Today is UKYA Day and it got my thinking about why I love UKYA, what makes it special to me, and why over 75% of the books on my YA shelf are UK.
My love affair with UKYA started when I was around thirteen. This is when my librarian at school got me interested in the North East Teenage Book Awards, an award based on UK-based authors only. She started me reading some of the previous nominees, and when the time came I read all six nominees, attended all of the author events, and voted for my favourite - and my favourite won. And, I was addicted. I took part in many of the later awards (even though I was technically too old!) and met more authors and read more amazing books.
As we come up to the fifteenth year of the North East Teenage Book Awards, stand by for my own little UKYA feature, where I revisit all of the nominees and winners and introduce a fellow reader who shared this journey with me.
From then on I was always in the library.
I helped read prospective nominees to help with the shortlist, I devoured every book on the shelves and I spent every spare second in the library. The librarian let me read her new books, which weren't on the shelves yet, and I loved nothing more than browsing the secret stash of books in her office for my next read.
What I love the most about UKYA is how it's not afraid to face the toughest of issues head on. And nothing is ever glossed over or prettied up. Racisim, drink, drugs, crime, arranged marriages, abuse... Everything is explored. And there's something about UKYA writing that is consistently haunting. I'd have absolutely no trouble picking out a quote from whatever UKYA book you set in front of me that would stay with me and touch my soul.
If I don't know whether a book is UKYA when I pick it up I'll know after a few pages. The quality speaks for itself. Rather like the British film industry, UKYA has an atmosphere all of its own that you can easily discern.