When Malorie Blackman started her writing career back in 1990, the world of young adult and children’s fiction was injected with an exciting, futuristic flair. Holding the position of Children’s Laureate from 2013 to 2015, Blackman has since written more than 70 children’s books, including novels, short story collections, television scripts and even a stage play.

Her name is one that most UK millennials will know well, as Blackman’s work has shaped many of our childhoods – whether we picked her tomes up at the school book fair or snapped them up from a local library as soon as availability allowed. However, if you’re among the uninitiated, then fear not: we’ve pulled together a few Malorie Blackman classics to give you a peek into this author’s lifetime of writing.

Hacker (1992)

Laced with intrigue and hacking, long before hacking became mainstream, Hacker is an example of how Blackman’s storytelling can pull in anyone, even if you’re not exactly a young adult or child anymore. 

When Vicky’s father is arrested and accused of stealing an eye-watering million pounds from his place of employment, incidentally a bank, she sets out to clear his name. With her brother Gib in tow, she puts her budding computer programming skills to the test, all the while putting herself in danger from the real perpetrator. 

Though the computing and hacking detail may be somewhat dated, this book will beguile any young reader with its interesting twists and turns, while older readers will lose themselves in a glorious spiral of nostalgia. It’s little wonder that this title scooped up the W.H. Smith Mind Boggling Book of the Year Award as well as the Young Telegraph/Gimme 5 Children’s Book of the Year Award.

Tell Me No Lies (1999)

Doing exactly what it says on the tin, to open Tell Me No Lies is to step into a world of secrecy and join a quest for the truth. Upon joining a new school, Mike crosses paths with Gemma, a girl who finds comfort in invisibility. 

Still reeling from the loss of her mother, Gemma spends her time cutting out images of mothers from newspapers and collecting them in her scrapbooks. However, when Gemma recognises Mike from one of these cuttings, their worlds collide in the most explosive manner. The secrets kept by Blackman’s two complex characters have been holding them together but now, they will be unravelled, whether they like it or not. A relatively quick yet intense read, you’ll be compelled to devour this one from start to finish.

Pig-Heart Boy (1997)

Thirteen-year-old Cameron Kelsey is dying. With a heart disease on track to knock off years, perhaps even decades, of his life, a pioneering transgenics doctor has a shocking proposal for the family. While he can’t offer him a human heart transplant, he has another potential source: a pig.

Cameron is confronted by big ethical questions, made no easier by the fact that a confidant has let the secret slip and now his family are being hounded by the press, campaign groups and more. Though a controversial topic, one that has become all the more topical in recent years, Blackman weaves in explorations of friendship and loyalty as Cameron makes the biggest decision of his life.

Noted for Blackman’s prowess with the topic matter, Pig-Heart Boy landed her on the Carnegie Medal shortlist in 1998 as well as a UKRA Award. An emotive tale, the novel was adapted by the BBC and went on to win the BAFTA Award for Children’s Drama in 2000.

A.N.T.I.D.O.T.E. (1997)

For spy enthusiasts in search of a thrill, you’ll be heartened to discover that A.N.T.I.D.O.T.E. has it in troves. Constantly wishing his mum had a more interesting job than being a secretary, Elliot’s world implodes when her face is plastered all over the news, with CCTV footage of her breaking into the premises of a pharmaceutical giant on behalf of A.N.T.I.D.O.T.E, an environmental action group. 

With his uncle under arrest and his mum on the run, Elliot finds himself in a jumbled mess of espionage, hacking and environmental activism. An adventure with more twists than you can count, Blackman’s masterful pen conjured up another engrossing read, further cementing her place as one of the most imaginative children writers the UK has ever seen.

Thief! (1996)

Though awards are by no means the only marker of a book’s critical acclaim, Malorie Blackman’s Thief! received no major accolades and is arguably one of her most underrated works. Here’s why.

Lydia, the new girl in school still acclimatising to her family’s move from a small town to London, is accused of theft. From there, things just get worse and, ultimately, she decides to run away. 

On an evening where a strange storm is brewing, she finds herself swallowed up by it and spat out in the future. A future where her home town is ruled by a cruel tyrant, townspeople risk being shot at if they breach curfew and an awful confrontation awaits her. Technology meets the supernatural, with every page offering a new layer of intrigue to the book - for that reason, Thief! will always be a winner in our eyes.

Noughts & Crosses (2001)

No list spanning Malorie Blackman’s classics would be complete without a mention of Noughts & Crosses, the series which only exemplified why the author has become a household name.

The eponymous first title in the series paints a picture of a 22nd century dystopian Britain, built on a history where Europeans were colonised and enslaved. While slavery has since been abolished, segregation rules the nation in order to afford Black people (Crosses) dominion over white people (Noughts). 

Sephy is a Cross and the daughter of one of the most important politicians in the country. Her best friend, Callum, is a Nought and, together, they've kept their friendship secret. However, against a backdrop of distrust, inequality and organised Nought terrorist activity, something more develops between our protagonists - the question is whether it’s worth the danger coming their way.

For many young people, specifically Black young people, Noughts & Crosses was their first introduction to race, racism and the innate power disparity. Blackman’s groundbreaking book has gone on to be adapted for stage and television, scooped up half a dozen awards, and was ranked #88 in The Guardian’s list of 100 Best Books of the 21st Century.

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