by Ian Beck is really good, published by Bloomsbury and was one of the first YA books that I read. I think it is a really interesting genre but I must admit that I do find it a bit hit and miss at times, some books do feel a little ‘young’ sometimes but then others have really impressed me.

    • I think the books that work in that genre don’t patronise or simplify hence don’t feel ‘young’, or is that harsh. Weirdly I thought that ‘Pigeon English’ which in some ways I liked very much in others felt slightly patronised, would have been much better as a YA book. Why that is I havent quite decided, my mother agreed though… so it must be true hahaha.

  6. David

    I’m never entirely sure what constitutes YA. Wikipedia defines it as either 14-16 or 12-18, but I also get publishers sending me manuscripts which they call YA even though they’re aimed at under 12s… its all very confusing. And then you get books that are published as adult fiction here that get published as YA in the US… agh! I have to say, it must have been a genre (or whatever) that I missed as a teenager – most of my “YA” years were spent reading film- and TV-tie-in novels (y’know, Star Trek, Star Wars, Quantum Leap and so on) before at about 18 jumping into “proper” literature with Rushdie’s ‘Midnight’s Children’.
    Regardless, I find books aimed at kids a bit of a slog to read now – those shorter sentences tend to trip me up for some reason – though I know a few twenty- and thirty-somethings- who read nothing but YA, which I’ll confess I find a bit odd. Also, since I sometimes have to read them for work I’d probably not choose to read them for pleasure even though they are often very good.
    But: Jamila Gavin’s books are always excellent (I’ve read a few of hers), and Anita Desai wrote a novel for that age group, ‘The Village by the Sea’ that I enjoyed just as much as her adult fiction. Candy Gourlay’s ‘Tall Story’ is really good and was up for a few awards last year. I’ll be interested to see what you read and review – maybe you’ll tempt me to give one a try. You made ‘A Monster Calls’ sound superb but I don’t think I could bring myself to read that one, even though I am going to look for a copy just to see those fantastic illustrations.

    • Ha this links in with what I was saying above to Dot about ‘Pigeon English’ and that I thought it would have succeeded more (it did well with public less so with reviewers) if it had been a YA book. But that doesnt help with what constitutes as a YA novel. I guess its something for publicists, I wonder if ‘cross over’ is the same thing?

      Thanks for all the recommendations David.

  7. Jenni

    Between shades of grey by Ruta Sepetys. Fifteen-year-old Lithuanian Lina and her family are deported to Siberia by the Soviet secret police in 1941. The father gets seperated from the rest of the family and sent to a death in prison camp. So while it’s not exactly a cheerful read I thought you might like it, since you liked Sofi Oksanen’s Purge as well.

    • Jenni, I love the fact you compared this to Purge, on that alone (which also shows how well you must know my tastes) I have reserved that at the library. Thank you. I will report back.

  8. Wow I’m impressed! I could barely get past the hobbit when I was 13 and was more an avid fan of Buffy than psychological thriller novels.
    I’m not drawn in by YA fiction either. The themes just don’t appeal, and probably because I’m getting on a bit myself these days! Though a lot of followers/friends I’ve made through blogging are avid readers and writers of the genre so I should really give it a crack. I look forward to hearing your likes and dislikes and perhaps I can find a bit of inspiration!

    • My sister is a book monster, I only hope it stays that way and unlike her big brother she doesnt fall off the reading path when he gets older.

      I am going to dip my toe into YA – I couldnt read only that. The book I will be discussing tomorrow is at the opposite end of the spectrum in a lot of ways.

  9. I agree I do think YA fiction has come back into its own recently. I have to disagree about The Hunger Games though. I loved all three in the series, not to mention the books strong female central character. Another book that’s similar to The Hunger Games is Divergent by Veronica Roth, which, like The Hunger Games is due to be made into a film.

    I have been hearing a lot about A Monster Calls so I think I might just have to go out and get it, you’ve convinced me. Also Blood Red Road by Moira Young just won the Costa Children’s Book Award so I plan on checking that one out too.

    • Hahahaha disagreements are welcome here Simone. I might try it now and love it, maybe I will, who knows.

      Do read ‘A Monster Calls’ its just so, so wonderful.

      I should look at past winners of the Costa Childrens awards though some will be much ‘younger’ books I guess.

