In the 60s, the British Invasion brought lots of great music to these shores, most notablely a couple of little groups called the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. While there’s never been a teen literature British Invasion per se, a number of our big names hail from the U.K., including J.K. Rowling, Philip Pullman, Eoin Colfer, and more.
However, there are a lot of great writers hailing from the U.K. who just haven’t been discovered in quite the same way here as across the pond; I’ve tried to sample across several genres for your reading pleasure.
Louise Rennison, author of the Georgia Nicholson series and the new Misadventures of Tallulah Casey, is well-known for writing books that can make you snort soda up your nose with laughter, should you have the misfortune to be drinking something while reading them. If you loved Georgia, you should definitely make the acquaintance of Shiraz Bailey Wood from Grace Dent’s books Diary of A Chav (confusingly retitled Diva Without A Cause) and Posh and Prejudice. Shiraz, who could be Georgia’s older, tougher, and more streetwise distant cousin, has this to say in the glossary: “Chav is a not very nice word people often call me and my friends ‘cos we wear hoodies and gold hoops and listen to R+B and own Staffordshire Bull Terriers and don’t live in posh houses. People say chavs cause a lot of trouble. I don’t think I am a chav, and if I am it stands for ‘charming, hilarious, articulate and vibrant.'” Shiraz’s hilarious adventures and misadventures also have a serious side, as she deals with family, stereotypes, and relationships, while trying to figure out just what it is she really wants out of life. I recently discovered that there are more books in this series that were never published in the U.S., and I’m torn between frustration (why do publishers do that?) and scheming to get them into my hot little hands.
If your taste runs more to stories of what happens after the end of the world as we know it, you should definitely check out Exodus (and the sequel, Zenith) by Julie Bertagna. It’s the year 2099, and Mara has always lived on the tiny island of Wing, north of what used to be Scotland. But the rising seas that have reshaped the earth are continuing to rise, and soon the island will be covered. Mara is sure that there is land out there somewhere, sure that she can lead her people to safety. But what if she’s leading them from one nightmare into another?
One of things I love about this series is that there is a definite romance element, but it doesn’t take over the story, and certainly doesn’t solve everything–if anything, it makes the characters’ lives more complicated. Book three, Aurora, is out in the U.K., but not the U.S. Argh! Are you sensing a theme here?
So, if the previous two books got together and had a baby, it would be Saci Lloyd’s series The Carbon Diaries 2015 and The Carbon Diaries 2017. Laura Brown is an ordinary teenager living in the London of a few years in the future, when a U.K. government deeply concerned about global warming imposes a regime of strict carbon rationing–suddenly carbon use limits are interfering with her band’s practice time, her dad has decided to raise a pig, and her older sister Kim is blowing the family’s allowance on trips to Ibiza. The diary she writes about her changing world has the hilarity of Diary of a Chav as well as the action and heroism of Exodus.
Dark Fantasy/Horror/Science Fiction
If you grew up on Goosebumps and Fear Street and are looking for something new to sink your teeth into, check out the tween-friendly brew of horror, humor, and dark fantasy that Chris Wooding conjures up in Malice and Havoc, where an urban legend about an enchanted comic book that will carry your to another realm if you repeat the words “Tall Jake, take me away” turns out to be all too real. The story shifts back and forth from comic format to conventionally written format, creating the feeling of actually being inside the narrative. Wooding is a threat in multiple genres as well, writing dark, gothic fantasies such as Poison and The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray; his science fiction adventure series Tales of the Ketty Jay, which begins with Retribution Falls, is published for adults but would be enjoyed by teens who like rogue space pirates.
Michelle Magorian is probably best-known in the US for herwonderful (and tear-jerking) novel Good-Night, Mr. Tom, in which an embittered country gentleman and an abused boy from London make a family for each other amidst the backdrop of World War II. Her most recent book, Just Henry, which won the 2008 Costa Award in the U.K., is set during the post-war period. Henry loves goes to the cinema, but otherwise his life is a bit lonely. He misses his dad, who died in the war, and resents his new step-father and baby sister. Life seems to be looking up for him when he gets a creative new teacher, until he gets stuck doing his film project with the class outcasts. But their friendship and a mystery he discovers while developing a roll of film lead him to question everything he’s previously believed about his life. Magorian does something really impressive here, creating a first-person voice for a character who starts out as an unlikeable bigot, but doesn’t know he’s an unlikeable bigot; as the readers, we’re right there with him as his heart and mind begin to expand. Magorian’s books can be somewhat hard to find in the U.S., but they’re worth the effort.
— Erin Bush, currently reading Shadows Cast by Stars by Catherine Knutsson
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