Sarah Crossan’s free verse novel One (Bloomsbury Children’s Books) was today (2nd June) announced as the winner of The Bookseller’s YA Book Prize 2016.
One is about conjoined twins Grace and Tippi, who, after years of being educated at home, go to public school for the first time. Over the course of the novel the sisters make friends who have their own problems, whilst facing a serious medical decision.
Crossan (pictured below right) was awarded the £2,000 prize at a ceremony at the Hay Festival, hosted by author and former children’s laureate Malorie Blackman.
The judges of this year’s YA Book Prize, comprising eight industry and media judges and four teenagers, were unanimous in their decision that One should be this year’s winner.
Judge and writer Bim Adewunmi said she "fell in love" with the book.
"Tippi and Grace are a great addition to the pantheon of great literary sisters, and the way Crossan explores their rare (physical) bond only makes them more so," she said. "I cried on the train at the end and I will not soon forget either of these girls."
Speaking after the announcement, Crossan said: “I 100% didn't expect to win. It's always lovely just to be shortlisted, winning doesn't feel real. There are some heavyweight books on the shortlist that have had a real impact on the YA community. Because the book is poetry, I thought it would be a niche book. I didn't expect it to be so embraced or have commercial appeal, that has been surprising for me."
She added: “Teenagers are reluctant about the poetry element initially but I think they're braver than adults. I think it's a hard commercial sell, you have to convince booksellers that teens will read them, but it doesn't daunt them as much as adults expect. That's what I love about young adults - they are risk-tasking in what they read."
Crossan beat competition from nine other shortlisted books, including one other published by Bloomsbury (Concentr8 by William Sutcliffe) and two from David Fickling Books (Unbecoming by Jenny Downham and The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson).
Also shortlisted this year were The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness (Walker Books), The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda Salisbury (Scholastic), Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne (Usborne), The Curious Tale of the Lady Caraboo (Penguin Random House Children’s), The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge (Macmillan Children’s Books) and Asking For It by Louise O’Neill (Quercus).
Jonas Herriot, another judge and chair of the Youth Libraries Group London Committee, said it was "almost impossibly hard" to choose one winner from the shortlist.
"Each of the books is easily recommendable to others, as they are all well written and engaging," he said. "There were moments reading them when I wanted to cry, and moments when I wanted to laugh, and I felt a broad range of emotions in between."
This is the second year of the YA Book Prize. The inaugural winner was Louise O'Neill's Only Ever Yours (Quercus).
At the Hay ceremony, The Bookseller also gave a special achievement award to Melvin Burgess, whose novel Junk, one of the first YA novels by a UK author, was published by Andersen Press 20 years ago.