The CBCA (Children’s Book Council of Australia) winning and honour books will be announced on Friday 15th August. One of the most eagerly awaited categories (especially for bloggers) is the Book of the Year: Older Readers.
A surprise outcome in the OR category of this year’s shortlist is the appearance of FOUR debut novelists. The future of YA Australian writing seems very safe with this number of debut heavy-hitters.
The majority of the Older Readers’ shortlist is from the genre of contemporary realism, with two from speculative fiction.
Five of the six shortlisted authors are female. Bloggers who monitor the number of awarded female authors must be cheering. (It should be remembered, however, that the CBCA shortlist is judged on literary merit, not the gender of the authors or protagonists. The judges only have a two-year term so it’s hard to accept there may have been a gender prejudice in the recent past.)
Gay best friends or brothers are also punching above their weight in this category.
And a couple of the novels are very place-specific to Sydney and its surrounds.
Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil (HGE) was one of my top three YA novels for 2013 as outed in the Weekend Australian http://www.theaustralian.com.au/arts/review/turning-romance-on-its-head-for-young-adult-readers/story-fn9n8gph-1226613224447
So I’m obviously thrilled it has been shortlisted. It won the inaugural Hardie Grant Egmont Ampersand award and is contemporary realism, not sci-fi as implied by the title. Sam is an adorkable hero. He cannot believe that popular Camilla could like him. If you can’t wait for Melissa’s next book, The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl (Sept), read Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan.
Another brilliant novel is Fiona Wood’s Wildlife (PanMacmillan). Sybilla is a complex – introverted yet easy-going – character who discovers much about herself and her peers on her extended school camp.
Felicity Castagna continues the realism in The Incredible Here and Now (Giramondo). It is of enormous appeal for anyone who knows Sydney’s west and for teen boys in particular.
Will Kostakis adds humour to the mix in The First Third (Penguin), a contemporary Greek tragi-comedy.
Claire Zorn seamlessly incorporates human rights issues into The Sky so Heavy (UQP). This is a fast-paced post-apocalyptic story which begins in the Blue Mountains. Her new novel, The Protected is even better.
And Allyse Near creates her own sub-genre in Fairytales for Wilde Girls (Random), which co-won the Aurealis award.
Everyone is disappointed when YA books they love aren’t shortlisted. Surprise omissions for me this year are Simmone Howell’s edgy Girl Defective (Pan Macmillan), Amanda Betts’ luminous Zac and Mia (Text) and Jackie French’s Refuge (HarperCollins).
Which Book of the Year: Older Readers do you think should win?