YA Book Prize 2020 predictions
My favourite day of the year is almost here, with the YA Book Prize shortlist being announced on March 11th! So, as always, it’s time for my YA Book Prize predictions post.
Without further ado, these are the ten books which I’m hoping to see shortlisted for this year’s prize:
A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson
A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder is basically the UKYA answer to One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus. UKYA has a notoriously hard time getting recognition across the pond, so the fact that this book hit the top of the New York Times Bestseller List last week says enough about why I think it might end up appearing on the YA Book Prize shortlist.
This book follows a girl called Pippa who decides to investigate the murder of a schoolgirl which was allegedly ‘solved’ by the police years ago. When Pippa starts digging, though, it becomes apparent that someone is trying to stop her from finding something out, and she’s sure that the explanation isn’t as cut and dry as the police first thought.
All The Bad Apples by Moira Fowley-Doyle
I haven’t read any of Moira Fowley-Doyle’s other books yet, but I read All the Bad Apples back in December and I really enjoyed it.
Set in Ireland, All the Bad Apples follows Deena, who is the only member of her family to doubt the fact that her aunt Mandy is dead. When she starts receiving letters from Mandy containing all of the sordid details of their family history – the reason why every woman in their family is thought of as a ‘bad apple’ – Deena embarks on a trip across the country with her closest friends, discovering the truth about her past in the desperate hope that she’ll find Mandy alive at the end of it.
All the Bad Apples is very relevant novel, written at the height of the #MeToo movement and during the recent vote in Ireland to repeal the Eighth Amendment and legalise abortion. Not only does it have a brilliant focus on family and friendship, it also frames Deena’s family’s past within the history of Ireland, making it a love letter to a country with a troubled past.
Furious Thing by Jenny Downham
Jenny Downham is brilliant. I’ve read every one of her books and none of them have taken me more than two sittings to fly through. There’s just something about her writing which is accessible and easy to digest, and every time she releases a new book I find myself foaming at the mouth, desperate to read it as soon as I possibly can.
Furious Thing follows Lex, who has really bad anger issues. She is angry at her soon-to-be stepfather, who treats her as irrational and crazy for her volatile emotions, constantly gaslighting her whenever she calls him out on his bullshit. She’s angry with her mother, for letting him get away with it all. She’s angry with his son – her only ally in their household – who ups and leaves for university, abandoning Lex for what she sees as bigger and better things. All that anger bubbles up and Lex finds herself exploding at regular intervals, sometimes even forcing herself to have one of her tantrums to stop arguments in the house and shield her little sister from the knowledge that her parents aren’t perfect.
I Hold Your Heart by Karen Gregory
Karen Gregory is one of my favourite UKYA authors. Each of her releases has been equal parts stunning and heartbreaking, and I Hold Your Heart is no exception.
Following the relationship of Gemma and Aaron, I Hold Your Heart explores abusive relationships and the different ways that they can play out. Aaron isn’t your typical bad boy and Gemma isn’t your typical victim, but Karen Gregory crafts her characters to prove that neither of those ideas are real – these situations can happen to everyone regardless of their backgrounds, and it’s important to look out for the warning signs which she portrays very authentically throughout her third novel.
It’s a crying shame that neither Countless nor Skylarks was shortlisted for the YA Book Prize, and if I Hold Your Heart is snubbed too I will be infuriated! More respect for Karen Gregory, please – she’s one of the best names in UKYA at the moment and I’m surprised I’m not seeing more love for her novels.
Kick the Moon by Muhammad Khan
I’ve been debating whether to include Kick the Moon in my predictions, because I wasn’t a huge fan of the book myself, but it’s impossible to deny that Muhammad Khan is unflinching in his portrayal of the experiences of Pakistani teens.
Ilyas has been friends with his group forever, so when leader Imran tries to get him to humiliate a girl as a gang initiation ritual he’s torn. These guys have always been there for him – even back when he was being bullied for dressing up as Superman, his favourite comic book hero, on World Book Day – so why are they asking him to do something haram?
I’ve seen a lot of people criticise this book for playing into a lot of stereotypes surrounding teenage boys and that was one of my criticisms too. However, there’s a reason that stereotypes exist and authors will need to embrace them into their stories to be able to effectively critique them. I’m always happy to see UKYA which is aimed at boys as there seems to be so little of it, and if this novel has helped even one person be true to themselves – whether by standing up to their friends or following their dreams against all odds – then it deserves a place on that shortlist.
