YA Book Prize 2021 Predictions
It’s that time of the year again! With the YA Book Prize shortlist being announced at 5pm on Wednesday (two days to go!!!), I thought it was the perfect time for me to showcase the ten books I’m expecting to see pop up on that coveted list.
2020 was a weird time for publishing. Half of the titles I’d expected to see on this list are awaiting publication having been pushed back to 2021, so there were a lot less books to choose from than normal when I was making my predictions.
However, that doesn’t mean that there weren’t too many good books to choose from. I’d like to give a special mention to Burn by Patrick Ness and The Love Hypothesis by Laura Steven, both of which I couldn’t squeeze into my predictions but still deserve to be celebrated!
So, without further ado… Here is my alphabetical list of YA Book Prize shortlist predictions. I’ve linked the Goodreads pages for each book in their title, so if you want to learn more about them, click away.
And the Stars Were Burning Brightly by Danielle Jawando
And the Stars Were Burning Brightly is a touching portrayal of grief, following the brother and a friend of a boy called Al who dies by suicide. Nathan’s distress at his brother’s death is compounded by the fact that he was the one who found Al, while Megan struggles to come to terms with the fact that she publicly shunned Al, keeping their friendship private in the attempt to maintain her popularity. This is a powerful debut novel, and one which almost brought tears to my eyes at multiple points. Danielle Jawando’s writing is lyrical, and because the story is set in Manchester it’s filled with a strong sense of voice. All of those things are normally present in the YA Book Prize, so And the Stars Were Burning Brightly should be a shoo-in for a shortlist appearance.
Blood Moon by Lucy Cuthew
The YA Book Prize shortlist regularly features novels in verse, and this year I have two in my predictions! The first novel in verse which I’m going to tell you about today is Blood Moon by Lucy Cuthew, another debut novel.
In Blood Moon, we follow a girl called Frankie as she has her first sexual experience with a boy, but unfortunately starts her period at the same time. Benjamin brushes it off, but somehow it ends up getting around the school, and Frankie finds herself unsure who to trust as she’s the eye in a hurricane of targeted bullying.
There isn’t much period-positive YA literature, but this story certainly packs a punch. I’m sure anyone who has periods will find themselves able to relate to Frankie’s story.
Every Little Piece of My Heart by Non Pratt
Non Pratt is one of the biggest names in UKYA, so I had to feature her most recent release.
Freya leaves town with no goodbyes and no explanation. When her best friend Sophie receives a parcel from Freya, she assumes that she’s finally going to be getting answers explaining her disappearance… But instead she is left with more questions, because Freya has sent her a letter addressed to Win, a girl Sophie thought Freya barely knew.
This book is described as being similar to Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard (which is a poignant novel focused on the intensity of female friendship), so I’m expecting a lot from this book, and I’m definitely expecting to see it on the YA Book Prize shortlist.
Good Girl, Bad Blood by Holly Jackson
“But Alyce,” I hear you cry, “you always complain when sequels are shortlisted for the YA Book Prize!”.
I’ll be honest, this feels like a controversial choice and I’m the one making the bloody predictions! But there’s something about Holly Jackson’s writing that makes me want to scream from the rooftops, so this predictions post wouldn’t have been complete without the second saga in Pip Fitz-Amobi’s story.
Good Girl, Bad Blood could be a standalone, which is why I’m featuring it. There are references to A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, but in Good Girl, Bad Blood Pip is recounting the events of the first book through her podcast. This means it’s an accessible starting point to the series for readers who missed book one, and the mystery in the second book stands alone neatly.
I will be disappointed if Good Girl, Bad Blood doesn’t appear on the shortlist, but I also won’t be terribly surprised.
Hideous Beauty by William Hussey
The synopsis of Hideous Beauty is giving me serious Far From You vibes, and I’m mad at myself for sleeping on this book for the last nine months.
Dylan and Ellis find their secret relationship exposed on social media, but instead of being met with vitriol and hatred, they find themselves celebrated and accepted. Sadly, their happiness is short-lived. On the drive home from their high school dance, Ellis crashes his car. Dylan is pulled from the wreckage; Ellis sadly dies.
