Saturday 11 April 2015

UKYA in the USA 2015 and 2016

So, the original plan for today was to celebrate the UKYA Day being run by Lucy The Reader over at her fantastic Queen of Contemporary blog by recommending lots of UKYA and UKMG books coming out in the USA this year/next year, along with US readalikes, as I thought my American readers might be interested. This hit two road blocks fairly quickly; firstly because I kept losing track of what's coming out there, and secondly because I haven't read good readalikes for a fair few of the ones I DO know about. Thankfully, Charlie and Daphne stepped in to help with lots of recs!

The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell is a heart-breaking and gorgeous read about a Japanese teenager, confined to a wheelchair by ALS, who turns to the wisdom of the samurai and to friends made over the internet to come to terms with his diagnosis.

My general preference for lighter reads means that I've heard of a lot of books which I'd think were possible good matches for this one, but haven't really read any, at least not recently. Turning to Charlie, again, she recommends it for fans of All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven, saying both books are beautifully written with similar themes, and pointing out that disability comes in many forms from physical to mental health.

The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson is a stunning dual narrative story which is hugely powerful, and explores gender identity issues with wonderful characters and a hopeful ending. This is out in 2016 in the US, I believe, but it's far too good to leave out of this round-up! I haven't read many books with trans characters so again turned to Charlie for suggestions of similar books in the US; she says that while this is aimed at a slightly older audience than Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polansky, the two books complement each other really well.

I should probably keep reasonably quiet about The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell because it's ages away and I don't want to make people TOO jealous about the fact that I've read it already, but it's an absolute gem. Just as exquisitely written as her last book, Rooftoppers was, but with more humour and an even better setting, the story of Feo, who lives in the snowy wilderness in Russia and teaches domesticated wolves how to be wild, is a really exciting read with a wonderful main character. Cheating slightly here because my readalike was born in the USA but is currently living over here (so I'm sneaking an extra UKYA author in, in many ways) - but Feo's a brilliant heroine and I think fans of Kat Stephenson, from Stephanie Burgis's Kat, Incorrigible, will love this.

Like The Wolf Wilder, it's MG rather than YA, but Robin Stevens's Murder Most Unladylike (coming to the US as Murder Is Bad Manners) is a huge favourite of readers in the UK, along with sequel Arsenic For Tea. They're a brilliant pair of novels about detective duo Wells & Wong, two schoolgirls who form their own Detective Society and get involved in two murders. Huge fun and with a brilliant 1930s boarding school setting, I think fans of Julie Berry's fabulous The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place will be charmed and delighted by these books.

The Sin Eater's Daughter by Melinda Salisbury is a wonderful fantasy with exquisite world-building, one of the few love triangles I really like, a compelling plot and a chillingly evil villain. My lack of recent US fantasy reads has let me down, but Daphne assures me that this is one for fans of Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch.

TS Easton's Boys Don't Knit is an absolutely hilarious story about a boy who gets in trouble with the police after stealing booze from a supermarket as part of an ill-planned heist, gets forced to do community service helping the lollipop lady who stopped his getaway, and takes up knitting. It's a brilliant read with real heart beneath the swearing and the (all too believable) stupidity of Ben and his friends. I think fans of Frank Portman's King Dork would love this one.

The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig is technically adult rather than YA, I believe, but has huge crossover appeal and restored my faith in dystopian reads by being significantly more fun than anything else in the genre for ages - Cass, the main character, is a superb lead, there's a really fast pace to the book, and Haig's snappy dialogue adds a lot to it. If you liked Joelle Charbonneau's The Testing series, don't miss this!

Geek Girl by Holly Smale is a massive favourite in the UK with lots of tweens, teens and adult readers of YA. It's a warm, funny and affectionate look at a self-confessed 'geek' who gets discovered as a model. Harriet's clumsiness and struggles to fit in both in the world of modelling and with others in her year at school are great to read about, and with a fairly chaste romance, despite being YA they're books that a lot of parents are buying for much younger children as well. I'm going to go classic with this one, and suggest that they're a perfect contemporary YA/MG crossover read for fans of Anne of Green Gables, another wonderful red-haired heroine.

Seed by Lisa Heathfield, released last month, is a devastatingly powerful look at a teenage girl growing up in a mysterious cult, and the arrival of a new family who turn her world upside down. It's hard-hitting, and, in many ways, rather too dark for me, but there are lots of people who've adored it. The subjects aren't particularly similar, but I have a feeling fans of Margie Gelbwasser's Pieces of Us will be sucked in by this because of the confident and careful manner in which both authors handle difficult topics.

Last of the books I've read - but DEFINITELY not least, I just put it here because it was the only one I couldn't think of any suitable readalike for - James Dawson's This Book Is Gay, a warm, witty and wonderful 'instruction manual' for LGBTQ teens, should be mandatory in all libraries because of the amount of superb advice it gives and because of the brilliant way in which the reigning Queen of Teen writes. This is the one book I'd want EVERY teen to have access to - it's hugely important.

A few books coming out over there that I'm really excited about but which I haven't read yet - The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich - this is a psychological thriller which looks incredible, but I haven't talked to that many people about it and those I have spoken to are keeping their cards very close to their chest! I'm going to take a little bit of a stab in the dark and say that from what I've seen of it, Charm & Strange fans might be really keen on this one.

Read Me Like A Book by Liz Kessler is about a girl with a crush on her English teacher, Miss Murray. This is another one I haven't read yet, although I've heard really good things about it - Charlie compares it to Keeping You A Secret and Annie On My Mind.

Tell The Story To Its End by Simon P Clark is being published in the US (UK readers will be more likely to know it as Eren.) Everyone I talk to about this says that you need to go in knowing as little as possible, so I'm a bit lost as to what would be a good readalike - and probably couldn't tell you if I DID know! Maybe We Were Liars, given the publicity campaign for that highlighted the need to keep quiet about certain things?

So, there's a few recommendations from me - how about you? Is there anything I've missed coming out in the US that you really want people to read? Or any better readalikes for books I've talked about? Drop me a comment!


  1. Great post, Jim. I love the 'readalike' idea and you can tell my friend, the far-lovelier-than-he-may-seem-on-Twitter Mr McGowan that I WILL be buying at least one book as a result ;)

  2. Lots of great looking books on this list, those Robin Stevens have been texting me every time I go in my local Waterstones!