  10. Louise

    I second Marcus Sedgwick! I loved the Chaos Walking series. Phillip Pulman is awesome, you might like his Sally Lockhart series, it’s set in Victorian London, it was on tv, that call girl with the huge teeth was in it, lol! I can’t remember her name.
    Rick Riordan is also a brilliant author, he did Percy Jackson, I’ve got the spin off books of that waiting to be read, they look very good! I also liked Derek Landy, he wrote the Skullduggery Pleasant series, that was a lot of fun.
    There is a lot of dystopian novels floating around the YA market, one that is huge at the moment is Divergent by Veronica Roth, I have read this and it’s amaze-balls once you get your head around it.
    I’ve not long finished Delirium by Lauren Oliver, I loved her writing! I LOVED Harry Potter, I was completely living in another world while I was reading this series, I even dreamnt Hogwarts! Have you read all of the Twilight Saga? I’ve seen all the films and read the books, I think the books are much better as they go on.
    I do read quite a lot of YA novels (as well as other genre) and I do really enjoy them. I have to disagree with David, they aren’t a slog to read, not if you pick the right ones. There is a lot of snoberry about YA, I think it’s because a lot of people immediately associate YA with vampires and bitchy school girls, when in fact it’s not, you just need to look 🙂 I have just ordered two Jackson Pearce novels, Sweetly and Sisters Red.

    • David

      I’m sure you’re right, Louise – the problem is possibly that I’m not picking them at all (right ones or wrong ones). I illustrate a few children’s book covers so the only ones I’m reading are the ones I get sent to read. As a result I’ve read many great children’s/YA authors (some of whom have been nominated for or won various awards so they must be amongst the “right ones”) and lots of wonderful stories, and quite a few not so good ones too. But with a handful of exceptions I find them hard to read – they almost always take me twice as long to read as an adult novel of twice the length. That isn’t a reflection on the quality of them at all, just my own opinion based on my limited experience. I’m certainly not snobbish about them and I do try and keep abreast of what is out there, I just don’t choose to read them for pleasure. Or haven’t so far – as I said in my previous comment, hopefully Simon will read and review some that convince me to give them a try 🙂

    • Thats the second mention of Divergent, I shall have to look that book up.

      I loved the first two Sally Lockhart books. I am now wondering why I haven’t carried on with the series as I have it. Thats some to dig out. I liked it so much more than the Northern Lights.

      So many possibilities…

  11. Try the Edge Chronicles by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell. If the thought of Librarian Knights and Sky Pirates doesn’t intrigue you, then don’t! Lovely illustrations by Rdidell and an homage (a bit) to Steampunk – I suggest you put on some Abney Park to listen to after reading.

    • Oooh I think my little brother might have read the Edge Chronicles, I shall ask him.

      Steampunk… now thats something else I want to try my reading hands at this year, but thats for another time.

  12. Sharkell

    Sonya Hartnett is really good and she is Australian so you could read any of her books and add another to your Aussie literature challenge. The Silver Donkey is probably her best but I have heard that Midnight Zoo is also really good.

    • Oooh that might merge the two, or just be a recommendation for another day. Maybe on or two YA novels a month max will do the trick, I don’t want to end up reading too many. Oops theres that slight snob and planner popping out hahaha.

  13. Emma

    Sabriel and the following 2 books in the series by Garth Nix are a fabulous introduction to fantasy (I know you are not a massive fan though).
    I also loved His Dark Materials too.
    If you are interested in Steampunk there is a collection of stories just called Steampunk with contributions from Holly Webb and Garth Nix among others.

    • The lovely Gav Reads has mentioned Garth Nix quite a few times so he is someone I should look out for.

      The steampunk stories might just be the idea, thanks very much for the suggestions Emma.

  14. gaskella

    Philip Reeves is another who is brilliant – his take on Arthurian legend (Here Lies Arthur) was stunning in its vision of spin in the dark ages. I plan to read his Mortal Engines books sometime too which are steampunky/SF.

    As to what constitutes a YA novel as opposed to one for older children – it’s hard to say, but going by my 11yr olds preferred reading, she still needs thrills and spills on every page – can’t cope with too much descriptive writing – seen as boring. There is a lot of inferior formulaic rubbish around in YA, so pick carefully especially around all those black covers!.

    Regarding cross-over novels – when Harry Potter was first published they brought out an adult cover which was so successful that they did the whole series as cross-overs – and it was/is a children’s book really! (Although I love them). My view is that cross-over is purely a marketing thing to sell children’s books to adults – but that’s not bad, as I said before the best of children’s lit stands up to adult lit any day.

  15. oh well I see lot YA mention on twitter I m not a ya readers as they just don’t grab me simon ,all the best stu

  16. My own, rather simplistic view is that these are just “books” like any other. Some might feel that they suit a “teenage” audience better than a greying old physicist like myself (for e.g.) but when I was a teenager I was reading Colette, Turgenyev, Bellow, Grass, de Beauvoir etc. and I read Reeves, Stewart (and others) in my late forties. My son (15) reads some books that might be marketed/considered as YA, but he also read War and Peace last year too.

  17. Chaos Walking comes very highly recommended by Nic (my co-blogger) and other friends. They convinced me to buy all three books before my buying ban kicked in at New Year on the understanding that I simply couldn’t live for another year without them!

