The Readings Young Adult Book Prize shortlist 2020

We are delighted to announce the 2020 shortlist for the Readings Young Adult Book Prize. Now in its fourth year, this prize was created to recognise and celebrate new voices in Australian Young Adult literature, and considers the first and second books of YA authors across Australia.

What an incredibly strong year it has been for Australian Young Adult fiction. This year’s judges had a tough task choosing our shortlist from around 40 eligible novels, many of which were absolutely cracking reads. We feel so fortunate to live in a country where there is so much top notch literary talent.

The judges this year, all staff from our shops, include two shop managers (Angela Crocombe, Readings Kids and Claire Atherfold, Readings State Library Victoria), an academic studying young adult literature (Bec Kavanagh, Readings Kids) and an actual young adult (Joe Murray, Readings Kids). A varied but impressive bunch. Our brief was to find six books that represented great YA fiction, had diversity in style and subject matter, and were stories that young people would enjoy. We are absolutely thrilled with the final shortlist. Not only do we want you to take note of each of these amazing six authors, but also to know that there is a story here for every YA reader.

We have a work of brilliantly realised, swashbuckling historical fiction, loosely based on the true story of the pirate Anne Bonny. There is a heartwarming story of an immigrant family trying to make good with their restaurant, while also coping with a parent with mental illness. There is an absolutely terrifying thriller about a disappeared girl that incorporates monsters, and will have you too scared to turn out the light. We have a coming-of-age tale from the perspectives of three young gay men growing up in a small country town in Western Australia. Then there is an utterly unique take on dystopian fiction that looks at what it would be like to live in a world where a wall suddenly divides your city in half, and you are caught on the opposite side from your family. Finally, we have a realistic story about a young man whose passion is basketball but who has a disease that means playing it could kill him.

We hope you enjoy reading these wonderful and varied Australian stories, and support these incredibly talented emerging authors. They will no doubt have many more great stories to tell in the years ahead.

You can read the judges’ comments on each individual title below.


Devil’s Ballast by Meg Caddy

Anne Bonny was 18 when she ran away from her violent husband, James, and teamed up with the pirate Calico Jack. Now she’s passing as a cabin boy on Jack’s ship and playing her part in a ruthless crew that is causing terror for all aboard the ships of the Caribbean. But James Bonny still wants her back and will do whatever is necessary to get her. Based on the true story of the pirate Anne Bonny, this is a swashbuckling adventure story set on the high seas with fascinating and diverse characters and some really evil baddies. Every character has their motivations and their quirks. This is smart writing and an absolute treat.

Suitable for ages 13+.


The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling by Wai Chim

Anna Chiu has her hands full with Year 11, looking after her brother and sister, and helping out at her family’s restaurant. Her dad’s new delivery boy, Rory, is a welcome distraction and Anna loves spending time working on perfecting her dumplings. But her close-knit family isn’t without its complications – her mum has an untreated mental illness and has been in her bed for months, her father is incredibly strict, and life can so easily turn upside-down. This is a nuanced tale of an immigrant Chinese-Australian family and how they navigate mental illness. It is also a charming coming-of-age story about first love, managing responsibilities and finding joy in a difficult life. Wai Chim has written a remarkable book that is an absolute delight to read.

Suitable for ages 13+.


Ghost Bird by Lisa Fuller

Stacey and Laney are twins, yet they could not be more different from one another. Stacey follows the rules and works hard at school; Laney rebels and skips school. But when Laney disappears one night, Stacey refuses to believe, as most of the townsfolk do, that Laney has just run away with her boyfriend. There are darker forces at work and when Stacey starts to dream of terrifying monsters, she knows that she must find out what has happened to her sister – before it’s too late. This is a page-turning thriller set in an Australian country town and featuring Indigenous Australian spirits who play an unexpected role in Stacey’s quest to save Laney. This story will keep you up late at night!

Suitable for ages 13+.


Invisible Boys by Holden Sheppard

Nerd Zeke, punk Charlie, and footy hero Hammer don’t appear to have anything in common. But appearances can be deceiving, and these three boys are all coming to terms with their homosexuality in a town where it is much safer for them to keep aspects of themselves invisible. Observed from their three points of view, with anonymous letters interspersed throughout, this is a stunningly written novel that will open your eyes to what it’s like to live in a small town full of prejudice and hurt. Nobody is perfect, nobody is off the hook and nobody will ever be the same again after the explosive events that take place in this book. This is a raw, sometimes confronting story.

Suitable for ages 15+.


Everywhere Everything Everyone by Katy Warner

Sixteen-year-old Santee lives on the ‘bad’ side of town and knows to stay quiet about her father’s arrest, even if if it feels unfair. She still believes in the safety of her world – that running late for curfew will only mean being grounded, and that the government is working for the good of the community. But everything changes when a wall appears overnight dividing the city, leaving Santee trapped on the wrong side. Written from the perspective of an ordinary citizen caught up in life-changing events, this fascinating novel examines the importance of freedom, rebellion and the precariousness of our everyday lives. Gentle romance and family themes are also interwoven through the narrative to make an absolutely captivating story.

Suitable for ages 11+.


Take the Shot by Susan White

Bug is keeping a lot of secrets. After he is diagnosed with a health condition called Marfan syndrome, he is advised to stay away from fast-paced sports and take it easy. So, what does he do? Start a mixed basketball team with some of his classmates at his new school and not tell any of his family about it. This isn’t a life-threatening disaster waiting to happen – not at all. Bug is such a great character with witty comebacks to his bullies and a charm that brings him friends without him even realising. A thoroughly engaging novel about friendship, sport and dealing with challenges in life, this is a story that even reluctant readers will absolutely adore.

Suitable for ages 11+.

For the avid YA reader, we’re very pleased to be offering a pack of all six books in a specially priced pack.

Somehow, we have to choose just one winner from among these six amazing and incredibly diverse Australian novels. When we judges meet again to make our decision, we will be joined by the talented and generous YA author Amie Kaufman, who is donating her time as guest judge this year. We are looking forward to hearing her thoughts, and we’ll be back to announce the winner in late July.

Invisible Boys

Invisible Boys

Holden Sheppard

$22.99Buy now

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