Recently the YA blogosphere, Book-tubers and the section of Twitter especially reserved for that of YA book fanatics have been talking about one thing and one thing only: the YA Book Prize, a prize for UK and Irish YA books set up by the publishers The Bookseller. This is an exciting celebration in the British literary sphere that highlights the YA books we can't stop talking about. It is an opportunity for the diverse, ever-changing and revolving genre to gain the recognition it deserves, it's variance demonstrated by the range of genres it boasts: from romance to dystopian, realism to horror and fantasy. The Prize does not fail to neglect the aspect of community which is so vital within the YA genre, and it is so easy for readers to get involved. Thanks to the social media linked with the Prize, readers can get involved simply by tweeting their favourite book, and joining in the conversation with other YA enthusiasts! At the moment I have to say I am #TeamGhostsofHeaven...
To find out more about the origins of the YA Book Prize, who is involved and what this means for the YA genre, I was able to talk to Charlotte Eyre, Children's Editor at The Bookseller, to find out more.
Please could you briefly outline what the YA Book Prize is?
In basic terms, the prize is a celebration of British and Irish YA literature.
We wrote a big article in the Bookseller last year on all the different book prizes there are in the UK but several publishers said they were said they were sad there wasn't a prize just for teen and YA books, especially those written and published here, because the big American authors like John Green and Veronica Roth tend to dominate. We were initially thinking of launching a teen book prize but booksellers we spoke to said they wanted a YA prize instead. So that's what we did!
What kind of people are involved in choosing the books shortlisted for the Prize?
A team of Bookseller staff. When we opened the prize to submissions last December eight of us read through all the books entered (nearly 100) and put together a shortlist of 10 titles.
What makes a great YA book?
This is such a hard question! Everyone has a different idea about what makes a good YA book but when I think about this question I think back to what I felt when I read Melvin Burgess' Junk when I was fourteen. I was totally gripped, yes because it was a brilliantly written book, but also because it let me explore things I was starting to learn about as a teenager - sex, drugs, leaving home - in book form. So it was way of exploring, eg. heroin addiction, without sticking a needle in my arm.
So a good YA novel should allow young people explore the things you start to discover as a teenager, whilst being a brilliant story to read.
How important is social media for the YA Book Prize?
Very! It's allowed us to talk about the shortlisted books with readers, it's been really interesting to see who likes what. We decided early on to shortlist one book a week using a hashtag, so one week it is #TeamOnlyEverYours, another it is #TeamTrouble, and it's really great to see readers create fan videos and blogs in support of the book they want to win. The publishers like it too, of course, because it raises the profiles of the books.
How do you view the future of YA literature?
I think it's got a great future and I think British writers will start to get a bit more recognition. In terms of trends, I think feminist YA is going to go from strength to strength and there is going to be a lot more diversity in terms of ethnicity and LGBT characters.
Authors aren't afraid of hard-hitting plots and that won't change any time soon.
In terms of what I would like to see, it would be nice if certain adults stopped being snotty about YA and saying things like "well I was reading Charlotte Bronte when I was fourteen". Teenagers and young people still read Bronte, Dickens, Tolstoy and any other literary author you can think of. They are reading YA in addition to, not instead of, classic novels. Plus they are perfectly capable of deciding what they want to read, they're not three years old.
You can visit the YA Book Prize website here: http://www.thebookseller.com/ya-book-prize/