Top Five Saturday: Young Adult

The Top 5 series is back!

Top Five Saturday is a meme hosted by Devouring Books in which the bookish community discover and share books that all have a common theme. Previously, the meme has focused on a range of different characters (witches and werewolves), genres (thrillers, detectives and re-tellings) and thoughts about the industry and life as a bookworm, and many more. 

Please read and share, comment and discuss this week’s topic!


So, I missed last week’s Top Five – it seemed a strange topic, Recommended Books… Somethow it felt too broad to be manageable. I mean, if it is one the blog it is a recommended read… *shrugs.

However, this week’s is close to my heart: Young Adult fiction which seems to me to be one of the most vibrant sectors in the writing industry bursting with imagination and adventure, but also with really challenging ideas and concepts. Authors who tackle genuinely difficult and painful topics for the audience which needs those topics dealt with most. I also teach English, run book clubs and have children so Young Adult literature is something about which I am passionate and committed and (dare I say) quite knowledgeable.

Patrick Ness

What more could you ask for?

Ness consistently offers up exhilarating plots – Burn was an absolute masterclass in thriller writing – and visually beautiful descriptions. Throw into this genre-defying playfulness, an anarchic stream of fantasy and myth and I’d love these books without more. But Ness blends all that with thoughtful and honest LGBTQIA+ representation, serious philosophical questions and heartbreak.

I will never recover from A Montster Calls – that line “I did not come to heal her, Conor O’Malley….”

Yes, I am still going on about Patrick Ness, but the Chaos Walking Trilogy (and associated books) are sublime. On the one hand, a coming-of-age road trip which deals with colonialism, slavery, gender, abuse, manipulation… and is it too much of a stretch to view the treatment of the Spackle as a parallel to the Holocaust?

Ultimately, all these books ask the same question: how far should I go to protect myself, to do what I think is right?

Francis Hardinge

Frances Hardinge is just as wonderful as Patrick Ness!

There is perhaps more atmosphere and less drama in her novels, many of which focus on young girls finding their voice and their identity: Triss in Cuckoo Song searching for the truth about herself, Faith in The Lie Tree, trying to juggle the roles of daughter, girl and of being herself.

Personally I prefer Hardinge’s historical fantasy novels – perhaps magical realism is a better description and the three, Cuckoo Song, The Lie Tree, and A Skinful of Shadows are a sublime set. The more fantastical novels like Deeplight are still great (and that novel is a masterclass in world building) but I do prefer the historical.

Akwaeke Emezi

Emezi came to my attention with their Women’s Prize nominated Freshwater which blew me away and I was so looking forward to Pet, their YA debut that I was afraid it might not live up to my high expectations.

But Good Lord it does!

Jam and Pet are a wonderful pair, a trans girl and a monstrous beast drawn by Jam’s mother and coming to life through Jam’s blood, seeking a monster in a town which believes there are no monsters anymore. Abuse, complacency, family, gender are all dealt with an incredible blend of sensitivity and strength by Emezi.


Ruta Sepetys

Do you like your fiction challengingly brutal and historical? Then Sepetys is for you!

Soviet concentration camps in Siberia; Polish evacuations in 1945 and flights across the Atlantic on the ill fated Wilhelm Gustloff  – the deadliest maritime disaster in history; life under the tyrannical rule of General Franco in Spain. The chlidren in Sepetys’ novels have hard, brutal lives – but also the inner strength to survive.

Angie Thomas

I so need to read Thomas’ new novel, On The Come Up because The Hate U Give was so incredibly powerful and important – prescient perhaps in light of what has happened in America with George Floyd and #BlackLivesMatter campaign.

THUG however is more than a political novel about race – it explores issues of power, abuse, inequality and of language in gripping ways – and gives us a fantastic role model and narrator in the character of Starr Carter.

So, these are my top five young adult fiction – a range I think there between fantasy and historical to contemporary tales, all bound together by their compelling characters, fantastic plotting and unflinching – yes I think that is the word, unflinching – explorations of the human character.

But there are so many other books that are fantastic, I cannot resist a few honourable mentions.


  • August 15- Recommended Reads
  • August 22- Young Adult Books
  • August 29- Detective Books

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