The Readings Young Adult Book Prize shortlist 2018

We couldn’t be more excited to reveal the shortlist for this year’s Readings Young Adult Book Prize. This is the second year of the Prize, which celebrates the best new writers in Australian Young Adult literature, and considers first and second YA books.

The six shortlisted novels are:

Nina Kenwood, Readings’ Marketing Manager and Chair of the Judging Panel, comments: ‘The stories in this year’s shortlist range from romantic comedy to post-apocalyptic plague, and inspire everything from creeping horror to sheer joy. The six books are of an exceptionally high standard, demonstrating the extraordinary depth of talent to be found amongst debut and early-career Australian YA authors.’

You can read Kenwood’s individual comments about each of the shortlisted books below.

The Readings staff members judging this year’s prize include Kenwood (whose debut YA novel will be released in 2019), along with three experienced children’s booksellers: Mike Shuttleworth (Readings Hawthorn), Georgia Delaney (Readings Kids), and Athina Clarke (Readings Malvern). The staff judging panel will be joined by a guest judge, award-winning YA author Melissa Keil, to select the winner. Feedback from the Readings Teen Advisory Board will also be taken into consideration.

Untidy Towns by Kate O’Donnell

It was my decision, one I was determined not to regret. Just a few hours earlier this had been the easiest decision to make, the only option. But now I started to feel I needed reassurance that it wasn’t the stupidest mistake I had ever made.

Addie has quit her final year at boarding school in the city to move back home to her small country town. She has a lot to figure out: how to live with her mum and little sister again, how to revive old friendships, and most of all, what to do with the rest of her life.

Untidy Towns is a thoughtful, deeply immersive novel – reading it is like slipping into a warm bath. The family dynamics are beautifully written, and the stresses in seventeen-year-old Addie’s life feel true. Kate O’Donnell writes with the lightest touch, and this is a tender coming-of-age story about the pressure of expectation, the fear of figuring out what to do next, and the thrill of first love.

Beautiful Mess by Claire Christian

I write poems. But there’s no way to say that without sounding like a dickhead. I’ve tried. I spend a considerable amount of time trying not to sound like a dickhead. That’s what my life is – trying to not sound like a dickhead and overcompensating for moments when I’m positive I do sound like a dickhead, like right now. I’m pretty sure I sound like a dickhead right now.

Gideon is socially anxious, shy, and recovering from a bad period in his life. Ava is deep in grief after the suicide of her best friend, and feeling out of control. Both Ava and Gideon are a little bit lost, a little bit empty and a little bit scared, but when they find each other, they start to heal.

Beautiful Mess is a book full of heart and hope. Claire Christian’s voice leaps off the page, brimming with energy and verve. She writes about complex topics with empathy and authenticity, tackling issues of love, sex, identity, romance, grief, mental illness, and intimacy.

Amelia Westlake by Erin Gough

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about hoaxes. My life, for instance. Lately it feels less like a life and more like a joke. Somebody’s practical joke. Don’t get me wrong. It’s nothing I can’t handle. Terrible stuff has been happening to me since I was born. Mum and Dad named me Wilhelmina for a start.

Harriet Price and Will Everhart attend the same private school, but they couldn’t be more different. Harriet is an ambitious, over-achieving prefect, and Will is struggling in school and chafing against the constraints of her life. An encounter with a sexist teacher leads the two girls to team up to bring him down through an elaborate hoax, and as they spend more time together, romance begins to spark.

Amelia Westlake is a both a delightful rom-com, and a fascinating exploration of feminism, privilege and power. The relationship at its centre is utterly charming, and the story of the hoax highly entertaining. Funny, clever, timely and perfectly paced, this lovely book will lift your spirits and warm your heart.

This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada

My stomach lurches. Depending on which way the wind is blowing, this distant cloud just might kill me. One breath is all it takes. One lungful of swirling, airborne virus particles that will swarm through every cell in your body. You’ll get a fever; you’ll incubate; then two weeks later you’ll go off like a grenade, infecting everyone in a mile-wide radius.

A devastating virus has overtaken the world, and Catarina is on her own, struggling to survive. To say any more about the plot of this book would potentially spoil the many twists and turns of the story, and the pleasure in discovering Emily Suvada’s brilliantly detailed, fascinating world.

This Mortal Coil is the best kind of sci-fi: thrilling, tense, incredibly smart, and bursting with ideas. One of the book’s particular strengths is Suvada’s deft and imaginative handling of technology, and her love of science shines through on every page. The novel expertly balances action sequences with character revelations and complex plot detail, and pulls everything together into an exciting romp.

Small Spaces by Sarah Epstein

A lot of people have a fear of small spaces. Elevators, photo booths, changing rooms in clothing stores. Hedge mazes, enclosed water slides, narrow staircases, walk-in wardrobes. I mean, I get it – I avoid those things too. I can’t even lie in a bathtub without thrashing like a netted salmon. But sometimes I think the small space I fear most is the one inside my own head.

When Tash was eight-years old, she had an imaginary friend called Sparrow. Although ‘friend’ is the wrong word – Sparrow tormented Tash, and left her with lasting trauma. Now Tash is seventeen, and suddenly Sparrow is back, throwing Tash’s life into chaos. In order to survive, Tash has to face her deepest fears and figure out the real truth of what is happening to her.

Sarah Epstein is not afraid to take her readers to dark places and Small Spaces is a gripping mystery and a deliciously creepy page-turner. Like the best psychological thrillers, this novel will have you on the edge of your seat, and keep you guessing until the very end.

Between Us by Clare Atkins.

I lift my right foot off the ground, and place it on the lowest step of the bus. My nerves are an electric lightning storm inside me, fraught and fiery. The officer waves for me to get on. Her voice cracks with impatience. ‘Hurry up!’

Jono is depressed, missing his absent mother and sister, and struggling in his relationship with his Vietnamese father Kenny. Ana is an asylum seeker from Iran, forced to live in a detention centre and nervously attending the local school for the first time. As Jono and Ana form a gentle bond and feelings grow between them, problems arise when Jono’s father – who works as a guard at the detention centre – becomes involved.

Between Us is an extraordinary feat of storytelling, beautifully weaving together three narrative voices with precision and skill. Claire Atkins’ extensive research and understanding of the issues are apparent throughout, and her writing is exquisite. This is an important book that will resonate with all Australians.

We’re pleased to offer all six books on the shortlist in a specially priced pack for $99.99 ().

The winner of this year’s Readings Young Adult Book Prize will be revealed in late July, and will be featured in the August issue of the Readings Monthly. They will receive $3,000 in prize money. You can find out more about the prize here.

Cover image for Between Us

Between Us

Clare Atkins

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