Tuesday 11 June 2019

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USYA vs UKYA Writing Styles

USYA vs UKYA Writing Styles

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All titles mentioned in this post were gifted to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Today I want to talk about USYA and UKYA, and their writing styles. I'm sure anyone who reads a lot of USYA and UKYA that the writing styles are very different. They're so distinctive, you could give me two books by a US author and a UK author, without telling me where the authors are from, and the majority of the time, I'd be able to tell you which is which.

And I'm sorry to say, and feel fairly guilty about doing so - and I'm sure my fellow Brits are going to be mildly appalled - I actually prefer USYA.

UKYA's Writing Style

When I read UKYA, I do think, "this feels very British". To me, it doesn't feel very believable, in that how it is written isn't how I think or speak, nor how I and my friends did as a teen. It feels pretty stilted to me, it doesn't flow as well, and I feel like I'm being told a story, rather than living it alongside the protagonist. It feels like it's been written, like the words and sentences have been thought about, rather than like this is actually what the narrator is thinking in the moment. To me, it feels slightly forced.

Don't get me wrong, I love a number of UKYA novels and authors, and I do still read UKYA and will continue to do so. But it just doesn't feel very natural to me. And what's strange is that this seems very much specific to YA, because I've read several adult romance and high fantasies, and they don't feel stilted at all.

But there are some exceptions to the rule. Here are some UKYA titles that actually don't have the typical UKYA writing style, and which I probably loved even more because of it.

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan White Rabbit, Red Wolf by Tom Pollock Colour Me In by Lydia Ruffles

I was going to add Louise O'Neill and Moïra Fowley-Doyle's novels above, too, but then remembered they're Irish. So maybe YAIE's writing style is more like USYA's style than UKYA's, even though they're much closer.

USYA's Writing Style

With USYA, I am immediately sucked into the book. It feels believable, that the narrator is thinking how they would speak - whether in first or third person - and it just flows naturally. I'm not being told a story, the story is happening right now, and I am there with them

Saying that, I am a Brit, and we do talk differently. There are times when reading USYA where I stumble while reading. When I read, my imagination takes over and I'm in the story; I'm not reading words on a page, I'm seeing it all happening, and I can read the characters thoughts and feelings. But there will be words or phrases that just don't work in British English that just throw me completely out of this, because my brain catches onto a word or a phrase, and tells me "this isn't right", and I fall out of the story. Some examples:
  • "She was tan" - no, she wasn't. This isn't correct in British English. It's either, "She had a tan," or "She was tanned."
  • "Gotten" is not a word in British English. This is a word a child would use when they're still learning. It's always "got".
  • "Learned" in the past sense is either not commonly used, or isn't used at all in British English (I'm not 100% which). What is commonly used is "learnt". To some, they might sound quite similar, but the way I speak, "learned" is just all wrong. "Learnt" is short and sharp, but "learned" is long and drawn out, and sounds like something, again, a child would say when still learning. ("Learned" is used when talking about someone who is quited knowledgeable, academically, but it's pronounced "lur-NED".)
  • Weirdly spelt words such as "gray" and "aluminum", which in British English are "grey" and "aluminium".
These are very, very tiny annoyances that throw me out of the story when they crop up because my brain tells me it's incorrect - when, of course, it's not. But I do much prefer USYA. And I even love it when there is the odd UK character in there, and a few British-isms are thrown in; I use "bloody" and "bugger" quite frequently, so it does make me smile when it crops up in USYA.

Over to you graphic

What do you think about the different styles in USYA and UKYA? Is there one you prefer? If you're a US reader, what words or phrases in UKYA throw you? Let me know in the comments!

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  1. I don't read enough YA to be able to tell the difference between US and UK, so your comment about UKYA feels less believable is interesting to know. As a Canadian, I sometimes feel like certain varieties of our literature is caught in the middle (between US and UK) - especially when it comes to spelling and mannerisms! :P I'm always thrown when American characters run into their homes with their shoes on

  2. I don't think I've specifically noticed a difference between UKYA and USYA, but now I'm really curious about that. Do you have examples of UKYA books that you weren't fond of as far as the style went?

    I do totally understand how you feel about US phrases and spellings tripping you up, though. I remember reading one British novel and being constantly thrown by some of the spellings and differences. I wasn't trying to be a snob about it, but every time I'd see one, it would pull me out of the story for a moment and my brain would say, "This is wrong!"

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction