Griffith University Young Adult Book Award shortlist

The Sidekicks cover

The Sidekicks

Will Kostakis

Penguin Random House

About the book

The Swimmer. The Rebel. The Nerd. All Ryan, Harley and Miles had in common was Isaac. They lived different lives, had different interests and kept different secrets. But they shared the same best friend. They were sidekicks. And now that Isaac's gone, what does that make them? Will Kostakis, award-winning author of The First Third, perfectly depicts the pain and pleasure of this teenage world, piecing together three points of view with intricate splendour.

About the author

Will Kostakis’s first novel, Loathing Lola, was released when he was just nineteen, and his second, The First Third, won the 2014 Gold Inky Award. It was also shortlisted for the CBCA Book of the Year and Prime Minister’s Literary awards. The Sidekicks is his third novel for young adults.

Judges' Comments

A contemporary work of immediate impact, this outstanding work describes the response of his three best friends to Isaac’s death. Told in three alternate narratives from three points of view, this is sharp, witty and deeply moving. Ryan, Harley and Miles (the swimmer, the rebel, and the nerd) are three distinctly different characters whose tenuous connection is that they were ‘sidekicks’ to Isaac, always the life of the party. But now he’s dead, and they have to decide what to make of the connection between them, if, indeed, anything at all.

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Dreaming the Enemy cover

Dreaming the Enemy

David Metzenthen

Allen & Unwin

About the book

Johnny Shoebridge has just returned from fighting in the jungles of Vietnam. He no longer carries a weapon - only photos of the dead and a dread of the living. Pursued by a Viet Cong ghost-fighter called Khan, Johnny makes one last stand - knowing that if he cannot lay this spectre to rest, he will remain a prisoner of war for ever. Drawing on courage, loyalty and love, Johnny tries to find a way back from the nightmare of war to a sense of hope for the future.

About the author

David Metzenthen is a Melbourne writer who is married, has two children, and numerous pets. Both his father and grandfather served in the Australian Defence Forces, fostering David's great interest in the role Australians have played in armed conflict. The author's interests include fly-fishing, surfing small waves, and the greater environment.

Judges' Comments

This deeply moving tale of Vietnam veteran, Johnny Shoebridge’s return to Australia, and his imagined opponent Khan’s return to his village, is a poetic and harrowing tour de force by a masterful and deeply sensitive writer. In a complex narrative structure, this is beautifully and elegantly told. The transitions from dreams to reality and from past to present are flawlessly constructed. An amazing sense of landscape is also created as an almost living ‘character’. Johnny (‘Shoey’) and Khan are both memorable characters, in a profound work, which traverses the horror of war to negotiate a delicate sense of hope for the future.

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The Stars at Oktober Bend cover

The Stars at Oktober Bend

Glenda Millard

Allen & Unwin

About the book

Alice is fifteen, with hair as red as fire and skin as pale as bone, but something inside her is broken. She has acquired brain injury, the result of an assault, and her words come out slow and slurred. But when she writes, heartwords fly from her pen. She writes poems to express the words she can't say and leaves them in unexpected places around the town. Manny was once a child soldier. He is sixteen and has lost all his family. He appears to be adapting to his new life in this country, where there is comfort and safety, but at night he runs, barefoot, to escape the memory of his past. When he first sees Alice, she is sitting on the rusty roof of her river-house, looking like a carving on an old-fashioned ship sailing through the stars.

About the author

Glenda Millard is a highly respected author who writes for children of all ages. Her novel A Small Free Kiss in the Dark was the Winner of the 2009 Queensland Premier's Award for young adults, Honour Book in the 2010 CBCA awards for older readers, shortlisted for the 2010 NSW Premier's Literary Awards, and included on the Honour List for the 2012 International Board of Books for Young People. Glenda has also written many picture books, including The Duck and the Darklings, illustrated by Stephen Michael King, which was shortlisted in the 2015 CBCA awards.

Judges' Comments

Alice Nightingale’s damaged life, and the past of Manny James, an adoptee from war-torn Sierra Leone, are woven together intricately in this extraordinarily tender work. Their efforts to fit into a society rent by prejudice are carefully wrought in a lyrical and evocative novel. Alice is an unforgettable character who will stay with the reader forever. The language is sharp and beautiful. The relationship between Manny and Alice is at times both heart-warming and heart-wrenching. Judges loved the mixture of poetry and prose – which works together in a perfect book about a small community, which also has resonance for Australian society.

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One Thousand Hills cover

One Thousand Hills

James Roy and Noël Zihabamwe

Scholastic Australia

About the book

Agabande, Rwanda. April 1994. Life is simple but good. Pascal and his brother go to school with their friends, their parents work hard, their little sister is growing up, and on Sunday almost everyone they know goes to church to thank God for his goodness. But lately, there have been whispers and suspicious glances around town, and messages of hate on the radio, and people are leaving... Then, in one awful night, Pascal's world is turned upside down. His ordinary life in the land of a thousand hills is about to change forever.

About the authors

James Roy was born in New South Wales and spent much of his childhood in Papua New Guinea and Fiji. His books for young people include CBCA Honour Books Captain Mack and Billy Mack's War. Town won the Ethel Turner Prize in the 2008 New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards; Anonymity Jones won a 2010 Western Australian Premier's Book Award. James lives with his family in the Blue Mountains.

Noël Zihabamwe witnessed as a young boy the massacre of family and friends in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. He spent time in an orphanage before arriving in Australia. Having learnt English, he studied for and graduated with a Bachelor of Community Welfare and International Social Development and since then he has been active in community work and development in western Sydney.

Judges' Comments

This is a brilliantly imagined re-creation of a real story in spare and poetic prose; a contemporary fable written with eloquent restraint. A very disturbing narrative, its structure is unique and its storytelling superb. It vividly paints a horrifying picture of civil war in Rwanda in 1994 and the aftermath, without being too graphic, which makes the horror even more ominous. It is beautifully crafted and told with great heart. Pascal’s story of how his life in the land of a thousand hills was completely overturned, and his plight as a refugee, should speak to all Australians.

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One Would Think the Deep cover

One Would Think the Deep

Claire Zorn

UQP

About the book

From the multi award-winning author of The Protected and The Sky So Heavy comes a ground-breaking young adult masterpiece about lost young men. After his mum dies Sam goes to live with the strangers his she cut ties with seven years ago: Aunty Lorraine and his cousins Shane and Minty. Sam is soon surfing with Minty to cut through the static fuzz in his head. But as the days slowly meld into one another, and ghosts from the past reappear, Sam has to make the ultimate decision … will he sink or will he swim.

About the author

Claire Zorn lives on the south coast of New South Wales with her husband and two small children. Her first young adult novel, The Sky So Heavy, was a CBCA Honour Book for Older Readers and was shortlisted for the Aurealis and Inky Awards. Her second book, The Protected, was the winner of the 2015 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards for Young Adult Fiction, Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards – Young Adult Fiction and CBCA Book of the Year for Older Readers. One Would Think the Deep is her third book for young adults.

Judges' Comments

This is a moving account of how grief and family secrets compound in teenage Sam’s life to create a desperate state of confusion and anger which threatens to overwhelm him. Beautifully evoked against a 90s surfing background and culture, this exploration of a young male grappling with both loss and romantic attraction is heart-wrenching in its poignancy. Zorn creates a truly authentic teen voice in a work which is brilliantly realised.

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