YA Book Prize Shortlist 2016

Am I Normal Yet?, Holly Bourne 

All Evie wants is to be normal. And now that she’s almost off her meds and at a new college where no one knows her as the-girl-who-went-nuts, there’s only one thing left to tick off her list…
But relationships can mess with anyone’s head – something Evie’s new friends Amber and Lottie know only too well. The trouble is, if Evie won’t tell them her secrets, how can they stop her making a huge mistake?

One, Sarah Crossan

Grace and Tippi are twins – conjoined twins.
And their lives are about to change.
No longer able to afford homeschooling, they must venture into the world – a world of stares, sneers and cruelty. Will they find more than that at school? Can they find real friends? And what about love?
But what neither Grace or Tippi realises is that a heart-wrenching decision lies ahead. A decision that could tear them apart. One that will change their lives even more than they ever imagined…

Unbecoming, Jenny Downham

Three women, three secrets, one heart-stopping story…
Katie is 17 and in love with someone whose identity she can’t reveal. Her mother, Caroline is uptight, worn out and about to find the past catching up with her. Katie’s grandmother, Mary, is back with the family after years of mysterious absence and ‘capable of anything,’ despite suffering from Alzheimers. Disorientated and grieving, Mary’s presence brings daily chaos to family life. So, why does Katie feel drawn to her? Why are her allegiances shifting? And why does she feel able, for the first time in her life, to break the rules?
Three women at different stages of life bound together by a web of lies that only the youngest can untangle. Three women forced to confront the secrets of the past and discover exactly who they are, who they love and where they belong.

The Lie Tree, Frances Hardinge

Faith’s father has been found dead under mysterious circumstances, and as she is searching through his belongings for clues she discovers a strange tree. The tree only grows healthy and bears fruit if you whisper a lie to it. The fruit of the tree, when eaten, will deliver a hidden truth to the person who consumes it. The bigger the lie, the more people who believe it, the bigger the truth that is uncovered.
The girl realises that she is good at lying and that the tree might hold the key to her father’s murder, so she begins to spread untruths far and wide across her small island community. But as her tales spiral out of control, she discovers that where lies seduce, truths shatter…

The Curious Tale of the Lady Caraboo, Catherine Johnson

Out of the blue arrives an exotic young woman from a foreign land. Fearless and strong ‘Princess’ Caraboo rises above the suspicions of the wealthy family who take her in. But who is the real Caraboo? In a world where it seems everyone is playing a role, could she be an ordinary girl with a tragic past? Is she a confidence trickster? Or is she the princess everyone wants her to be? Whoever she is, she will steal your heart…

The Rest of Us Just Live Here, by Patrick Ness

What if you weren’t the Chosen One? The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death? What if you were like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again. Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life. Even if your best friend might just be the God of mountain lions…

Asking For It, Louise O’Neill (not pictured)

In a small town where everyone knows everyone, Emma O’Donovan is different. She is the special one – beautiful, popular, powerful. And she works hard to keep it that way.
Until that night…
Now, she’s an embarrassment. Now, she’s just a slut. Now, she is nothing.
And those pictures – those pictures that everyone has seen – mean she can never forget.

The Sin Eater’s Daughter, Mel Salisbury

Seventeen-year-old Twylla lives in the castle. But although she’s engaged to the prince, Twylla isn’t exactly a member of the court. She’s the executioner.
As the Goddess embodied, Twylla instantly kills anyone she touches. Each month she’s taken to the prison and forced to lay her hands on those accused of treason. No one will ever love a girl with murder in her veins. Even the prince, whose royal blood supposedly makes him immune to Twylla’s fatal touch, avoids her company.
But then a new guard arrives, a boy whose easy smile belies his deadly swordsmanship. And unlike the others, he’s able to look past Twylla’s executioner robes and see the girl, not the Goddess. Yet Twylla’s been promised to the prince, and knows what happens to people who cross the queen.
However, a treasonous secret is the least of Twylla’s problems. The queen has a plan to destroy her enemies, a plan that requires a stomach-churning, unthinkable sacrifice. Will Twylla do what it takes to protect her kingdom? Or will she abandon her duty in favor of a doomed love?

Concentr8, William Sutcliffe

In a future London, Concentr8 is a prescription drug intended to help kids with ADD. Soon every troubled teen is on it. It makes sense, doesn’t it? Keep the undesirable elements in line. Keep people like us safe from people like them. What’s good for society is good for everyone.
Troy, Femi, Lee, Karen and Blaze have been taking Concentr8 as long as they can remember. They’re not exactly a gang, but Blaze is their leader, and Troy has always been his quiet, watchful sidekick – the only one Blaze really trusts. They’re not looking for trouble, but one hot summer day, when riots break out across the city, they find it.
What makes five kids pick a man seemingly at random – a nobody, he works in the housing department, doesn’t even have a good phone – hold a knife to his side, take him to a warehouse and chain him to a radiator? They’ve got a hostage, but don’t really know what they want, or why they’ve done it. And across the course of six tense days, with a journalist, a floppy-haired mayor, a police negotiator, and the sinister face of the pharmaceutical industry, they – and we – begin to understand why.

The Art of Being Normal, Lisa Williamson

David Piper has always been an outsider. His parents think he’s gay. The school bully thinks he’s a freak. Only his two best friends know the real truth – David wants to be a girl.
On the first day at his new school Leo Denton has one goal – to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in Year 11 is definitely not part of that plan. When Leo stands up for David in a fight, an unlikely friendship forms. But things are about to get messy. Because at Eden Park School secrets have a funny habit of not staying secret for long…

The winner will be announced on the 2nd June!


