Sara Barnard has won The Bookseller's YA Book Prize in its fifth year for her "unflinching" and "utterly riveting" contemporary novel about the impact of a teacher-student relationship, Goodbye, Perfect (Macmillan Children's Books).
She saw off competition from nine other authors, including inaugural YA Book Prize winner Louise O'Neill, to claim the £2,000 award, which was presented in a ceremony held at the Hay Festival on Thursday 30th May.
Goodbye, Perfect tells the story of Eden McKinley, a teenage girl who is forced to question everything when her steady, straight-A best friend, Bonnie, runs away with a teacher five days before the start of their GCSEs. Sworn to secrecy, only Eden knows Bonnie's location, and she is forced to weigh up betraying her best friend with police questioning, suspicious parents and her own growing doubts. It is Barnard's third novel; her first, Beautiful Broken Things, was shortlisted for the YA Book Prize in 2017. Since the release of Goodbye, Perfect, Barnard has published Fierce Fragile Hearts, a follow-up to her début and her fourth solo YA novel with Macmillan Children's Books. That title was released in February 2019.
Third time lucky
Barnard, who lives in Brighton, spoke to The Bookseller about the inspiration for Goodbye, Perfect. She said: "I was interested in all the stories that don't get told when there's a big scandal on a national stage—all the friends, family and wider community that aren't given a voice. So though this story features a student running away with a teacher, that's not what the story is actually about—it's about how it affects those closest to her and the people left behind."
Everyday Sexism founder and writer Laura Bates, who was one of this year's judges for the award, said: "Sara Barnard's writing is an absolute triumph: this book is unputdownable and beautiful, unflinching in its exploration of important and complex topics, from sexual exploitation to the foster care system. But it is also a joy to read, a tender portrayal of family and sibling relationships, of flawed and poignant female friendships, and of the nuanced reality of teenage experiences and the journey to discovering who you are and what you stand for." Fellow judge, author Alex Wheatle, called it "an utterly riveting read", adding: "It wouldn't let me go."
The prize was also judged by: Julia Eccleshare, children's director of the Hay Festival; Emma Suffield, SLA School Librarian of the Year 2018; Daphne Lao Tonge, founder of YA book subscription service Illumicrate and marketing director for children's publisher Knights Of; and teenagers from schools in London and Hereford. The panel was chaired by The Bookseller's web editor, Caroline Carpenter.
The winner was selected from a shortlist that also included: Clean by Juno Dawson (Quercus Children's Books), Big Bones by Laura Dockrill (Hot Key Books), I Am Thunder by Muhammad Khan (Macmillan Children's Books), The Surface Breaks by Louise O'Neill (Scholastic), White Rabbit, Red Wolf by Tom Pollock (Walker Books), I Was Born for This by Alice Oseman (HarperCollins Children's Books), Outwalkers by Fiona Shaw (David Fickling Books), Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Katherine Webber (Walker Books), and A Sky Painted Gold by Laura Wood (Scholastic).
The YA Book Prize was launched by The Bookseller in 2014 and has been run in partnership with Hay Festival since 2016. Last year's award went to Will Hill's After the Fire (Usborne). Find out more about the YA Book Prize 2019 winner and shortlist here.