Ireland has a long history of fantastic writers in many different genres, and YA fiction is absolutely no exception. I was raised on books, and especially Irish ones. Even now, I can’t help but go back to the teen section in my local bookshop and pick up something.
Some of the best fiction I’ve read throughout my life comes from Irish writers, and there’s plenty in the YA canon that will keep you occupied. Clear your TBR.
Forget by Ruth Gilligan
Ruth Gilligan’s new books Nine Folds Make A Paper Swan was recently published, but Ruth began writing way back in 2006. Forget was one of my favourites when I was younger, and my friend and I have recently reminisced on how much we really loved it.
Forget tells the story of Eva, a young girl from Blackrock in Dublin (one of the affluent suburbs) who seems to have everything going for her – she’s doing fairly well in school, has a wide social group, and has a budding romance with one of the guys on the school’s rugby team (it’s Blackrock. Text book rugby country.) But things start to change when her father dies.
The story also features Zac, whose home life isn’t a bed of roses either – all he wants to do is be a musician, but his Dad has a different future in mind.
Ruth also wrote Somewhere In Between, which features my favourite trope of all time (twins) and Can You See Me? which I have yet to pick up.
Nothing Tastes as Good by Claire Hennessy
To be honest, I could have picked any of Claire’s books to feature here – Dear Diary was one of my favourites when I was younger – but Nothing Tastes as Good is her most recent.
It features Annabel, who has recently died and is sent as a sort-of-but-not-really guardian angel to her former classmate Julia, who’s struggling with food and her body image just as much as Annabel did when she was alive – but in a very different way. It’s a great read, a harrowing look into eating disorders and body image, and definitely one that needs to be read.
The New Policeman by Kate Thompson
The New Policeman is the first in a trilogy, set in Kinvara, Co Galway in Ireland. It follows JJ Liddy, who has discovered that time is leaking from our world and into Tír na nÓg, the mythical land of eternal youth and beauty.
When JJ asks his mother what she’d like for her birthday, she tells him all she would like is time. So JJ decides to travel to Tír na nÓg to try and fix the leak. It’s only a few hours in Tír na nÓg, but it’s much longer in Kinvara – enough to raise an alarm.
When JJ sets off to solve this problem, his disappearance is noted by the new police officer to Kinvara’s station, who is really only a police man when it works for him, and has already started off on a bad note with the locals – it’s bad luck to interrupt a céili.
One of my favourite things about this book is that it features sheet music for the fiddle throughout the book, fitting in with JJ’s family’s interest in music.
Only Ever Yours by Louise O Neill
Louise is currently working on her third novel, but for this I’m going to go back to the very start. Only Ever Yours was released in 2014 and within a year had won a plethora of bookish awards, including the very first YA Book Prize.
Women are no longer birthed naturally, but rather factory created. In their 16th year, following a lifetime of schooling, they are chosen for one of three fates; a companion (wife to the males), a chastity (a teacher who will prepare future women for their fate), or a concubine (a prostitute).
isobel and frieda (women’s names aren’t capitalised) are among the next set of women to receive their fate, and have been subject to a lifetime of weight control, carefully counted calories, and catty remarks from their fellow eves.
The women must be perfect to be considered a companion, so problems start to arise when isobel gains weight.
We are who we are. Sometimes, no matter how much someone might want to, they can’t escape that
Louise O Neill, Only Ever Yours
One by Sarah Crossan
One won this year’s Irish Children’s Book of the Year, the YA Book Prize and the Cilip Carnegie Medal. Deserved praise.
One is written in free verse (poetry with no rhyme or regular rhythm), and tells the story of 16-year-old conjoined twins Tippi and Grace. They’ve been home-schooled their entire lives, but now the money for homeschooling is running dry, their parents have no option but to send them to a conventional high school.
The story also shows the affect of unemployment on family life, and of bullying and high school gossip.
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne
One for historical fiction lovers, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas tells the story of Bruno, a nine-year-old boy whose family leave Berlin for a new life when his father is promoted.
Father, Mother, and Bruno’s sister Gretl seem to be getting on well in their new home, but Bruno has trouble adjusting to life in “Outwith”. He misses his friends in Berlin, and mourns that now he has no one to play with, and isn’t allowed to go explore.
One day, his boredom brings him to the bottom of the garden, where he meets a young boy named Schmuel at the fence. Schmuel and Bruno hit it off right away – you can’t not be friends with someone who has the same birthday as you do. But life is very different for the pyjama-clad boy who lives across the fence.