As huge fans of Tom Easton’s Boys Don’t Knit and his Our House series, we agree with him that funny books need love! We’re thrilled to be hosting this awesome guest post.
Humour in UKYA
I’ve been writing for over ten years and I write in different genres, for different age groups. I love the variety and I feel that I have learned so much as a writer by forcing myself to write outside my comfort zone for new audiences. I’ve written books which are “boys” books and books which are “girls” books (though I have to say I don’t change my writing style accordingly. Books are pretty much just books whoever the target market is).
The genre I love working in most of all is humour for YA. Not the easiest, I hasten to add. Humour is never easy and YA humour is very tricky indeed. But these are the books I love writing most. If I’m writing a chapter on a wet Tuesday in November, at 6.48am, on a train full of coughing, sneezing people, with a day of work stress awaiting me, then the last thing I feel like doing, or feel able to do, is come up with a killer joke that will appeal to 12-18 year olds without offending anyone.
Not everyone loved my 2014 book Boys Don’t Knit, but enough people did for me to feel that some of those jokes were worth the effort, some of the ludicrous scenes which I sweated over for months were as well-targeted as I’d hoped. Humour is a very subjective thing and it’s instructive to read reviews which run the full gamut. Some people didn’t laugh once reading the book, they just didn’t get it. They didn’t see why it was funny. That’s fair enough. Other people literally cried with laughter. Humour, like no other genre, really splits the audience. Is this why humour books don’t win awards very often, because you can’t get a unanimous verdict?
Writing for teenagers is wonderful because you know they’re going to get “adult” jokes and understand more complex concepts than younger readers, but one is also still allowed to be joyously silly. One doesn’t have to be knowing and cynical. The action can be mad and slightly exaggerated. You can just have fun. But it’s still hard. And it seemed to me when I started writing this piece that there are a lot of funny MG books and funny picture books and funny books for 5-7 yr olds, but not so many in the teen category. Why is that? Do children suddenly get all serious about stuff when they hit puberty? Is it because girls turn to dystopian romance and fantasy and boys stop reading altogether? These seem like generalisations to me. Everyone likes a funny book, don’t they?
So I asked Twitter for its favourite UKYA funny books and was delighted by the response. It turns out there are more UK authors writing funny YA than I’d realised, and I think they need celebrating. Some of the books below I’ve read and loved, some I’d never even heard of, but are now on my TBR. So rather than trying to write a little review of each, I’ve provided links to reviews of each book from various bloggers. Please do click through, bloggers need a little love too! The list is not exhaustive and I’m sorry if I’ve missed any of your favourites.