Celebrating UKYA

For a while now I’ve been beavering away on a new blog, along with fellow authors Keren David and Susie Day. I’ve been planning to write about it here, but Keren’s beaten me to it over on her wonderful blog and since I can’t possibly improve on what she’s written… I’ve nicked her post. (Yeah, okay, I got permission.) Over to Keren: 

It started, as so many things do, with a conversation on Twitter.  A chat about the difference between teen books and Young Adult, which morphed into a wider debate about American and British books, and spawned a hashtag #UKYA.

It crystallised a feeling that quite a few of us had, that American books for teens get a lot more attention than British ones, even in the UK. We go into bookshops and see special displays of imported YA books from the US. We see publicists for UK publishers promoting the latest transatlantic buy-in. And we suspect that YA is almost defined by that Mean Girls/Twilight High School feel, the proms, the basketball games, the road trips, so that reading about British kids doing GCSEs and watching EastEnders somehow feels all wrong.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with American YA books, and indeed it is we British teen authors who enthusiastically rush to buy, read and praise writers like John Green. Meg Cabot and Maureen Johnson.

But then I stumbled across a group on Goodreads where American readers were asking for recommendations of British teen books, and coming up with little more than Harry Potter. And I kept on reading American YA books set in Britain, which came across as inauthentic as those awful episodes of Friends set in London. Or British characters in American YA books who sounded as British as Dick Van Dyke. And then I saw an internet query from an American family planning to travel to London with a teenager. Which books should they read to get them in the mood? Suggestions ranged from Oliver Twist to Swallows and Amazons. Oh and Harry Potter got a mention.

Well, there is more to UK YA than Harry Potter. To prove the point (and hopefully provide something on the internet for anyone in the world looking for authentically British books) we have set up a new blog, which should be a showcase for the best of British teen fiction. You can find it here and I hope you’ll follow, share and generally shout about it.

When I say we, the very wonderful Keris Stainton* and Susie Day have done all the hard work (Hurray!). We’d love to get more blog posts, recommendations and comments. Please do get in touch if you’d like to be involved.

There have been moments when I’ve worried that our site is a bit Little Englandy –  too parochial, too inwards looking and a bit unfriendly towards foreigners. But that’s not the aim. We just want to celebrate the great fiction being written in Britain (not just by Brits either. Some of our best UKYA writers are in fact Americans, but they live here, so that’s OK) and redress the balance a bit.

Right now the British children’s best-selling lists are dominated by American Wimpy Kids and American dystopians. Sometimes I go into supermarkets or even bookshops and  have to look hard to find an actual British teen book. I’d love to see Waterstones or WH Smith put on a Best of British teen book promotion. In the meantime, use that UKYA hashtag and start telling the world about our blog.

* should I have edited this bit out? *blush* 

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