Alice Oseman has scooped the YA Book Prize 2021 with her “joyful” coming out story about a romance-obsessed teenager who realises that she is aromantic and asexual. Loveless (HarperCollins Children’s Books) was chosen from a 10-strong shortlist that also included books by Alex Wheatle, Meg Rosoff and former winner Patrice Lawrence.
Loveless was revealed as the winner of the £2,000 prize in a digital announcement on Thursday (6th May). Oseman said: “I was absolutely gobsmacked to hear that I’d won the YA Book Prize 2021! Loveless was the most difficult creative project of my life, and I am so utterly thrilled that it has won such a prestigious award. The UK is home to such an incredible and unique YA literature community, it’s an honour to have been chosen as this year’s YA Book Prize-winner.”
Loveless tells the story of Georgia, who heads to university ready to find romance. With her outgoing roommate on her side and a place in the Shakespeare Society, her “teenage dream” is in sight, but when her attempts to form a romantic relationship wreak havoc among her friends, she starts to question why love seems so easy for other people but not for her. As new terms are thrown at her—asexual, aromantic—Georgia becomes more uncertain about her feelings than ever. The title has sold 7,274 copies through Nielsen Bookscan (excluding sales in lockdown weeks) since it was published last July.
Oseman has said of the inspiration behind the book: “I began with the desire to write a story about the power of platonic love. My previous novels had all explored this idea in a small way, but never as the main theme of the story. I wanted to craft a story that had the structure of a romance but was about a friendship.”
Judge Layla Hudson, who is director of inclusive bookshop Round Table Books in Brixton, said: “I’m over the moon that Loveless has won the YA Book Prize this year. It has enabled so many aromantic/asexual readers to be seen within its pages, as well as being a book about the true meanings of friendship and the sometimes messy stage of going to university and growing as a person. It’s a book that will certainly be cherished, and one that readers will read again and again.”
Teenage judge Kei called the book “a wonderful portrayal of the various types of love through relatable characters and their experiences of self-discovery”, while fellow judge Rachel Fox, who is children and schools programme director at Edinburgh International Book Festival, added: “Loveless is a joyful book that truly promotes celebrating our differences. I enjoyed every moment I shared with the characters, and I am delighted that more readers will get to meet them too.”
In addition to Fox and Hudson, this year’s YA Book Prize-winner was selected by a panel comprising: journalist and author Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff; Will Hill, YA Book Prize-winning author and screenwriter; book YouTuber and social media producer Sanne Vliegenthart; and The Bookseller’s deputy features editor and YA Book Prize chair, Caroline Carpenter. The panel was joined by teenage judges from schools in Hereford and Bradford.
Carpenter said: “Congratulations to Alice and Loveless. As well as shining a light on a topic that is rarely covered in fiction, I’ve no doubt that this book will resonate with all teenagers who are trying to find themselves. In my opinion, Alice is one of the most exciting young creatives working in the UK today and Loveless, with its important messages about self-acceptance and friendship, is a very worthy winner of this year’s prize.”
Loveless was in the running for this year’s award against: Wranglestone by Darren Charlton (Little Tiger); Good Girl, Bad Blood by Holly Jackson (Electric Monkey); And the Stars Were Burning Brightly by Danielle Jawando (Simon & Schuster Children’s); Eight Pieces of Silva by Lawrence (Hodder Children’s Books); The Great Godden by Rosoff (Bloomsbury); Melt My Heart by Bethany Rutter (Macmillan Children’s Books); Hold Back the Tide by Melinda Salisbury (Scholastic); Cane Warriors by Wheatle (Andersen Press); and A Snowfall of Silver by Laura Wood (Scholastic).
The YA Book Prize was launched by The Bookseller in 2014 to celebrate great books for teenagers and young adults from the UK and Ireland. It is run in partnership with Hay Festival. This year, the YA Book Prize also granted a Special Achievement Award to former Waterstones children’s laureate Malorie Blackman, to mark 20 years since the publication of the first novel in her Noughts & Crosses series. The book is a retelling of “Romeo and Juliet” set in an alternate reality where Black people (Crosses) are the ruling class and white people (noughts) are underprivileged. Last year, it was adapted into a six-part television series, airing on BBC One.
Oseman is an author-illustrator from Kent. She has published four YA novels with HarperCollins Children’s, including her début Solitaire, which was released when she was 19, and I Was Born for This, which was shortlisted for the YA Book Prize in 2019. She is also the creator of LGBTQ+ YA romance webcomic Heartstopper, which is published as a graphic novel series by Hachette Children’s Books—the fourth volume will be published on 13th May. Oseman is currently taking a break from novel-writing to work on the next Heartstopper issue and write the script for the series’ upcoming eight-part Netflix live-action adaptation, which is being produced by See-Saw Films.
On 1st June, Oseman will be appearing in conversation with former Irish children’s laureate and YA Book Prize-winner Sarah Crossan as part of Hay Festival’s digital programme.
More information about this year's YA10 shortlist can be found on the YA Book Prize website.
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