Début author Holly Jackson is up against heavyweight names, including Malorie Blackman and Frances Hardinge, on the shortlist for the YA Book Prize 2020.
Jackson’s first novel, A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder (Egmont), is the story of a teenage sleuth who investigates a five-year-old murder case in her small town as part of a school project. It was last year’s top-selling children’s and YA début in the UK, and is currently shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize and a British Book Award, and longlisted for the Branford Boase Award. Former Children’s Laureate Blackman is included on the shortlist for a second time with the fifth novel in her Noughts & Crosses series, Crossfire (Penguin). The thriller sees two warring teenagers kidnapped, as elsewhere the Prime Minister must turn to his oldest friend for help when he is framed for murder. Hardinge, who has also been shortlisted for the prize once before, is selected this year for her fantasy novel Deeplight (Macmillan), which tells the story of two street urchins trying to survive in a watery world of magic and ancient sea gods.
Holly Bourne and Juno Dawson both make the shortlist for a third time, with The Places I’ve Cried in Public (Usborne) and Meat Market (Quercus Children’s Books) respectively. Bourne’s novel sees the protagonist unravel the breakdown of a toxic relationship, while Dawson’s story follows a girl from a south London estate who is catapulted into the glamorous yet grimy world of fashion. Dawson is joined on the YA10 list by Hachette Children’s Books stablemates Dean Atta and Kiran Millwood Hargrave, who are both shortlisted for their first YA novels. Poet Atta’s The Black Flamingo (Hodder Children’s Books), which won the Stonewall Book Award and is currently shortlisted for the 2020 CILIP Carnegie Award, follows Michael as he comes to terms with his identity as a mixed-race gay teen, and finds his wings at university, where he begins performing as a drag artist. The story is told in verse, and is illustrated by Anshika Khullar. Millwood Hargrave’s The Deathless Girls (Bellatrix) is a retelling of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, focusing on twins Lil and Kizzy, who are snatched away from their travelling community and forced to work as slaves— until they attract the attention of the mythical Dragon.
The shortlist is completed by novels from Lauren James, Jenny Downham and William Sutcliffe. James makes her début on the YA Book Prize shortlist with The Quiet at the End of the World (Walker Books), set in a deteriorating London after a devastating virus caused global infertility; the two youngest people left in the world must decide how to save the human race. Downham and Sutcliffe both appear on the shortlist for a second time. Downham makes the list with Costa-shortlisted Furious Thing (David Fickling Books), which explores teenager Lexi’s struggle to contain her anger with the world, and her stepfather in particular. Sutcliffe’s The Gifted, the Talented and Me sees 15-year-old Sam uprooted from his ordinary life and enrolled into the North London Academy for the Gifted & Talented, where he must find a way to be himself.
This year’s prize will be judged by the School Library Association’s 2017 School Librarian of the Year, Lucas Maxwell of Glenthorne High School in Sutton; author and inaugural Children’s Laureate for Wales, Eloise Williams; Stacey Croft, blogger and brand and digital marketing manager at National Book Tokens; and body positivity campaigner and influencer Megan Crabbe. The judging panel will be joined again by teenage judges from schools across the country and Julia Eccleshare, children’s director of The Hay Festival, which is partnering with The Bookseller on the prize. The panel will be chaired by The Bookseller’s deputy features editor Caroline Carpenter.
Williams said: “I’m delighted to have the opportunity to join in with celebrating the wealth and quality of today’s YA fiction. The shortlist is so varied and interesting. It’s going to be a real treat. I can’t wait to delve into those pages!” Croft hailed the “fantastic mix of genres” on the YA10 list for 2020, while Crabbe added: “It’s such an exciting time in YA fiction. There are more diverse voices and narratives being represented than ever before, and I’m so grateful to be part of something that shines a light on the great stories out there.”
More information about the YA Book Prize shortlist and social media activity can be found on the YA Book Prize website. Details of plans for the YA Book Prize-winner’s announcement will be revealed in due course.