Growing up without YA

I promise, I read books that aren’t Young Adult. (I’ve read five whole books this year that weren’t YA, and one of them was even non-fiction!) The YA focus on this blog came about somewhat accidentally – I wanted to cover the YA Book Prize, so I ended up reviewing ten YA novels. The UKYA community is such a lovely place, it makes you want to dip a toe in, even if you don’t commit to jumping in feet first.

When I was a teenager, a long time ago in the 00’s, I wish I’d had the same community to turn to and share my love for books. I did have excellent English teachers – isn’t it interesting just how many excellent English teachers feature in children’s/YA novels? I also had my local library; I have fond memories of finally being allowed to choose books from the teenage section, and then, eventually, making my selections from the comparative vastness of the adult fiction shelves.

But there was no #ukyachat… and nowhere near the kind of YA presence we see now on bookshelves. So what was I reading? SOME REALLY GREAT BOOKS.

His Dark Materials nohisdarkmaterials_590_590_90w gets shelved with teen fiction, and it’s an absolute classic for any age. I read it in Year 6, and I’m sure a lot of it went over my head – I didn’t realise there were GAY ANGELS in it until I saw the stage production in 2003 or so – but it’s a great adventure story as well as being deeply philosophical and complex. I reread it last year and it absolutely stands up as one of the best books I’ve ever read. The wonderful Whackademics reviewed Northern Lights as their first book club pick.

Other actual, real deal books for teens I read include The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray by Chris Wooding, which I remember being very affected by, but I fear my attachment to it stems from my copy The_Haunting_of_Alaizabel_Cray_(cover_art)being left in the bathroom for months, so I guess I saw the cover a lot. (Imagine having that guy staring at you every time you need to pee.) It’s steampunk London, and there’s a bit with wolves in the Underground. …I should probably reread it.

The Guardians of Time trilogy (The Named, The Dark, and The Key) is loads of fun: time-travelling world-saving fantasy set in Australia, featuring immortals with blue hair. I’ve just realised I’ve been calling the main villain Marmaduke forever, but he is not, in fact, a lovable Great Dane. Also: Marianne Curley follows my girlfriend on tumblr, which I’m pretty sure is a solid claim to fame. For me.

71tOgvK40LLEvery girl who grew up in the 00’s considers Georgia Nicolson a close personal friend, right? I know at least one person who claims to have learnt English from Louise Rennison’s series of teenage girl exploits. I’ve been hearing rumours of a new book coming out this year, the first to feature Georgia as the main character since 2009’s Are These My Basoomas I See Before Me? These books and their daft glossaries and snogging scales were a big part of my teen reader years, despite the fact that I was about a thousand times less concerned about boys and the size of my nose than Georgia was.

It would be remiss of me not to mention Animorphs; though I finished the series before starting secondary school, making me a tween at the time, it’s one of my formative influences. I wrote about Animorphs here, as one of the books I would never forget. I picked up #1 The Invasion in a fit of insomnia a couple of years ago, expecting some kitsch nostalgia, and ended up rereading the whole series, astonished I’d been allowed to read something so dark so young. You might recall the goofy covers, but it’s a gritty story about ethics and child soldiers underneath the 90’s vibes. And it has a fantastically diverse main cast, too! The Andalite bandits are so important.


Like any bookish young person, I read a lot of books that weren’t super appropriate, most notably Fight Club and Stephen King’s complete oeuvre. (I have a working theory that Fight Club + Stephen King = NBC’s Hannibal, making my love for the latter a foregone conclusion.) I also remembering reading Pat Barker’s Regeneration trilogy as a 17 year old, which is I think the most atypical choice on this list; those books had a huge impact on me and were among my most important reading experiences as a young adult. I’m jealous of all the young people getting all this quality literature all but thrust into their hands these days… but I guess growing up pre-UKYA-explosion hasn’t left me all that bereft, after all.

Did you read “teenage fiction” as a teenager, or are you just getting into it as an adult? Which books do you wish you’d had a chance to read while you were growing up?


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