The picture above shows the window display at Readings Books (Kids) in Lygon Street. Isn’t it gorgeous! And below are the judges comments from the Readings Blog. It’s still a brilliant shock to me that Stone Girl won.
Now in its third year, the Readings Young Adult Book Prize was created to recognise and celebrate new voices in Australian Young Adult literature and considers the first and second books of YA authors across Australia. This year’s shortlist included Hale’s Stone Girl, Highway Bodies by Alison Evans, What I Like About Me by Jenna Guillaume, Making Friends with Alice Dyson by Poppy Nwosu, Unmasked by Turia Pitt and Bryce Corbett, and The Learning Curves of Vanessa Partridge by Clare Strahan.
Stone Girl follows Sophie, a vulnerable yet resilient girl who becomes a ward of the state following the sudden death of her mother. As she falls into a system meant to help, Sophie quickly realises that the foster system is where Australia’s kids fall through the cracks. Kicking around from home to home, Sophie forms a broken family with Gwen, Matty and the intoxicating, destructive Spiral – fellow casualties of abuse and neglect. Together, and apart, they struggle against a system which promised safety, but swallowed them whole. Eleni Hale delivers a raw dose of reality to her readers with tender yet unflinching prose, and deftly navigates the intricate violence of broken systems and the truths lived by Australia’s foster youth. Stone Girl is earth-shattering and essential reading.
Stone Girl was selected as the winner by our panel of judges, including Readings staff Jackie Tang (Readings online), Dani Solomon (Readings Kids), Kate O’Mara (Readings Hawthorn) and chairperson Georgia Phelan (Readings Doncaster). This year, the panel was joined by Cath Crowley, a multi-award-winning author and much-loved pillar of the Australian young adult literary scene. The judging panel also received input from the Readings Teen Advisory Board.
On the prize shortlist and judging process, guest judge Cath Crowley commented:
‘It was a great pleasure to participate in the judging panel for the 2019 Readings Young Adult prize. Alison Evans, Jenna Guillaume, Eleni Hale, Poppy Nwosu, Turia Pitt and Bryce Corbett, Clare Strahan—these writers plunge the reader into rich and diverse worlds. They all deserve acclaim for their writing.
‘Stone Girl by Eleni Hale tells the story of Sophie, a ward of the state, growing up unprotected by adults and the system. The prose is exquisite—precise and original. The characters are heartbreakingly real. We hold our breath, terrified for Sophie as she moves through an increasingly dangerous world. Hale doesn’t shy away from the trauma that young people experience, and she doesn’t offer pat happy endings. The novel ends with hope—but it’s satisfying and believable. Eleni Hale’s Stone Girl is one of the most compelling YA novels I have read in a long time.’
As the winner of the prize, Eleni Hale is awarded $3000. Hale said of her win:
‘I’m grateful beyond words to the team at Readings Books for all their support. Winning a prize like the Readings Young Adult Book Prize is an honour. Thank you so much.
‘Writing a novel not only takes many years, it also absorbs some of the life force of the writer. We write true things even in fiction. We wrestle with each sentence until it says what we mean, which is much harder than it sounds. There is also a team of editors, publishers and designers behind it. To have this work recognised is incredibly rewarding.
‘This prize is also a gift. It will help lift the profile of an important issue: the largely untold stories experienced by some of the 40,000 kids who currently reside without parents in Australia. Their lives remain largely invisible for many reasons, including a complex bureaucracy and the silencing effect of negative life outcomes.
‘The Readings Young Adult Book Prize and the Readings team have a proud history of supporting a plethora of books and I am so thrilled that Stone Girl can be counted among them.’