YA Book Prize: 5 Questions with Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison

YA Book Prize: 5 Questions with Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison

Describe your book to us in one sentence?
 
Tom: A funny, honest, brutally realistic story about love, friendship, social awkwardness and losing your virginity. 
Lucy: A book about that weird summer between A-levels and university, childhood and sort-of adulthood, about wanting to fall in love and what falling in love is actually like when it happens. 
 
What does it mean to be on the first YA Book Prize shortlist?
 
Tom: It's a massive, MASSIVE honour for us. It really feels like UK and Irish YA is in top form at the moment, and this inaugural YA Book Prize is very much an indication of that, so to be nominated along with all these other incredible books is insanely flattering and hugely special.  
Lucy: I consider it the equivalent to being nominated for an Oscar. I am daydreaming about the red carpet and being interviewed on E! and people asking me who I’m wearing. 
 
Why do you think your book should win?
 
Tom: I hope that Lobsters is not only funny and entertaining, but also quite comforting for readers of a similar age to our characters. The awkwardness and intense social embarrassment we put Sam, Hannah and their mates through will hopefully make readers feel better about the awkwardness/embarrassment in their own lives, and they might be heartened by the idea that other people went through this cringeworthy stuff too; they're not the first ones to suffer it. Basically I like to think of it as a self-help book, albeit a fairly smutty one. 
Lucy: Because it’s funny (I hope) and funny books don’t always get a lot of recognition because they’re not dealing with big serious issues. Even though, actually, I think some of the heart of Lobsters deals with things a lot of teens go through. The fear of what growing up might mean, changing friendships and your first sexual experiences.
 
What is your all-time favourite YA book?
 
Tom: This is not a very original answer, sorry, but I have to go with the "Harry Potter" series. One of the male characters in Lobsters - Robin - is obsessed with Potter, and constantly embarrassed about this fact (as he's a wannabe cool 17-year-old boy), and this is a true reflection of me at that age. Now, though, as a 31-year-old man, I am proud to call myself a Potter fan, and I think the whole series is properly, matchlessly brilliant. If I have to pick one book, I'm going with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, as it contains a moment of rare pathos for my favourite character, Lee Jordan. You normally only see Lee in comedic mode throughout the series, but there's a moment towards the end of this book, after Fred and George have left Hogwarts in a blaze of Umbridge-irritating fireworks, when he's described as "dispirited" while commentating on a Quidditch match. This image of him, in contrast to his usual light-heartedness, is quite powerful, I think, and also annoys me because surely Fred and George should have roped him into the fireworks prank in the first place, and not to have done so seems a bit harsh, really. Lee is also the greatest Harry Potter character because, while most other Hogwarts graduates go on to become Aurors or teachers or Ministry of Magic staff or whatever, he goes on to become a PIRATE RADIO DJ, broadcasting inflammatory and subversive messages over the magical airwaves. He's sort of like a wizarding John Peel. Anyway, this answer was probably far too long, sorry. What I'm essentially saying is: Harry Potter's great. 
Lucy: I would definitely say Forever is up there in terms of books that I obsessed about when I was at school. I still laugh inside when someone tells me their name is Ralph. In terms of a classic I think I Capture the Castle is up there with the all-time greats.
 
What is special about YA in the UK and Ireland?
 
Tom: I think the quality and diversity of it. There's such an incredible range of genres – romance, comedy, sci-fi, fantasy, horror (James Dawson's Say Her Name is so great) etc – and all of it of such a high standard. I also think UK/Ireland YA does realism particularly well; characters don't feel airbrushed or idealised, they feel like people you really know, really would meet, really would be friends with (see Non Pratt and Dawn O'Porter's books on this shortlist alone). 
Lucy: I think there is a real strive for authenticity. Authors who want to tell the stories of the young people around them in a way that they would recognize. There’s less aspirational "I want my life to be this book" and more "my life is this book". 
 
Next week: Sally Green