The Readings Young Adult Book Prize shortlist 2021

We are delighted to announce the shortlist for the 2021 Readings Young Adult Book Prize! Co-chairs of the judging panel Xiao-Xiao Kingham and Kealy Siryj share the judges’ shortlisted choices.

What a fantastically strong year it’s been for Australian Young Adult fiction! We had a tough task choosing our shortlist from over 30 eligible novels, many of which were absolutely gripping reads. The YA category is one of the bright stars in the Australian publishing landscape, and this year’s eligible contenders were no exception.

The judges this year include three booksellers from Readings Kids: Bianca Looney (a Youth Librarian), Kealy Siryj (an English major at university) and Xiao-Xiao Kingham (a former Readings Teen Advisory Board member). Cindy Morris completes the judging team: she currently works in the Readings warehouse and is completing a Masters degree in information management.

Our brief was to select six books from the debut and second-time Australian YA releases published in the past year. Each book had to fulfil a set of criteria: it needed to be great YA fiction; show diversity in style and subject matter; and be a story 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 authors, but also know that there is a story here for every YA reader.

The six-strong shortlist includes a charming coming-of-age love story between two First Nations teenage boys in rural Australia (The Boy from the Mish by Gary Lonesborough); a magical, dystopian fairytale with twin sisters, an unreliable narrator, a bear and a whale (The End of the World Is Bigger than Love by Davina Bell); a stunning visual diary set in the near future where food is scarce and fuel prices can send a family bankrupt, written by Deaf artist, writer and activist, Asphyxia (Future Girl); a very funny novel about a young Muslim boy and his ragtag group of friends learning how to thrive in a world with racism, rugby, school rivalries, poetry, and a very beautiful, very smart girl (The F Team by Rawah Arja); a warm, funny and highly original portrait of a girl searching for meaning while struggling with her grief (Metal Fish, Falling Snow by Cath Moore); and finally, a poignant novel that slowly untangles a web of secrets, betrayals and the ties that bind a family (Where We Begin by Christie Nieman).

This shortlist features such a wide and varied range of stories by astonishingly talented emerging Australian authors. No doubt you will you find the perfect book (actually, make that perfect books) within this incredibly strong selection.


The F Team by Rawah Arja

Tariq Nader is the ringleader of ‘The Wolf Pack’ at Punchbowl High, a school that finds itself in the news all too often for the wrong reasons. Enter Mr Archie, a new principal desperately trying to rehabilitate the school’s image, who forces Tariq and his mates to join a rugby team with rival kids from Cronulla. Heartwarming and hilarious, The F Team centres around the Lebanese-Australian community of Punchbowl. Rawah Arja wonderfully captures the adolescent struggle of trying to keep everyone happy – your mates, your parents, the girl you like, your teachers – and falling a little short.

For ages 13+.


Future Girl by Asphyxia

Piper is a Deaf teen who has been raised to pass as hearing in a world that fails to accommodate her. Life in a time of environmental catastrophe is far from easy, and when her mother loses her job, Piper must find a way to ensure their survival. She soon meets Marley, a CODA (child of Deaf adult) who shows her the wonders of growing food and begins teaching her Auslan, introducing her to a whole other world where Deafness is celebrated and embraced. A visual feast where each page is embellished with illustrations, Future Girl is an insightful look at the barriers to accessibility and inclusion faced by the Deaf community. It is a thought-provoking and hopeful Own Voices novel about finding a sense of belonging.

For ages 12+.


The End of the World Is Bigger than Love by Davina Bell

Alone on a remote island, identical twin sisters Summer and Winter spend their days gorging on canned delicacies and reading through their mother’s literature collection. Life following the mysterious ‘Greying’ – a disease that has eradicated most life on earth – is largely uneventful. However, that all changes one day when a mysterious boy emerges from the woods: a boy who upends everything they once thought they knew. A post-apocalyptic read like no other, The End of the World Is Bigger than Love is a hauntingly beautiful work about a unique sisterly relationship that will stay with readers long after they’ve finished it.

For ages 13+.


The Boy from the Mish by Gary Lonesborough

Every summer Jackson’s Aunty and cousins visit his family on the Mish in rural NSW. This year they bring with them a surprise guest, Tomas, who is trying to turn his life around after leaving juvenile detention. Jackson’s relationship with his girlfriend has just ended, and he is exploring parts of his identity that scare him. When he is forced to show Tomas around, the two become involved in a beautiful, slow-burning romance. The Boy from the Mish is an intensely moving story about self-acceptance in the face of suffocating racism and homophobia. Gary Lonesborough’s debut novel is a masterclass in coming-of-age storytelling and a wonderful Own Voices story.

For ages 14+.


Metal Fish, Falling Snow by Cath Moore

Following the unexpected death of her mother, Dylan finds herself in the care of her mother’s boyfriend Pat, a beer salesman. On a road trip through outback Australia, the pair are bound by little more than their shared grief. Metal Fish, Falling Snow is a portrait of a 14-year-old girl looking for her identity in the wake of immense trauma. Cath Moore’s debut YA novel deals with issues of race and identity displacement, in a voice that is rich and beautiful. This novel will stay with you long after you put it down.

For ages 13+.


Where We Begin by Christie Nieman

Seventeen-year-old Anna is running away from home on an interstate bus. With only a suitcase and a framed anatomical depiction of the human skull in hand, she ends up on the doorstep of her long-estranged grandparents’ house. As the narration shifts between the past and present, Where We Begin slowly uncovers Anna’s backstory and the secrets that have been buried by her family. Part mystery, part coming-of-age, this richly descriptive and perfectly paced novel unpacks an intricate web of lies, betrayals and secrets while also tackling complex and hard-hitting themes.

For ages 13+.

For the avid YA reader, we’re pleased to offer all six books on the shortlist in a specially priced pack for $99.99 (was $126.90). The winner of this year’s Readings Young Adult Book Prize will be revealed in July, and will be featured in the August issue of the Readings Monthly.

 Read review
Metal Fish, Falling Snow

Metal Fish, Falling Snow

Cath Moore

$19.99Buy now

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 Read reviewThe F Team

The F Team

Rawah Arja

Meet Tariq Nader, leader of ‘The Wolf Pack' at Punchbowl High, who has been commanded by the new principal to join a football competition with his mates in order to rehabilitate the public image of their school. When the...

$22.95Buy now

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 Read reviewFuture Girl

Future Girl


Future Girl explores what it means to come of age as a Deaf teenager, against the backdrop of a near-future Melbourne on the brink of environmental catastrophe.

$24.99Buy now

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 Read reviewThe End of the World Is Bigger than Love

The End of the World Is Bigger than Love

Davina Bell

A breathtakingly original novel about love and destruction, from an award-winning Australian children's author.

$19.99Buy now

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 Read reviewThe Boy from the Mish

The Boy from the Mish

Gary Lonesborough

A funny and heart-warming queer Indigenous YA novel, set in a rural Australian community, about seventeen-year-old Jackson finding the courage to explore who he is, even if it scares him.

$19.99Buy now

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 Read reviewMetal Fish, Falling Snow

Metal Fish, Falling Snow

Cath Moore

A road trip with unlikely companions, a girl with a unique way of seeing the world, a great loss and a struggle of identity; Metal Fish, Falling Snow is an Own Voices YA debut that packs a punch.

$19.99Buy now

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Where We Begin

Where We Begin

Christie Nieman

A runaway. A mystery. A secret from the past. A deeply compelling novel from acclaimed author Christie Nieman.

$18.99Buy now

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