Happy UKYA Day!
I thought about making this post a Top Ten of inspiring women in UKYA. I’m not going to do that, but that it would be so easy to compile is one of the things I love, love, love about the UKYA community.
UKYA is one of the places women’s voices are being heard – LOUDLY. The winner of the inaugural YA Book Prize was a feminist critique of the patriarchy. Isn’t that kind of amazing? (Also, it’s just a really excellent book – check out my review here.)
I wasn’t going to single anyone out… but I am going to make an exception for Lucy Powrie, who put together the whole UKYA Day. Her dedication and powers of positivity and organisation would be impressive at any age; at her age, they’re so amazing I quite feel like having a little lie down.
There are lots of reasons to write for teenage or younger readers, and every author will give you a slightly different explanation. One of the important things about children’s books is that stories change minds. When you read a book, you live somebody else’s life for a while. If it’s a really great book, you get to know that person as well as your friends and family.
I can see no downside to our bookshelves being full of stories about girls being strong, being scared, being weird, being funny, being magical, being real, being people. And these are stories that are written by UKYA authors perhaps more than most. We’ve had Lyra Belacqua and Hermione Granger for years; it’s about time for some more heroines.
I’m a young woman (though not exactly a teenager) and when I look at UKYA I see a welcoming community who are passionate about the same things I am: diversity, yes, representation, of course, but most of all a good story. We’ve got those in spades.
Of course it’s important that boys feel welcome too – statistics on literacy and reluctant readers amongst the male readership are easy to find – but nobody’s stopping them reading books written by women. (At least, nobody should be.) Plus, there are some wonderful male writers working in UKYA; I mean, the Queen of Teen right now is James Dawson! Occasionally, UKYA gets criticised as lacking in “boy appeal” but frankly, those critics aren’t looking hard enough – or, more likely, they’re underestimating boys. If Katniss Everdeen is good enough for fans of all genders, there are plenty of other compelling female leads around, waiting to steal the show (and your heart…)
There are endless think pieces out there about the success of YA literature, and not all of them end up chastising adults for reading children’s books. I’m just enormously glad that there exists a community – a literary community! – that celebrates young women, and treats their opinions and interests as things with inherent value equal to those of other people. It’s an exciting time to be a young adult. It’s an exciting time to be a book lover, too.