    Have you read any Margo Lanagan? She’s very edgy and interesting, and her books are marketed as YA/crossover (although at the hardcore end). She has several short story collections out, and one novel Tender Morsels, which is amazing. She has a new novel, The Brides of Rollrock Island out at the beginning of February. It’s about selkies I think.

    • I haven’t read of any Margo’s books. I had Tender Morsels, I might still, in the tbr somewhere. I heard it was quite a controversial book.

      I saw that the three Chaos books were all available for £5 for all three in The Works and I was sooooo tempted!

  18. EllenB

    I have nothing against YA books unless you consider leaving them to their audience to be something against them. In the course of business I have been required to read quite a few and some were very good; but, not one of them compared to the adult experience of reading a good novel intended for adults. The mega hits, particularly the Meyer vampire books, and with some notable exceptions { Pullman, Harry Potter) are truly awful. All that post apocalyptic stuff and sexy vampires for crying out loud. Its for kids! Resist the temptation Simon! Books for grownups are for folks like us.

    • I see what you mean in a way but there are some YA books which I think do cross over and, like War Horse (which I will be discussing soon), can be a great in between book on a huge subject matter yet thought provoking without being ‘heavy’.

  19. Huh. Or…you could read ‘Liar’ by Justine Larbalestier, a book that I can tell you nothing about (spoilers) but which is excellent and full of literary fireworks.

    And I know you liked Paver’s most recent adult stuff, so you might enjoy her Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series about a boy trying to surivive in Prehistoric times (and there’s some magic in there as well). There really are too many great YA books to recommend here and I’d suggest you go follow maybe The Booksmugglers who are reliable, highly critical reviewers who read a ton of YA (and love Marcus’ Sedgewick’s books) or Guys Lit Wire (YA books for dudes who read). Good luck finding something great 🙂

  20. Love Melina Marchetta’s ‘The Piper’s Son’ and Kirsty Eagar’s ‘Raw Blue’ – both are contemp, and frankly, some of the best YA is coming out of Australia (you can get TPS is the US, but you can only get RB on Kobu unless you order from Fishpond). Really love Gayle Forman’s “If I Stay” and “Where She Went”, and Jennifer’s Donnelly’s “Revolution”. I have a tour going on right now for Raw Blue – let me know if you’d like to read it – it’s not a formal one, just passing it around so people can have a chance to read it.

  21. Natasha

    I’ve seen Philip Reeve mentioned, you HAVE to read the Mortal Engines series. Stunningly original, witty, always surprising and with fantastic characters. And unlike some YA (Hunger Games esp.) it doesn’t feel patronising or ‘younged down’, if you get what I mean. He’s a fantastic writer. Garth Nix’s Abhorsen trilogy is great too, which I see has been recommended.

    Glad to see you’re trying YA, there are some gems in there!

  22. I’m going to agree with EllenB above. I used to read lots of YA stuff. I teach English to 12 and 13-year-olds so I have reason to. I also enjoy YA lit.

    Lately, though, I’ve been longing for more grown-up fare. I haven’t read much YA in the last year and a half. Judging from the books you read here and the ones you give high praise to, you should probably stay away from any YA book with large sales, like Twilight, and The Knife of Never Letting Go and The Hunger Games. While they are all entertaining, and meant to entertain younger audiences, you won’t find the level of writing you admire.

    There is very high quality writing out there in YA lit. I’d ask a good children’s librarian or bookseller in your area.

    And maybe read The Invention of Hugo Cabret. It’s mostly pictures, but it’s wonderful.

    • Ooh that’s interesting CB. I hadn’t thought about the level of writing and what I read that’s really interesting. You could be right, hmmm that’s food for thought. I wonder of that’s why War Horse has left me in two minds, more on that soon!

  23. You were right to discard the Twilight series. Blech.The first one is okay-even though it appears Meyer doesn’t know a damn thing about vampires, but the rest? Please.
    Move The Knife of Never Letting Go to the top of your tbr pile, though – it’s freakin’ fantastic. I can’t wait to read the rest and A Monster Calls.
    Have you read Meg Rosoff’s How I Live Now? Terrific.
    I am also reading a lot of YA these days – I bought about 150 books for my classroom library and so when my students read, I read too – and I am trying to get through all those books so I can talk about them with the kids.

  24. Kristin

    Not a new release, but I didn’t see anyone mention The Curious Case of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon. It’s been listed as both adult and children’s/YA fiction (as we as winning numerous awards) and I feel that it appeals to both! Different from my usual reads, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

    • That is a brilliant cross over novel Kristin. I am surprised no one else has mentioned that too but maybe that’s because it’s a book that seemed such an adult novel. Same with The Book Thief too actually!

      • Kristin

        The Book Thief ranks high on my all-time favourites list, though this was one that I didn’t think of as YA because it seemed such an adult novel! I just started ‘My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece’ and I’m finding it hard to put down. Maybe I’m a YA lover at heart!

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