Welcome to my stop on the “Jigsaw of Fire and Stars” where Yaba Badoe shares a TOP 5 UKYA.
My Top 5 UKYA reads now and then
The novel tells the story of Sante. Sante was a baby when she was washed ashore in a sea-chest laden with treasures. It seems she is the sole survivor of the tragic sinking of a ship carrying migrants and refugees. Fourteen years on she’s a member of Mama Rose’s unique and dazzling circus. But, from their watery grave, the unquiet dead are calling Sante to avenge them.
For most of my life I’ve worked as a director and producer of documentary films for television, which is another way of saying that I spend a lot of time thinking of how best to tell stories using pictures and images. This, combined with my love of cinema with its sweeping landscapes, chiselled characters and dramatic action, bleeds into my approach to writing and the stories I’m seduced by. Here are a few contemporary UK YA writers who always float my boat.
1 – Frances Hardinge’s writing is amazing. She gets better with every novel. The quirky, awkward, fiercely bold characters she creates make for a riveting read. I really enjoyed her latest novel A Skinful of Shadows and was bowled over by the delicious weirdness of The Lie Tree and Cuckoo Song.
3- Moira Young’s Blood Red Road, the first of her Dustlands Trilogy, is totally ACE. Blessed with a strong central character in Saba, Young creates a language of her own and uses it to maximum effect in a perilous landscape to die for.
4 – I came late to Philip Pullman but when I did I embraced his creative vision wholeheartedly. The fight between the bears Iorek Byrnison and Iofur Raknison towards the end of Northern Lights is superb and left me breathless at the visual and emotional power of his writing. Totally. Utterly. Brilliant.
5- I was completely enthralled by William Nicolson’s The Windsinger (Wind on Fire Trilogy) and read the books one after the other I so enjoyed them.
Long ago, when I was a Young Adult myself, the category YA didn’t exist. At secondary school I read whatever was available in the school library and novels friends suggested.
An older friend of mine, Janete, introduced me to Daphne du Maurier. I raced through Frenchman’s Creek, Jamaica Inn, My Cousin Rachel and was utterly seduced by Rebecca, which is still one of my favourite novels. No one does suspense better than du Maurier. No one!
At sixteen my dear friend, Mrs Pocock, gave me a collection of D.H. Lawrence’s Selected Poems as a Christmas present. She’d enjoyed reading D.H. Lawrence as a teenager and thought I would too. I did. I loved the sensuality of his writing and went on to read everything by D.H. Lawrence I could lay my hands on.
A book I stumbled on in the school library, which was first published in 1937, was Joan Grant’s Winged Pharaoh. I must have been about thirteen when I picked it up. It was immediately entranced. Winged Pharaoh tells the story of Sekeeta, a Pharaoh who marries her brother (as Pharaohs did back then) and has to learn to conquer her pride and fear before she can lead her people against invaders. Of course I didn’t know back then that Winged Pharaoh was the first of what Joan Grant called ‘far memory’ books – life stories she claimed were dictated to her in trances by her personalities from previous incarnations. If only my experience of writing was as easy!