After that it sounds as though it turns into a bit of a mystery thriller, with Dylan vowing to investigate Ellis’ death and to get to the bottom of who the boy he loved really was, and what exactly happened on the night of his death. I think this book is going to be heartbreaking, but the YA Book Prize normally showcases very impactful novels, and that blurb sounds pretty impactful to me.
Hold Back the Tide by Melinda Salisbury
Hold Back the Tide is Melinda Salisbury’s first standalone novel (even though Goodreads seems to think it’s the third book in the Sorrow series!).
The blurb for this book is ridiculously vague – mentioning a girl called Alva, and something bad happening to her mother – but the main reason I’m featuring this one is because it’s being described as a dark YA, and it’s got a very watery cover. Sounds quite similar to Deeplight by Frances Hardinge – which was featured on the YA Book Prize shortlist last year – so they definitely have an interest in YA books with unique settings and darker stories.
Loveless by Alice Oseman
I will eat my boot if Loveless isn’t on the YA Book Prize.
It seems like a no-brainer. One of the first UKYA novels focusing on asexuality, from one of the most loved UKYA authors? If it’s not on the shortlist, something has gone seriously wrong.
Loveless tells the story of Georgia, who is off to university. She’s the only person in her year who has never been kissed, but she’s sure her great love story is waiting for her in Durham. It isn’t until she gets there that she begins to realise that she might not want a great love story, and that she just might not experience attraction the same way that most of her classmates do.
Although Loveless primarily explores sexuality, there’s also a great focus on friendships and family, and the huge life transition that going off to university can be. It ticks all of the boxes, and as soon as we finished reading it I turned to Sean and told him I thought we’d just read the 2021 YA Book Prize winner… So if this doesn’t even appear on the shortlist I’m going to look like a massive idiot.
The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker by Lauren James
I am a sucker for ghost books. Following a girl called Harriet Stoker who falls to her death, The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker introduces a gang of ghosts who each have a special power. Harriet’s more interested in destruction, though, and before long eternity is at stake…
Even though I wasn’t a huge fan of Lauren James’ 2020 shortlisted The Quiet at the End of the World, I can still appreciate that she is a well-loved UKYA author, and I’m hoping that The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker appears on the shortlist so that I’m forced to give her another chance.
Run, Rebel by Manjeet Mann
Run, Rebel is the second novel in verse that I’m showcasing today.
Reminiscent of Wing Jones, Run, Rebel follows a girl called Amber who only feels free when she’s running, escaping from a claustrophobic home life where her father is desperately trying to get her to wait for an arranged marriage like her sister.
Amber’s running is a rebellion, so it sounds like this book is going to be intensely focused on parental expectations and defying them in the attempt to be true to yourself. It’s always brilliant to see diversity on shortlists and that’s something the YA Book Prize normally manages, so I’m hoping that Run, Rebel will make an appearance.
Wonderland by Juno Dawson
Last, but certainly not least, I had to include Wonderland, the newest novel from the reigning YA Book Prize champion. Juno Dawson won in 2020 with Meat Market and was shortlisted in 2019 with Clean, so it’s only fair that the third book in the London trilogy gets the same shortlist treatment.
Wonderland follows a girl called Alice who is investigating her friend Bunny’s disappearance. In her search she discovers Wonderland – the party to end all parties – and she finds herself getting sucked into three days of hedonistic excess.
This sounds like it’s going to be a bit of a mystery, a bit of an exposé of the sordid underground of the British elite, and a deep dive into mental health as well, and I’m here for all of it.
And those are the ten books I’m sure are going to be featured on the YA Book Prize shortlist when it’s revealed on Wednesday.
You might also like to subscribe to my YouTube channel The Bumbling Blogger, where I’ll be posting my reaction to the shortlist on Wednesday evening.
Are there any books that I’ve missed that you think are definitely going to be appearing on the shortlist? Let me know down in the comments!
Thank you for reading,