Monday, 2 April 2012

UKYA:a blog is born

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.

21 comments:

  1. Hooray for UKYA! Though I must emphasise that all the hard work has been done by Keris, who is a superhero, while I have mainly eaten some biscuits and watched her being superheroic.

    I think seeing how many people were inadvertently including US authors in their 'British Book Challenge' reviews was what made me sit up and take notice. Here's hoping this helps put all those brilliant books under their noses...

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  2. Fantastic Keren, Keris and Susie. My PhD purely focused on British YAF and I can truly say there are some wonderful books out there. Would love to be involved. Here's to UKYA!

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  3. Wow, you have all worked so hard and so brilliantly! Well done! I'd love to be involved - I seem to remember I said I'd write something? Then I went away... I'll get in touch?

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  4. Wow, this is great! I often find myself coming home with something I think is British, only to start reading and find immediately that it isn't. (Funny how quickly you can tell.) Awesome blog.

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  5. Brilliant, brilliant news! I'm so glad you guys have done this! Long overdue. I also lament the lack of publicity and credit UK YA gets - I was so pleased to find your hashtag on Twitter. I'm really looking forward to reading the blog! It's about time the UK started recognising it's wonderful talent for YA not teen, fiction!

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  6. Brilliant idea for a blog - It would be great to see the fab YA books set in the UK get more publicity!

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  7. Wow. I'm not even a UK author and the idea that all Americans know of British children's fiction is Harry Potter makes me want to cry. Thanks so much for sharing this, Keren, and such a great idea for a blog! Hear hear!

    Also, strangely enough, we've both had our minds on the US / UK divide lately. On my blog today, I posted on the differences between the countries' children's book markets. And provide a shout-out to your post: http://critically-yours.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/differentiating-us-and-uk-childrens.html

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  8. Well done what a great idea, I work in Waterstones In Ireland and we try to keep a balance and we always display, promote and recommend as many Irish titles as we can so that readers can see that are some fantastic authors in their own country and it's not all about the Meyer, Collins and Kinney

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  9. I so admire your energy and commitment and look forward to following this one very much. Well done all of you.

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  10. Totally agree with Miriam - really impressed by your collective drive. It's very exciting, and I am looking forward to following such a great blog.

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  11. In fairness, five years ago I moaned about not knowing much about American books, either. I think it goes with where you are.

    But it's a good idea to spread the word, and to try and stem the black romantic tide from over there.

    It should be easier to find out, though, so this should help.

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  12. What a brilliant idea - I'm on my way there right now!

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  13. Thanks so much for posting about it, Keren and thanks for your lovely comments (and you, Susie - I too have eaten many biscuits). I'm really excited about it, particularly now that I see how enthusiastic people are! Hooray for UKYA.

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  14. Great to see this - and huge congrats and respect to you, Keris and Susie for getting on and doing it!

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    1. Why is everyone else on here not a bloke?

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  15. No idea, but don't let it put you off!

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  16. What a terrific idea, I'll definitely be reading :o)

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  17. Hiya Keren,

    Yes! I love this blog and its devotion to UK YA. Many of my all time favourites are UKers: Over The Water by Maude Casey, A Kestrel for a Knave by Barry Hines, How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff, anything by David Almond...

    Thanks for putting it together.

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  18. What a fantastic idea for a blog - and what great British YA fiction there is! BTW I love the glossary on here.

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  19. Brilliant idea, Keren and well doen to veeryone for all their work. Here's wishing you lots of wonderful titles to spread the good word about!

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  20. Excellent blog, Keren, well done!

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