Zana Fraillon wins the 2017 Readings Young Adult Book Prize

The winner of this year’s Readings Young Adult Book Prize is The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon!

This is the first year we have awarded the prize, which considers first and second works of young adult fiction and memoir, and Fraillon’s timely, gutsy and gorgeously written book is a fitting winner for our inaugural year.

The Bone Sparrow was chosen as the winner by our panel of judges, including Readings YA book specialists Angela Crocombe (Readings Kids), Leanne Hall (Readings Kids) and Natalie Platten (Readings Doncaster), as well as digital marketing manager Lian Hingee.

The judging panel was rounded out by our guest judge, acclaimed YA author Lili Wilkinson. Wilkinson has a PhD in Creative Writing and her most recent books Green Valentine and The Boundless Sublime were shortlisted for the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards and NSW Premier’s Literature Awards respectively.

The Bone Sparrow takes us into the world of 10-year-old Subhi, a Rohingyar refugee born in a detention centre. Subhi finds hope, curiosity and friendship in hopeless circumstances, but his optimism is challenged by worsening conditions in the camp.

Our judging panel were moved by Fraillon’s powerful and compassionate storytelling, with Platten describing it as ‘a call to empathy and hope for refugees, humanity’s most disenfranchised’. Crocombe praised it as ‘a truly unforgettable novel from an incredible talent’. She went on to say that the novel ‘deserves to be read by people of all ages, not just young adults, but will resonate strongly with young people’s natural sense of justice’.

The Bone Sparrow is one of those books that never really leaves you,’ says guest judge Wilkinson. ‘The simple, beautiful prose is such a pleasure to read, almost lulling you into a false sense of security, before you receive the sickening gut punch of reality – this story is really happening, and it’s really happening in our own country. The Bone Sparrow is important, it’s a story that must be told, a story we must confront. At times it is bleak, but it is also a celebration of warmth, hope, humour and humanity.’

As winner of the Prize, Fraillon was awarded $3000.

zanapostssPhotograph by Nicholas Walton-Healey

‘I am absolutely thrilled that The Bone Sparrow has won this year’s Readings YA Book Prize,’ she says. ‘The Readings staff are among the most widely read and knowledgeable booksellers I have encountered, and to have them support my book in this way is a huge honour. YA fiction is so strong in Australia, and I am privileged to be part of a growing community of authors writing relevant stories for our young people, and I am delighted and humbled to be so well supported by the book community.’

The other shortlisted titles for this inaugural prize were Boone Shepard by Gabriel Bergmoser, Freedom Swimmer by Wai Chim, Becoming Aurora by Elizabeth Kasmer, The Road to Winter by Mark Smith and Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland.

Our shortlist included four debut authors, one first-time independent publisher (Bell Frog Books, publisher of Boone Shepard), one author with a movie deal (go Krystal!) and five authors with their second books already hitting our shelves this year.

Wilkinson says of the shortlist: ‘The diversity of the shortlist was so beautiful to see - so many new perspectives, new stories from and about parts of the world I didn’t know much about. There has been a lot of clamour recently for more diverse voices in YA, and although there’s a long way to go, I’m really heartened by the direction we’re heading in.’

She goes on to describe Australian youth literature as ‘a joyous, ever-expanding, vibrant community’, but acknowledges the difficulty of being heard as a new writer. She says: ‘The Readings Young Adult Book Prize is a really wonderful way to amplify new voices – to celebrate our new faces and let these fresh stories reach a wider audience.’

You can find out more about the Readings Young Adult Prize here.

The Bone Sparrow

The Bone Sparrow

Zana Fraillon

$19.99Buy now

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