Meat Market by Juno Dawson
I haven’t read Meat Market yet, despite the fact that I bought it the day it was released, because I have convinced that it was going to be shortlisted since it was first announced and I wanted to read it close to YA Book Prize time so that it was fresh in my mind when I started thinking about who might win.
Even if it’s not shortlisted, I’m so excited to get to Juno Dawson’s latest YA novel. Following a girl called Jana who is scouted for her androgynous looks and her gangly height, this book has been described as a ‘timely exposé’ of the fashion industry and a highly relevant book to the #MeToo movement, so I’m sure it’s going to be equal parts infuriating and upsetting, but Juno Dawson handles sensitive subjects with aplomb so I’m sure this is going to become a new favourite of mine.
I still think Clean should have won last year (although I do love Sara Barnard, so I can’t complain that Goodbye, Perfect came out on top!). If Dawson is shortlisted it will be her third time appearing on the list – could 2020 be the year she finally takes home the prize?
The Paper & Hearts Society by Lucy Powrie
Lucy Powrie has judged the YA Book Prize in the past, so her debut novel should be a shoo-in for this shortlist.
The Paper & Hearts Society follows a girl called Tabby who moves schools after something terrible happens. In the effort to fit in in a new town she joins a book club and finds a group of friends, making this book perfect for bookworms everywhere.
There’s normally at least one book on the YA Book Prize shortlist which is aimed at the younger end of the YA spectrum, and Lucy Powrie is proud of the fact that The Paper & Hearts Society is a teen book, so I’m hoping it’ll be eligible!
The Places I’ve Cried in Public by Holly Bourne
Holly Bourne should have won the YA Book Prize by now. She’s the leading lady of YA contemporary – her experience working with teens has made her impossible to beat when it comes to tackling mental health issues, as shown in Am I Normal Yet? and Are We All Lemmings and Snowflakes? – and she’s no stranger to helping teens with relationships either, experience which she puts to good use in her eighth YA novel.
The Places I’ve Cried in Public is her strongest book yet. Jumping backwards and forwards in time – something which has been a huge feature in the last two YA Book Prize winners, and could be a huge point in her favour! – The Places I’ve Cried in Public tells the story of a girl called Amelie who is coming to terms with a break-up by visiting all of the places where her ex made her cry in public. As soon as I read the synopsis of this one I knew it was going to become my favourite Holly Bourne release, and I wasn’t wrong: Amelie and Reese’s story is impossible to put down. Just be warned if you read this one in public, because it will make you cry, too.
Toffee by Sarah Crossan
I always find books written in verse to be hit or miss. I love them when the story makes sense written in verse – Sarah Crossan’s One, a previous YA Book Prize winner, is a great example of this – but this stylistic choices baffles me when I feel that the story could be stronger in a different format (which is how I felt about Crossan’s Moonrise – can you see my conflict?!).
I was a bit worried going in to Toffee, but it ended up falling in the ‘hit’ category for me. Telling the story of a girl called Allison who runs away from home to escape from her abusive father and ends up living with a woman called Marla who is in the throes of dementia, Toffee tackles a lot of hard-hitting subjects and the disjointed verse complements the characters perfectly. Marla’s mind is breaking – sometimes she can remember things, sometimes she is tossed into her past or wracked with confusion – while Allison is torn between love and hate for her father, and these conflicts are encapsulated perfectly in the rapid-fire verse.
Under a Dancing Star by Laura Wood
I’m yet to read Under a Dancing Star, but A Sky Painted Gold was one of my favourite books on last year’s shortlist, so I couldn’t resist adding this one in. I’m not sure whether it’s going to get shortlisted, as I haven’t heard as many people raving about it as they did about Laura Wood’s first YA novel, but this is my blog so I’m allowed to play favourites!
Set in the 1930’s, Under a Dancing Star follows a girl called Bea who goes to Italy and tries not to fall in love during a summer fling with a boy called Ben. If this was a contemporary I think I would have eaten it up by now, but I’m apprehensive because it’s historical fiction – exactly the reason I was scared to pick up A Sky Painted Gold, so you’d think I’d have learnt by now to just bite the bullet! This is another book which I bought the day it came out and still haven’t read, but whether it’s on the shortlist or not I’ll definitely be getting to it during the summer months.
Well, I hope you enjoyed this YA Book Prize predictions post! Are there any books that I’ve missed which you think will definitely be appearing, or do you agree with my choices? Leave your comments down below, and we can try to guess all 10 titles before the shortlist is revealed on Wednesday!
See you soon,