The Bookseller will present Melvin Burgess with a YA Book Prize special achievement award to mark 20 years since the publication of Junk.
Published in 1996 by Andersen Press, Junk follows the lives of Gemma and Tar, two teenagers who become involved in drugs and prostitution. Based on Burgess’ own experience of living in Bristol during the punk era, the book went on to become a cult classic.
The novel was a key proponent in the inception and growth of the UK’s Young Adult market and movement, but Burgess says he “was the right person doing the right thing at the right time”.
He explained: “Junk and its success showed that the prevailing attitude to teenagers at the time—which was ‘they don’t read’—could be broken if only the right material was available. People had been talking about the developing teenage market for years, and Junk was certainly a big push in that process.”
Burgess faced a backlash when the book was nominated for the Carnegie Medal in 1997—it went on to win—although he said he enjoyed the controversy. “An astonishing number of people who attacked the book hadn’t even read it and, even more astonishingly, seemed to have no embarrassment over their own cultivated ignorance.”
He added: “Since then I’ve had hundreds of emails and letters from people who’ve been affected by Junk. Some felt it had changed their lives in terms of how they looked at the world, some say that it helped them navigate their way through the world of drugs culture.”
Burgess will be presented with the award at the YA Book Prize ceremony, at the Hay Festival on 2nd June. Andersen Press is also releasing a 20th anniversary edition of the novel, with an introduction by Malorie Blackman and the correspondence between author and publisher.
A full interview with the author is available to read on the YA Book Prize Tumblr page.