YA Book Prize 2015

As some people were aware, I was gently shadowing the shortlist for the YA Book Prize over the last couple of months. Like, you have no idea how happy this new shiny Prize made me; finally, there was something just for the books that counted as YA. They were not thrown in with the children’s and hidden behind the adults. No, this was theirs and theirs alone.

So these are the ten books that ended up on the shortlist.
  • A Song for Ella Grey, David Almond
  • Salvage, Keren David
  • Say Her Name, James Dawson
  • Lobsters, Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison
  • Half Bad, Sally Green
  • Finding a Voice, Kim Hood
  • Only Ever Yours, Louise O’Neill
  • Goose, Dawn O’Porter
  • Trouble, Non Pratt
  • Ghosts of Heaven, Marcus Sedgwick
Now, I never finished reading them all (seriously, the irony of never having time to read because of working in a book shop is not lost on me) but I have three  at the top of my TBR list, and out of the ones I did read, I have a very clear picture of what I wanted to win.
It’s no secret that I did not like Half Bad, so that one was not on my radar. I mean, even I cringe at my review of it (I hate writing bad reviews), but that doesn’t mean I don’t think others would love it. It was a very ‘boyish’ book. Magic for men, as my mother called it.
Say Her name was a good book, but having read others on the list already, I didn’t really see why it was there. As ghost stories go, it was creepy, and entertaining to talk about at my book group (for those that have read it, we have a big just of water on the table for about five minutes, before two of the teenagers got me to move it. I’m sure some of you must have had the same reaction), but it didn’t have as much in it as the others. Those had themes of good and bad, what the world could be and how humans think. This was…just a ghost story. A well written one.
So. Lets talk about my favourite (Review in progress of this one, by the way). Ghost of Heaven!
I was first introduced to Marcus Sedgwick at the age of 12, where my father gave me the book My Swordhand is Singing for my birthday. I fell in love with it instantly, and sort out every book I could by the same author. So of course, last year, I had Ghost of Heaven in my sights the second I knew it existed (it helps that the cover is so beautiful). And I fell in love with this book too. Its so well written, so different to what you would expect, that, this, to me, was the book that should have won.
You can tell by my tone that it didn’t.
No, the winner was actually the first book that I read, right back at the start of all this.
Only Ever Yours.
Now, don’t get me wrong, this book was amazing. Like, it was so well written but also terrifying and horrifying and I don’t even have the words to talk about it even months after reading it. It raised issues in it that most people don’t want to talk about, and spoke of a world that this world could easily become (#WhyWeNeedFeminism)
But at the same time…Although I want to thrust this book into the hands of every person my age, I could not recommend this to a teenager. There is a lot in there which I would not want younger readers to read- like the whole ‘we must all be beautiful’ thing. Some people would take it at face value and not see the horrifying ends it results in, and they would think ‘I mist be like these girls. Perfect and thin and stunning and only an object for men’ (sidenote: People this is not what girls and woman are for. Just to check you do all know that. We are actually people)
So I have a mixed view on this. I did love the winning book…just not enough for it, in my eyes, to win.
Like, who judges the books as well? Who picks them? Are they adults or the Young Adults these books are meant for? Because it makes a difference. Adults read things differently. They take meanings differently. They way their brains work is different. How do they decide; and do they get people who the books are aimed at involved?
I don’t know. I have mixed feelings about the books and the prize and everything. But I will read the rest of the books and make my own mind up about them.

Only Ever Yours, Louise O’Neill

only ever yours


In a world in which baby girls are no longer born naturally, women are bred in schools, trained in the arts of pleasing men until they are ready for the outside world. At graduation, the most highly rated girls become “companions”, permitted to live with their husbands and breed sons until they are no longer useful.

For the girls left behind, the future – as a concubine or a teacher – is grim.

Best friends Freida and Isabel are sure they’ll be chosen as companions – they are among the most highly rated girls in their year.

But as the intensity of final year takes hold, Isabel does the unthinkable and starts to put on weight. ..
And then, into this sealed female environment, the boys arrive, eager to choose a bride.

Freida must fight for her future – even if it means betraying the only friend, the only love, she has ever known. . . 


I cannot say that I enjoyed this book. Not because it was bad- quite opposite, really, but because this is not the kind of book you can ‘enjoy.’

Honestly? It was terrifying to read.

The blurb on the back of the book does not even start to go into what the book is about. Yes, its about friendship, but it’s also about life and people and the way both men and woman are different to each other- and how they are treated so differently.

So it’s set in the future, where woman are ‘eves’ genetically made to be beautiful. All they ar made for is men- some will be chosen to marry, others will end up being used ‘for the enjoyment of men’. Hell, they have numbers instead of actual names, and the names they do use don’t even have capital letters.

It doesn’t seem that much, but taking that away form each other, and you take away their identity.

These girls are raised from birth being told they can always make improvements. They can always be thinner, always be more beautiful.

They are never perfect.

Okay. Lets pull away from the book for a second and look at the world we live in now.

Think of everything you see in magazines, on TV. Make up adds everywhere (I have an odd relationship with make up. I like that its pretty and there are cool colours and the amazing stuff some girls can do with it but I do not understand it at all) posters of thin, blonde girls. Even if it is not meant, woman are seen as ‘objects’ rather than people.

This world that we live in now? Look 100 years in the future and actually, this book is what we might end up with.

For gods sake, the word ‘Feminist’ is a swear word in this!

So no, I didn’t enjoy this book. But from the second I started reading it to the moment I put it down two days later, it was all I could think about. I haven’t read any other book at the same time- and I cant remember the last time that happened.

This is a chilling book.

And I honestly don’t care what you normally read, you should all pick up this book. I don’t care if you are male, female, Young Adult reader or not, you should start reading this book. Because it will scare you and make you think and maybe, just maybe, it will start to help change this world so we do not become like that one.