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Penguin defends Brooks' Carnegie win
26.06.14 | Charlotte Eyre
Penguin has defended Kevin Brooks' Carnegie medal after literary journalists criticised the winning title for its “shock value”, “lack of redemption” and for being "depressing".
Writing in the Independent, critic Amanda Craig said it was " deeply ironic" The Bunker Diary had won the prize, describing it as “depressing both in its nature and its lack of redemption; as a children's critic, I refused to review it on publication”. She added: “Brooks has written so many better books than The Bunker Diary that it is deeply ironic the Carnegie should have chosen this one, out of an otherwise engaging oeuvre, to celebrate and promote.”
Meanwhile Lorna Bradbury writing in the Telegraph said the book was a “uniquely sickening read” that has “all the hallmarks of an issue-led discussion piece rather than a literary novel”.
However, Shannon Cullen, publisher for Puffin Fiction, defended Brooks' literary merits and argued the book was clearly "thought provoking".
“I would 100% describe him as a literary author and he is one of our top literary authors, because he writes wonderfully and beautifully,” she told The Bookseller. She pointed out that the Carnegie medal is voted for by librarians, people “who have children’s best interests at heart”.
Cullen argued: “We are in the business of publishing important, thought provoking books for teenagers… It’s clearly a book that is divisive and that comes down to personal reaction. Some people have a different response and we’re not in control of that.”
The Bunker Diary takes the form of a diary written by Linus Weems, a 16-year-old dropout who has been kidnapped by an unknown attacker. He is held hostage in an underground bunker with several other victims but he, like the reader, is never sure why.
Speaking to The Bookseller for of an interview published in the magazine tomorrow (27th June), Brooks said publishers and editors had encouraged him to change the ending but teenagers were far more capable of processing dark emotions than people might think.
“This story is by no means an original idea but those books are often about survival… I made sure there was nothing but blank pages at the end of the book because I wanted that feeling of emptiness and despair at the end,” he said. “That’s the idea, it’s a terrible, tragic story.”
Group site members and Carnegie shadowers the Millennium RIOT Readers also defended the book in an article for the Guardian. They said: “The Bunker Diary is very bleak and unusual, but the characters in the story are what made this book important. Their breakdown, because of the helplessness of the situation they find themselves thrust into is what, we felt, drives the story forward to its frustrating and thought-provoking end.”
The CILIP Carnegie medal is an annual award for an outstanding children’s or YA book. It is awarded to any book written in English and published in the UK and is voted for by librarians. The Carnegie is a companion award to the CILIP Kate Greenaway medal for illustration, which this year went to Jon Klassen for This is Not My Hat (Walker Books).