The YA Book Prize is a new award recognising Young Adult fiction from the UK and Ireland. Ten books have been nominated, and the winner with be announced this Thursday, the 19th of March. As it is St Patrick’s Day, here are my reviews of the two Irish books that made the shortlist – Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill and Finding A Voice by Kim Hood.
Only Ever Yours – Louise O’Neill (Quercus, 2014).
Louise O’Neill was named Newcomer of the Year at the Irish Book Awards in November 2014 for her debut novel, a feminist dystopia which has been compared to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Only Ever Yours is a deeply disturbing read in which girls (or eves) are bred in schools, with the top few becoming companions to men, and the rest consigned to be concubines or teachers of the next generation. The book is told from the point of view of frieda, one of the eves, as she enters her final year. This a very intense book, I had to take breaks every few chapters, the fact it has very clear links to our own appearance-obsessed culture is what makes it so chilling. Powerful, gripping and unforgettable.
Finding A Voice – Kim Hood (O’Brien Press, 2014).
Jo is struggling to cope with her mother’s mental illness, and can’t talk to anyone at school about it. To escape the pressures of lunch break, she volunteers at the Special Education wing. She is assigned to help Chris, a severely disabled boy who can’t speak. They become friends as Jo finds she can confide in Chris, and she has the patience to help him achieve his full potential. This is a very emotional and moving read, with the protagonists facing enormous difficulties in their lives. Hood creates two very believable characters, and deals with issues surrounding disability and mental illness in a very sensitive manner. This book was recommended to me by a fellow book club member, and I really enjoyed it. One of my favourite books I’ve read this year (so far!)
Either book would be a worthy winner of the inaugural YA Book Prize in my opinion, but they have some tough competition from the UK titles. I am really looking forward to seeing which book wins, I would love it to be one of these two! See the full shortlist in the image above, and check out @yabookprize on Twitter to keep up to date with all the news on the award.