Macmillan Children’s Books, Scholastic and Walker Books have two titles apiece on the shortlist for the YA Book Prize 2019, which includes books by the award’s inaugural winner Louise O’Neill, as well as Juno Dawson, Laura Dockrill and début author Muhammad Khan.
O’Neill, who won the first YA Book Prize, in 2015, for her début novel Only Ever Yours (Quercus), is in the running for her feminist retelling of “The Little Mermaid”, entitled The Surface Breaks. Her Scholastic stablemate Laura Wood also makes the list for her first YA novel, A Sky Painted Gold, a coming-of-age romance set in a Cornish village in the 1920s.
Macmillan’s two YA10 titles are: début author and secondary school teacher Khan’s I Am Thunder, which tells the story of 15-year-old Muzna Saleem, who begins to follow a dark path after the best-looking boy in school takes a sudden interest in her; and Goodbye, Perfect by Sara Barnard, which is about a teenage girl who is forced to question everything when her solid, straight-A best friend runs away. Barnard was shortlisted for the YA Book Prize in 2017.
From Walker Books, Katherine Webber’s Only Love Can Break Your Heart and Tom Pollock’s White Rabbit, Red Wolf are shortlisted. The former is set against the backdrop of the Californian desert and tells the tale of popular, pretty Reiko, who is struggling with secrets that seem to be alleviated when she meets Seth, but things between them soon fall apart. White Rabbit, Red Wolf is the first contemporary YA novel from Pollock, who has previously written fantasy novels. The thriller follows maths prodigy Peter Blankman, who suffers from severe panic attacks, as he is dragged into a world of espionage and violence after his mother is attacked.
Juno Dawson makes the list for a second time with Clean (Quercus Children’s Books), a novel about a wealthy socialite who is sent to an exclusive rehab facility. Laura Dockrill is shortlisted for Big Bones (Hot Key Books), a body-positive novel about Bluebelle, who starts writing a food diary just as a tragedy hits her family. Rounding out the shortlist are the third novel from Alice Oseman, I Was Born for This (HarperCollins Children’s Books), told from the point of view of both the frontman of a famous band and one of his biggest fans; and the first YA novel from author Fiona Shaw, post-Brexit dystopia Outwalkers (David Fickling Books), which sees Jake escape from his orphanage and joining a gang which is on the run, hunted by the government.
This year's YA10 books
This year’s shortlist will be judged by: writer and Everyday Sexism founder Laura Bates, whose début YA novel, The Burning, was recently published by Simon & Schuster Children’s UK; previous YA Book Prize shortlistee and Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize-winner Alex Wheatle; last year’s SLA School Librarian of the Year Emma Suffield, of Saint Wilfrid’s Church of England Academy in Blackburn; and Daphne Lao Tonge, the founder and owner of YA book subscription service Illumicrate and marketing director for inclusive children’s publisher Knights Of.
Re-joining the judging panel is Julia Eccleshare, children’s director of Hay Festival, which is partnering with The Bookseller on the YA Book Prize for a fourth year. The chair of the judges will be Caroline Carpenter, The Bookseller’s web editor. The group will be joined by teenage judges from schools in Bradford, Hereford and London.
Bates said: “It’s a huge honour and pleasure to be a judge for this year’s YA Book Prize. As a massive, long-time fan of YA books, this is a wonderful opportunity to lose myself in some of the most exciting new talent around and I look forward to searching for a book with that special spark that makes it stand out from the crowd. Having published my first YA novel this year I’ve experienced first-hand how warm, supportive and welcoming the UK YA community is, so I’m thrilled to be able to take part in one of the most important events of the YA year.”
Carpenter added: “We’re delighted to share this year’s YA10, showcasing the breadth and brilliance of YA publishing in the UK and Ireland today. Among the submissions, we saw three main trends: books about teenagers struggling with their mental health, books set in or around water, and books increasingly concerned with borders. These timely themes reflect some of the biggest issues facing not just young people, but also society in general at the moment, and they are all represented on the shortlist in some way. I’m excited to see which book the judges select as their victor.”
The winner of the YA Book Prize 2019 will be announced at a ceremony at Hay Festival on Thursday 30th May.
Find out more about the YA Book Prize shortlisted books, authors and judges on the YA Book Prize website.