William Sutcliffe, author of Concentr8 (Bloomsbury), answers five questions about his book and YA.
What is Concentr8 about?
It is set in a fictionalised alternate-reality London, after a set of riots very similar to those which took place in 2011. The mayor responds by pushing out a fictional drug, Concentr8, onto all teenagers who are troublesome at school. This strategy is effective for a while, until a journalist begins to examine what is really going on . . .
What is it really about? It’s a satire on the ADHD epidemic, and on our society’s belief that we should medicate away all non-normative behaviour. The idea of drugging children for misbehaviour sounds like sci-fi, but my novel shows how this notion is uncomfortably close to reality.
What does it mean to be on the YA Book Prize shortlist?
Any book prize is only as good as the books it shortlists, and I am hugely proud and honoured to be on a list alongside such a fascinating, varied, gripping, moving, beautifully written, innovative, history-straddling, mind-bending, imagination-expanding, genre-busting collection of novels.
Why do you think your book should win?
If I was the kind of person who knew how to answer that question, I would have gone into politics.
What is special about YA in the UK and Ireland?
YA is such an exciting area to be writing in at the moment. I don’t like to call it a genre, because YA encompasses all genres. From gritty realist fiction via historical novels to invented fantastical worlds, as this shortlist shows, YA fiction can do more or less anything except pretentiousness. That is why it is attracting readers of all ages.
What kind of YA books do you like to read?
The great thing about YA is that it encourages you to read outside your comfort zone and be omnivorous in your interests, which is the best way to be (in reading, and in life). If you had asked me a while ago whether I was interested in novels in verse about conjoined twins, I would have said no, but One by Sarah Crossan fascinated and moved me.