YALC Reading Recommendations

By Jim Dean, April 12, 2016

We were already incredibly excited for this year’s YALC on 28th – 31st July, but the announcement of the first 30 authors has got us desperately waiting for the weekend! If you don’t have your tickets yet, get them here!

If you’re trying to decide what to read while impatiently waiting for YALC, Julianne has a great list over at Goodreads, but I also wanted to share my favourites from the authors I’ve read.

Malorie Blackman – Chasing The Stars – I was really tempted to lie and claim I’d read Noughts and Crosses, if only to avoid the disapproving looks I ALWAYS get when admitting to this gap in my reading, but I’m too honest. Also, I wanted the chance to talk about the fantastic upcoming release from Malorie, Chasing The Stars – a spaceship-set Othello. Superb world-building, a brilliant lead and a plot that kept me guessing all the way through made this a fantastic read.

Holly Bourne – Spinster Club series – I love Holly Bourne’s incredible feminist trilogy (well, the first two books at least – desperately waiting for the third!) With each one focusing on a different girl in the central trio of friends, Holly Bourne tackles issues faced by contemporary teens with lots of warmth and humour. (I especially love the positive portrayal of therapy in Am I Normal Yet?)

Melvin Burgess – Junk – One of the classics 1990s YA books, Burgess’s uncompromising portrayal of Gemma and Tar and their addiction to heroin sticks in my mind nearly 20 years after I first read it. For older teens, it’s unsurprising that this drew screams of protest from the Daily Mail and lots of other media outlets, but it definitely doesn’t glamorise drugs – it’s an incredibly well-written story which is a cautionary tale showing just how they can destroy lives.

Sarah Crossan – One – This novel about conjoined twins, written in free verse, is a gorgeous but heartbreaking read. Even to those, like me, who didn’t consider themselves fans of verse before reading this book, it’s so brilliant that it will undoubtedly draw you in. Sarah Crossan’s writing style is superb and her characters- especially twins Grace and Tippi – are incredibly memorable.

Jenny Downham – Before I Die – I’ve heard so many amazing things about Unbecoming, but haven’t yet read. However Downham’s debut, Before I Die, was one of the first books ever to make me cry and this story of a teenage girl determined to live life to the full before passing away has a really special place in my heart.

Michael Grant – GONE series – Kicking off a six book series with a bang, the first novel in this pacy YA sequence sees everyone over the age of 15 simply vanish from a town, and some of the children left behind develop mysterious powers. There’s a lot of stuff to love in this series, with huge amounts of excitement, some excellent character arcs, and really positive portrayals of people of colour and lots of people of various sexualities. (There is some stuff, however, which is more problematic – it’s worth checking out Corinne Duyvis explaining some of the issues with autistic character Little Pete.)

Alwyn Hamilton – Rebel of the Sands – This fabulous debut fantasy is a brilliant read which has one of the best opening chapters so far this year, immediately drawing you into the fantasy/Wild West setting, and gets the action going straight away. From there, the pace barely lets up at all and it’s an intriguing book with a couple of big surprises.

Frances Hardinge – The Lie Tree – The second ever children’s book to win the overall Costa Prize is completely worthy of the honour. This fantastic feminist Victorian fantasy, following lead character Faith as she tries to work out how her beloved father died, and discovers a mysterious tree which gives secrets in return for spreading lies. This was my first experience of Frances Hardinge’s writing and it is EVERYTHING I’d hoped it would be!

Rosalind Jana – Notes on Being Teenage – I haven’t read all that much of this yet, but the first quarter is so good – and I’m such a fan of Rosalind Jana’s as a blogger – that I’m very very happy to recommend anyway. Rosalind covers a variety of topics, from mental health and bullying to blogging and dating, and her writing style is really engaging.

Nina LaCour – Everything Leads To You – I am massively excited for You Know Me Well, by Nina and David Levithan, and can’t wait to read. But Nina’s 2014 novel Everything Leads To You is already a favourite of mine – this is a gorgeous f/f romance between brilliant young set designer Emi and the mysterious Ava. I love the way Nina LaCour brings the world of indie film-making to life so well; I’d never thought of the work that must go into set design before reading this.

Derek Landy – Skulduggery Pleasant series – There are a huge amount of brilliant MG adventure series out there which I love, but Landy’s Skulduggery series has the strongest sense of humour of all of them. I love the Valkyrie/Skulduggery partnership, while they’re also incredibly exciting reads.

