The Prime Minister’s Literary Awards celebrate the contribution of Australian literature to the nation’s cultural and intellectual life. The Awards recognise the importance of literature to our national identity, community and economy.Particularly in light of this description of the awards, but mostly just personally, I am so sad that Kate Constable's Crow Country is not shortlisted, because it was one of the very best titles released last year and one which perfectly captured the essence of our country and weaved it into a fully enthralling story. It's one of those books that is brilliantly written, thought provoking and engaging for its target audience. It does, however, hover around that line between middle grade fiction and young YA, which may have worked against it. But! Let us now dwell on what isn't, because that will get us nowhere.
Let us celebrate what is! Below are the judges' comments on the five shortlisted titles for the Young Adult category. The judging panel was made up of Judith White, Mary-Ruth Mendel and Bob Sessions:
A Straight Line to my Heart, Bill Condon
Condon writes about teenagers with great empathy. His first-person narrator Tiff is at a crossroads, burning to pursue her dream of becoming a journalist but slow to realise that her greatest story lies in her unconventional family. Skilfully drawn characters, ranging from her adopted grandfather to a gruff reporter colleague, help the reader to become aware that words sometimes conceal more than they reveal.
Alaska, Sue Saliba
Saliba creates a haunting picture of an Australian girl’s struggle with loneliness and uncertainty, set on the edge of the remote Alaskan wilderness. Evocative imagery of forest, snow and wildlife strengthen the fabric of a superbly told story, in which the central character finds a way out of self-absorption and illusion to embrace the complexity of human experience and take responsibility for what she has left behind.
Being Here, Barry Jonsberg
This is a profoundly beautiful story, a memoir of youth retold in old age to a schoolgirl, forging a link between generations. A booklover’s tale, it recalls a girl who escaped from the isolation of country life and family tragedy through both the written page and an unusual friendship with a boy stranger. Jonsberg unravels her memories to give us a compelling affirmation of enduring love.
Pan's Whisper, Sue Lawson
Lawson allows us inside the skin of Pan, a damaged, untrusting foster child in an account that reveals how her own courage, and the caring attention of friends, can unlock the memories that plague her. Told with great sensitivity, Pan’s story shows the hurt that hides behind teenage aggression and how that hurt can be transcended to arrive at a measure of fulfilment.
When We Were Two, Robert Newton
Faultlessly constructed and told with brilliantly understated, tragi-comic dialogue, this is the deeply moving story of two brothers journeying from the bush to the coast on the eve of war. Enhanced by a Chaucerian cast of characters encountered along the way, it tells essentially of a love of family that can survive separation and death itself. This is historical fiction of rare accomplishment.