When it comes to YA, the majority of the books are set in America. This is all well and good but life in the US as a young adult is very different to life in the UK as a young adult. Our schools are vastly different, language and slang is different, and sometimes it’s just comforting to read a book set in a place that is relatable.
I’ve created a list of some of the best UKYA books that are perfect for kickstarting your reading, and are mainly contemporary books other than one fantasy! Maybe you’ll find your next favourite author amongst this list!
What is UKYA?
UKYA is an abbreviation of United Kingdom Young Adult. It basically means YA books that have been written by UK authors, set in the UK and published by UK publishers. This year, it was reported that sales of YA books in the UK dropped, and since then many bloggers have been striving to support homegrown YA books in an attempt to combat this. So I thought I’d write up a list of my favourite UKYA books so that you can discover your next favourite read – and support UK authors too!
Frances is a study machine with one goal in mind – Cambridge university. Nothing will stand in her way, pushing aside friendships, secrets and her true self to dedicate herself to study. When she meets Aled, who is far more free spirited than her, she’s unafraid to be herself. When the trust between them breaks, Frances is caught between two people – the person she was and the person she’s always wanted to be.
Radio Silence is the perfect book for that transition between sixth form and university. Often there is tons of anxiety about this huge step in life, and constant self doubt about whether it’s the right thing to do. This book brings all of that anxiety front and centre, making it a truly relatable book for many young adults. It’s a book that tells you not to worry if plans go wrong, because there’s always the future to look forward to.
NOAH CAN’T EVEN
Poor Noah Grimes just can’t catch a break. His dad disappeared years ago, his mum’s tribute act is appalling, and something isn’t right with Gran. Not to mention that school is utter HELL. Noah just wants to be normal, and hopes to achieve that by dating Sophie. But when best friend Harry kisses him at a party, Noah’s plans are derailed and everything in his head begins to crumble…
This is a book that perfectly blends awkward school environments with first crushes – not to mention that this book is so delightfully British that it makes me smile whenever I see it. Noah Can’t Even is full of laughs, cringeworthy scenes – including a horrific tea making scene that will haunt me forever – and dashes of truly sweet and awkward first relationship vibes.
Lexi has grown up planning events with her dad – meetups, signings, conventions, everything that fans love. She prefers to stay behind the scenes to plan and organise, but a chance meeting with author Aiden Green throws her life into disarray. Through late-night chats, mixed messages and plenty of butterflies, Lexi begins to learn that not everything in life can be planned…
Unconventional is a book that throws you headfirst into the bustle and chaos of a convention for fandom. If you’ve ever been to one you’ll recognise so many things in this book, but you’ll also be able to appreciate parts of the book that deals with the calm and quiet. If you’re looking for something to read if you enjoyed the likes of Fangirl, this is the one for you!
THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF OKAY
Izzy O’Neill – aspiring comedian, impoverished orphan and Slut Extraordinaire. That’s what the malicious websites and gossip columns are calling her anyway. When explicit photos surface online of Izzy and a politician’s son, her life becomes the centre of a scandal. Izzy is determined to keep her head held high, but that can be harder than it looks when everyone is out to get you.
A powerful book about the toxicity of the media when it comes to women and men, The Exact Opposite of Okay is a bold read! It sheds light on how the media is quick to slut shame women yet clap men on the back and applaud them, even when both parties are in the same explicit photo. This is certainly an empowering read, and should be read by young adults everywhere.
Imagine a world where every action, every deed, every choice you make, is tattooed onto your skin for everyone to see. What happens when you have something to hide? Leora is an aspiring inker, yearning to help people tell their stories. When she discovers a secret that threatens to tear her tight knit community apart, will she be able to hide it?
This is the fantasy book on this list, and can be a little creepy but that doesn’t take away from how fascinating the book is! Ink is vivid, beautifully written and incredibly unique! It even weaves unique fairy tales into the book to paint a rich history. It’s one of those books that sucks you in and once you’ve finished reading, you realise it’s gone dark and you should probably go to bed!
Lexi has hit rock bottom after almost overdosing on heroin. Her brother stages an intervention and takes her to the Clarity Centre, a facility for other troubled young people. As Lexi opens up about her childhood and the dark secrets in her past, she is drawn to fellow patient Brady. But can a relationship be possible with such big demons hanging over them?
A hard-hitting look at teenage drug addiction and the harms that it can do. Clean is a brilliantly gritty book, told between the rehab clinic Lexi stays at and the high life she’s used to in London. It’s a great book for older readers, and the short chapters are perfect to get easily addicted to.
Sasha, Hugo, Velvet, Dawson, Kaitlyn and Joe. Six teenagers, all strangers to each other, are in the building for completely different reasons, but when they end up in the same lift together and witness something life altering, their lives will be connected forever.
This is such a unique book as it has seven different authors, each taking up the role of one of the characters. Floored is so British, and there’s lots of recognisable types of people in this book – especially Hugo who’s definitely one of “The Lads”. It’s a really great book about how people change over the years and how people interact with those they know despite these changes.
THE PAPER & HEARTS SOCIETY
Tabby is tired of trying to fit in, but when she joins a book club she finally starts feeling like she’s found her people. Trying her best to overcome the anxieties, can Tabby really let go of her worries and her thoughts of bad friendships and become part of a brand new group?
A perfect book for young teen readers who are fans of books, friends and good fun! The Paper & Hearts Society is a book that I think can definitely be relatable to readers on their summer holiday break from secondary school and are finding their feet with new friendships, anxieties and figuring out who they are.
Marlon is determined not to go down the path his big brother, Andre, took. He’s promised his mum that he’ll stay on the right side of the tracks. But when a date ends tragically, all of Marlon’s work unravels, and he’s faced with tough choices. Can he become the person he swore not to be in order to protect his loved ones?
Orangeboy is a gritty crime novel set in London, so plenty of things are going to be recognisable to London readers. The language and setting in this book are so obviously London, so it’s great to have something that UK readers of YA will be able to recognise without it being extremely different like US books.
So there you have it! A beginners guide to UKYA books! All of these books are either the start of series’ or standalone, so you can pick one and just jump right in! Is there anything else you think should be on this list? Let me know!