David Levithan – Two Boys Kissing – Tough choice here! Lots of fans of Every Day, of course, and I have a real soft spot for Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares (and I’m hugely excited for the upcoming sequel!) In addition, Boy Meets Boy stands out as a modern classic. Of them all, though, the exquisite Two Boys Kissing – following numerous gay teens, and narrated by a Greek chorus of the previous generation of gay men – which I have to pick as my absolute favourite.

Louise O’Neill – Asking For It – Hard to pick between two incredible books from Louise, but I think that Asking For It is perhaps even more powerful than her stunning debut, the inaugural YA Book Prize Winner Only Ever Yours. Both books are extremely hard-hitting (and probably best for older teens), but this is especially chilling because of the contemporary setting. While Only Ever Yours‘s dystopia can seem worryingly close to happening now – especially with the media obsession with girls’ looks and the gender inequality in society – Asking For It‘s brutal story of a girl shunned for reporting a horrific gang rape not only COULD happen now, it HAS happened now, with horribly similar reactions from many people. A disquieting but vital read.

Annabel Pitcher – Ketchup Clouds – I really loved Annabel Pitcher’s second novel, told as a series of letters from a guilty teenage girl hiding a terrible secret written to a man on death row. The tragic love triangle here is a favourite of mine.

Chris Riddell – Doodle A Day – So many fantastic books to choose from for Chris, and I’m really tempted to go for the Goth Girl series, which is great – or even one of the many incredible books he’s illustrated for other authors. However I really love his Doodle a Day book and it’s inspired me to be more creative, with an awesome mix of patterns to finish, drawing prompts and tips. Also, it raises money for the superb charity Booktrust!

Melinda Salisbury – The Sin-Eater’s Daughter (Well, you wouldn’t start at book two, would you?) – A a wonderful fantasy with exquisite world-building, one of the few love triangles I really like – both guys are fantastic characters who I believe would be a good match for Twylla, a compelling plot and a chillingly evil villain. This engaging story also sets up the rest of this trilogy superbly.

VE Schwab – A Darker Shade Of Magic – Recommending a book here that isn’t actually published as YA, but despite that it’s a perfect read for older teens. Fantastic world-building as Schwab superbly brings to life three different Londons – King George III’s Grey London, familiar to anyone with a grasp of history, Red London where magic exists and is revered, and White London where people murder their way to rule. Kell, one of the only people who can move between these worlds, and sneak thief Delilah Bard are two fabulous characters, and there’s a great plot as well. Sequel A Gathering of Shadows is also superb.

Darren Shan – The Saga of Darren Shan – This is an awesome 12 book series about a young boy who becomes involved in the world of vampires. Lots of great twists and turns along the path in this lengthy sequence, and some amazing characters.

Holly Smale – Geek Girl series – It’s easy to see why this series has become so popular, not only with teens but with readers from the age of 6 or 7 right up to their grandparents! Harriet Manners is a brilliant heroine and the books are populated with fabulous characters (Wilbur is my favourite!) They’re also hilarious to read.

Maggie Steifvater – The Raven Boys series – Read the first in this outstanding quartet, inspired by the Welsh legend of Owain Glyndwr, and you’ll be completely enthralled – and as desperate as the rest of us for the finale, The Raven King (just a couple of weeks to wait!) The relationship between Blue, the main character, and the title characters of the Raven Boys is an intruiging one and I’m already gasping with anticipation when it comes to finding out how it will also end. (Also, #SaveGansey!)

Lisa Williamson – The Art of Being Normal – Prior to Lisa Williamson’s breathtaking debut, I hadn’t read any books with transgender main characters. There’ve been others I’ve loved since then – Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky and Alex Gino’s George are excellent, while Meredith Russo’s upcoming If I Was Your Girl is one of my favourites of the year so far – but it’s been great to see the fantastic reception this has had from readers and the massive push it’s been given in so many bookshops.

I try to keep on top of recent releases as far as possible but there are just SO MANY amazing books out there that I can’t keep up! Can you recommend any books by the other authors appearing at YALC, listed below?

Ben Aaronovitch, Dr Christian Jessen, Sophie Kinsella, Tanya Landman, Simon Mayo, Philip Reeve, Alex Scarrow, Samantha Shannon, Alex Wheatle.

Leave me a comment with reading suggestions for the above eight authors, or tell me if you agree/disagree with mine for the others!


What do you think?