Discussion Post

#UKYA and its shelf space

Obviously, I am an avid reader. Being born and bred in the North East of England I like to celebrate when authors from the UK do well and I always advocate the reading of UKYA. Today for #UKYADay (hosted by the lovely Lucy at Queen of Contemporary) I wanted to share a bit about my thoughts on UKYA.

I consider myself to be very lucky in that when I was 15 and wanted to buy a book, I had some there, sat on the shelves of my local Waterstones (which was actually Ottakars back then if anyone remembers that!) which were targeted directly at my age range. My sister, who is four years older than me didn’t have that option. There were YA books around but they weren’t as readily available for her and I think the only books she read in her teen years that were typically aimed at teenagers were Adrian Mole and the branch of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books which are aimed at that age range!

I remember though that the YA section of my bookstore at 15, which was over 11 years ago now, was VERY different to what it is now. I think there were three half-sized bookshelves for that age range, compared to the seven or eight there are now. I also remember that a lot of the book on those shelves were actually UKYA too! I was introduced to this sub-sector of books through the likes of Malorie Blackman, Sarra Manning and Louise Rennison, and I couldn’t get enough of them!

Anne Cassidy and Mary Hooper were also writing back then and I took their books out of the library – hell I even loved Anne Cassidy’s Looking for JJ so much that I had to buy it once I’d borrowed it! Julie Bertanga’s The Opposite of Chocolate resonated with me so much that I could recite parts of it on a whim! And oh my, Melvin Burgess’ Doing It – what a fantastic book! The shelves had multiple copies of these books, and others by the likes of David Almond and Jonathan Stroud which I’m sad to say I didn’t read at the time but have since developed a love for!

There were of course other books on the shelves that were not UKYA, I know that – despite not being fiction – Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul was on there, Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants and of course Eragon by Christopher Paolini were both there. Even books by smaller known authors like Carolyn Mackler. There was also the Princess Diaries’ author, Meg Cabot’s, books too but I think I ignored them because the covers looked too young and twee for me!

However these non-UKYA authors books were fewer and further between the UKYA book on the shelves. It is possibly to do with marketing and the fact that YA was such a ‘new’ thing that publishers over here weren’t taking the punt on overseas deals yet but there were definitely more books by UK authors than anything else.

This is one of the reasons I feel I had an advantage over teens buying books in that same bookstore now. On a recent visit to that store I could see hundreds of books that weren’t UKYA. Sat on the shelf was every cover version of The Hunger Games and Divergent series that you can get, the majority of David Levithan’s books, multiple copies of John Green’s books and more. When having a quick scan for Sarra Manning’s books I noticed they had her most recent book on the shelf but that was it, and there was only one copy. When I was in college she’d had three and there were multiple copies of them available!

It would seem that the rise in popularity of YA has meant that there are more books coming over from the states and because of these books being made into movies than UKYA, the shops, and this one in particular, are more likely to stock them. Home-grown talent like Keris Stainton, Zoe Marriott, Ruth Warburton, Marcus Sedgwick and even Jonathan Stroud and Sarra Manning – who are still publishing books 12 years on – are not getting as much shelf time and that saddens me.

When I was 15/16 I wanted books about girls and boys who walked the same kind of streets I did, who went to comprehensive schools like I did and who took the same lessons I did, but although those things are still covered by the awesome UKYA authors who are out there – they don’t seem to be as easy to come by in physical format as they used to be!

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