We Love This Book is part of The Bookseller magazine family and we're going to have blogs, quizzes and interviews coming up over the next few months all about the new YA Book Prize. Here, Charlotte Eyre, the children's editor at The Bookseller, tells us about why the prize was created.
I remember the first YA book I ever read. When I was 14, there wasn’t a YA scene in the way there is now and I’m not sure the term even existed. But one day a girl at school pushed Junk by Melvin Burgess into my hands and I was totally blown away. Here was a beautiful and powerful book about the issues kids my age were starting to learn about; sex, drugs, love, running away from home.
I never had to deal with situations the characters got themselves into myself (heroin and prostitution) but as children’s laureate Malorie Blackman says, literature gives teens a safe space to explore issues. And I loved it. The impact of Junk still affects me and, to this day, it is one of my favourite books of all time.
So the question is perhaps not "Why launch a YA book prize?| but it is perhaps "Why not launch a YA book prize?". Another good question is "Why launch a YA prize for writers in the UK and Ireland?"
Earlier this year, we published an article in The Bookseller about children’s book prizes in the UK. There are many out there, and they are all welcomed by the industry, but one thing publishers told us was that there isn’t a dedicated award for British or Irish YA writers. The current scene is dominated by American authors and the other UK prizes are for younger children. They said: "Wouldn’t it be nice if a prize could celebrate all the great YA books our authors are writing?".
We also wanted to harness the love there is for great YA books out there among teenagers. As the crowds at the first Young Adult Literature Convention (YALC) in July demonstrated, young people have a roaring thirst to read, discuss and pass on their favourite titles. Why would we not try and engage with that audience?
So here at The Bookseller we decided to launch a prize for any British or Irish YA novel published in 2014, on any subject. From dystopia to romance, realism to horror, we want as wide a range as possible from which to draw up our shortlist in December. We want our selection of books to be the best out there for those core readers, and we hope that once our shortlist is announced, those readers will tell us what they think, even if that means they disagree!
Next March, we’ll announce the winning book and the author will not only get £2,000 but his or her book, along with all the other books on the shortlisted, will be celebrated as being some of the best YA books we can produce. And in many ways, that’s more valuable.
In November, we're going to have a series of blog posts about UKYA every Monday kicking off with blogger, Lucy Powrie, telling us why she thinks UKYA is so important.