If you’re a booklover and you’ve been to Melbourne, then I assume you have spent at least a few hours browsing the bookshelves at one of the gorgeous Readings bookshops. Readings is not only one of my favourite bookshops of all time, but it is also host to the Readings Young Adult Book Prize.
This year, a panel of five judges (including staff who work at Readings, how cool!) have shortlisted six fantastic young adult books by emerging voices in Australian literature. Each of these authors is now in the running to win a $3,000 prize – a well-deserved and welcome cash boost for an industry of people who are often underpaid and undervalued.
I love that the focus of this prize is all about celebrating new voices in Australian young adult literature and, for that reason, I am chuffed to share the shortlist with you!
So here it is, in no particular order:
Boone Shepard by Gabriel Bergamoser
If keywords such as time travel, historical fiction, dangerous experiments, and murder make your bookish senses tingle, then this first installment of an upcoming series by Gabriel Bergamoser is definitely for you!
Boone Shepard follows the adventures of an Australian expat, errant journalist and accidental hero as he endeavours to uncover the secrets behind a missing persons case from 1965 in the Scottish Highlands. Little does Boone know that this investigation will also uncover things he didn’t know about his own story. Intrigued? Me too.
The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon
I think one of the most exciting and important genres of ‘voice’ that is coming out of publishing industries around the world is that of refugees and asylum seekers. This is a community of people who we seldom hear from and that can definitely do with more exposure and understanding.
Our main character in The Bone Sparrow is Subhi, a refugee who was born in an Australian permanent detention centre after his mother fled from violence in their homeland. This book chronicles Subhi’s experience of only ever knowing life from behind bars and how he uses his creativity and imagination to explore the world around him. Set to be heartwrenching but equally as important, The Bone Sparrow is bringing real-world issues to a YA audience. Zana Fraillon is definitely an author to watch out for in the future.
Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland
For lovers of YA teen romance, you’ll be happy to hear that Our Chemical Hearts is just that! Henry is a hopeless romantic, but he’s never been in love. That is, until he meets Grace. When Grace and Henry are both chosen to edit the school paper together, Henry feels pulled towards her, even though she isn’t usually the type of girl he finds himself attracted to.
This isn’t your usual boy meets girl as this book challenges stereotypes as the teenage characters take on the challenges of life, brokenness, forgiveness and romance.
Becoming Aurora by Elizabeth Kasmer
Becoming Aurora is no first timer when it comes to book prizes, this book also won a Queensland Literary Award in 2015. This is the story of Aurora, a 16-year-old girl who is a member of a gang that is part of a racially motivated turf war as the story opens.
In contrast to her usual tough surroundings, Aurora is forced to spend her summer holidays working in an aged care facility and it is here that she learns more about herself and her identity as the power balance shifts and she has to question who she is and what she believes in.
Freedom Swimmer by Wai Chim
This is my favourite book cover of this year’s shortlist! I am also really intrigued about the story and characters created within this book as it is based on an incredible true story of two boys who swim from China to Hong Kong in search of freedom from poverty and oppression.
If you’d like to learn more about China and its politics and culture through a YA lens, this is a great place to start.
The Road to Winter by Mark Smith
Can you imagine living alone, outdoors on a rugged rural coast trying to avoid a dangerous gang that is patrolling the land? No, me either. But that’s where we first meet Finn in The Road to Winter. He has survived two winters and is solely focused on surviving on his own when he meets Rose, an asylum seeker who has escaped slavery from the local gang.
Finn’s story is suddenly wrapped up with Rose’s as they desperately search for Rose’s younger sister who is either still enslaved or missing in the rural bush landscape. This is a book about friendship, love and survival. If you’re into reading books about dystopian regimes and unlikely heros who overcome suppression, this one is for you!
Have you read any of these books or are you planning on picking them up? Readings are currently offering a prize bundle where you can get all six books for just $99.99! I’d like to say a huge congratulations to all of the publishers and authors on making the shortlist. Keep an eye out on the Readings website to see which book takes out the top prize. The prize will be announced in late July.