Jo Cotterill's Top 5 YA Books
I thought this would be easy. After all, it’s not all THAT often that I come across a book I think is utterly magnificent. So I went through my shelves and started grabbing the ones that I loved. When I got to twelve, I had to stop. Um, maybe this is going to be a bit harder than I thought. And although I loved, ‘Saving Rafael’ by Leslie Wilson, did I love it MORE than ‘The Wind Singer’ by William Nicholson which I haven’t read for a while but thought exceptional when I came across it? And I don’t have a copy on my shelves, but a recent favourite was ‘The London Eye Mystery’ by Siobhan Dowd – but again, I loved ‘The Ruby in the Smoke’ by Philip Pullman (more than His Dark Materials, before you ask).
All right, with one arm forced behind my back (and lamenting the fact I had to leave out ‘You Don’t Know Me’ by David Klass, which has possibly the cleverest writing style ever), here are my Top Five YA Books…
1. LUCAS by Kevin Brooks
This is a masterclass on writing about teenage love. It takes your heart and squeezes it so tight you can hardly breathe. Brooks is brilliant – although his later books have been almost too violent for my liking – and he doesn’t shy away from the darkness that resides in all of us. LUCAS picks you up by the scruff of the neck and won’t let go, even when you’ve finished reading the enthralling book.
2. THE FALCONER’S KNOT by Mary Hoffman
I don’t read a lot of historical fiction; I tend to be drawn to more contemporary stuff, but this is delicious. It is SO cleverly written and there’s a murder mystery plot and about seven other subplots that all tie up SO satisfyingly at the end. I also enjoyed TROUBADOUR by the same author, but this one remains my favourite. And there’s a great love story in it too!
3. I AM THE GREAT HORSE by Katherine Roberts
A bit different, this one – it’s narrated by a horse! Alexander the Great’s horse, to be exact, and it’s an epic story. I love the way it’s written in short chapters and the central character’s view on the world – which is necessarily very different from a human one. There’s historical detail too, but what keeps the story thumping along is the personality of the horse, Bucephalas. I cannot understand why Katherine’s name isn’t better known since she is a superb writer.
4. SABRIEL by Garth Nix
This is the first in the Abhorsen Trilogy and it’s wonderful. I find a lot of fantasy to be repetitive (portal to another world, a quest for the ‘chosen one’ blah blah) but what gripped me about this is the central premise that a person has to travel through seven ‘gates’ after death before reaching heaven or hell or whatever – and that until they have passed through the seventh gate they can technically be returned to the living world by sorcery. Sabriel has the quest ‘thrust upon her’ as many heroes do, but she’s got guts and personality and is a great female role model. I must read this one again, soon – just pulling it off the shelf has reminded me how much I liked it!
5. I CAPTURE THE CASTLE – Dodie Smith
This book is like hot chocolate. You can cuddle up to it when it’s raining outside, or you’re tired and fed up. It’s comforting and warm, happy and sad, romantic and tragic. It demands nothing of the reader and yet at the end you discover you’ve become totally entwined in Cassandra’s world. She lives in a CASTLE, for goodness’ sake! What could be more wildly romantic than that?
So there you go. My Top Five YA books – until you ask me again in a month’s time, when I might have changed my mind entirely! (And you can bet that as soon as I have sent this off, I will exclaim, ‘Oh no! How could I have left out THAT one?!’)
Many thanks for letting me guest on your blog, Jenny! I have enjoyed myself very much!