Griffith University Young Adult Book Award shortlist

The Hounded cover

The Hounded

Simon Butters

Wakefield Press

About the book

On his fifteenth birthday, Monty is at rock bottom. Ignored by his parents, bullied at school, and with a brain that’s prone to going walkabout, he’s all by himself. Until he meets the black dog for the first time. It’s just like any other dog, except that only Monty can see it. And it talks. And Monty’s not sure whether it’s a friend – or a foe. But the black dog gets him talking to pretty, popular Eliza Robertson for the first time. It takes him to places he’s never been. And eventually it will take him, and the people around him, to the very edge.

About the author

Simon Butters is a screenwriter in film and television. His credits include: Wicked Science, Scooter: Secret Agent, H20 Just Add Water and Pirate Islands: The Lost Treasure of Fiji among others. Simon was the inaugural winner of the Australian Writers’ Guild John Hinde Science Fiction Award for his film Min Min. The Hounded is Simon’s first novel.

Judges' Comments

This highly original and clever novel is also an emotionally confronting work. It shines a light on the lurking black dog of depression that so many Australians will be confronted with at some stage of their lives. The novel’s fifteen-year-old narrator, Monty, is central to the novel’s success. Exhibiting an acerbic, wry, self-deprecating wit, he peels back the societal façade and reveals the lonely angst that many teenagers face today. Monty’s unconventional and dangerous relationship with the tragically isolated Eliza, is handled with great skill. Although the novel takes the reader into darkness, Butters ensures that the final message in his work is ultimately one of hope.

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Words in Deep Blue cover

Words in Deep Blue

Cath Crowley

Pan Macmillan

About the book

This is a love story. It's the story of Howling Books, where readers write letters to strangers, to lovers, to poets, to words. It's the story of Henry Jones and Rachel Sweetie. They were best friends once, before Rachel moved to the sea. Now, she's back, working at the bookstore, grieving for her brother Cal. She's looking for the future in the books people love, and the words that they leave behind. Sometimes you need the poets. The new novel from the award-winning author of Graffiti Moon.

About the author

Cath Crowley is a young adult author published in Australia and internationally. She is the author of The Gracie Faltrain trilogy, Chasing Charlie Duskin, and Graffiti Moon. In 2011, Graffiti Moon won the Prime Minister's Literary Award for Young Adult Fiction, the Ethel Turner Award for Young People's Literature, and was named an Honour Book in the Children's Book Council, Book of the Year. Cath lives in Ballarat, Victoria.

Judges' Comments

Crowley takes the cliché of contemporary teenage romance and turns it on its head to make it sing with humour, tenderness and literary wit. Using a highly effective split narrative technique we get to know the two central characters, Henry Jones and Rachel Sweetie, even better than they are getting to know one another, as we follow their epistolary encounters transmitted through the good offices of a second hand bookshop. In the facile age of twitter we are reminded how, as Sinclair Lewis put it, “we read to learn we are not alone,” and begin to remember the power that beautifully crafted writing can still exert. This is a sophisticated take on the fragility of the teen ego and a moving exploration of grief and resilience.

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The Bone Sparrow cover

The Bone Sparrow

Zana Fraillon

Hachette

About the book

Subhi's imagination is as big as the ocean and wide as the sky, but his world is much smaller: he's spent his whole life in an immigration detention centre. The Bone Sparrow is a powerful, heartbreaking, sometimes funny and ultimately uplifting hymn to freedom and love.

About the author

Zana Fraillon was born in Melbourne, but spent her early childhood in San Francisco. Zana has written two picture books for young children, a series for middle readers, and a novel for older readers based on research and accounts of survivors of the Forgotten Generation. She spent a year in China teaching English and now lives in Melbourne with her three sons, husband and two dogs. When Zana isn't reading or writing, she likes to explore the museums and hidden passageways scattered across Melbourne. They provide the same excitement as that moment before opening a new book - preparing to step into the unknown where a whole world of possibilities awaits.

Judges' Comments

Fraillon has crafted a harrowing and poignant account of refugee detention seen through the eyes of a young Burmese Rohingan boy who was born in the camp. Knowing no other world, except for the world of his poetic imagination, he innocently recounts a world of brutality and despair as if it were commonplace, which allows the facts to speak for themselves. We are shown the undeniable inhumanity of incarceration and its effects on already traumatised asylum seekers. The novel is a significant contribution to the growing number of YA books on this important subject.

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The Road to Winter cover

The Road to Winter

Mark Smith

Text Publishing

About the book

Since a deadly virus and the violence that followed wiped out his parents and most of his community, Finn has lived alone on the rugged coast with only his loyal dog Rowdy for company. He has stayed alive for two winters—hunting and fishing and trading food, and keeping out of sight of the Wilders, an armed and dangerous gang that controls the north, led by a ruthless man named Ramage. But Finn’s isolation is shattered when a girl runs onto the beach. Rose is a Siley—an asylum seeker—and she has escaped from Ramage, who had enslaved her and her younger sister, Kas. Rose is desperate, sick, and needs Finn’s help. Kas is still missing somewhere out in the bush. And Ramage wants the girls back—at any cost.

About the author

Mark Smith lives on Victoria’s Surf Coast. His writing has won a number of awards and has appeared in Best Australian Stories, Review of Australian Fiction and the Big IssueWilder Country is his second novel.

Judges' Comments

With a nod to Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, this post-apocalyptic novel in an Australian setting unfurls with stark and evocative prose. Unlike The Road, it manages to achieve a far greater softness and intimacy between its characters, which makes its bleak subject matter all the more compelling. While the teenage protagonists cannot rely on experience to keep them safe in this perilous new world, we see their capabilities expand as they are forced to respond to new situations, and new threats. Smith is the kind of author, like John Marsden in the past, who will hook the reluctant 15-year-old male reader. The book is a page turner and has the kind of premature, but clever, ending that prompts the reader to want to know more, and so sets the scene for a sequel.

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This is My Song cover

This is My Song

Richard Yaxley

Scholastic

About the book

This is my blood, this is my song. In the 1940s, musician Rafael Ullmann is sent to a Nazi concentration camp … In the 1970s, Annie Ullmann lives a lonely life on a Canadian prairie …Three decades later, in Australia, Joe Hawker is uncertain about himself and his future … until he discovers a song, written by his grandfather many years ago. This is my Song crosses three continents and time-line, and charts the need for each of us to find our own music – and sing that music with conviction and grace to those whom we most love. Beautifully written, Richard Yaxley’s unforgettable story strikes a chord and plucks the heartstrings.

About the author

Richard Yaxley has written novels for adults and young adults, plays, poetry, school musicals and many books for the classroom. His verse novel Drink the Air won the 2010 Queensland Premier’s Literary Award for Young Adult Fiction. He lives and teaches in Brisbane, Australia.

Judges' Comments

Essentially three distinct novellas, crossing three continents and three very different time-lines, Yaxley’s prose performs wonders with great subtlety. Beginning with a no-holds-barred account of musician Rafael Ullmann’s holocaust traumas, we see how his experiences ripple on into the story of his daughter’s isolated life on a Canadian prairie, and then further on still to the comparative comfort of Australia and the aspirations of his musical grandson. As the reverberations of the story fade further and further from their source, we begin to understand, through a clever literary conceit, that while some histories are too horrific to pass on, the transcendent possibilities of music are timeless and indestructible.

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