YA Book Prize 2022: Who Would You Choose?

Comparing themes and narratives in the shortlist.

Read extracts from the novels here: The Bookseller – Awards – The YA Book Prize

Watch the YA Book Prize Arawards Ceremony 2022 at Einburgh International Book Festival here: https://www.edbookfest.co.uk/the-festival/whats-on/ya-book-prize-award-ceremony

S2–S5 / KS3–4

Explore themes of:
√ Dual Narratives √ Grief √ Mystery √ Witchcraft √ Racism √ Slavery

Subject Checklist:
√ Expressive Arts √ English Language √ Social Studies √ Wellbeing and Health √ Creative Writing

The YA Book Prize: Who would you Choose?

The YA Bookprize shortlist is chosen by the Bookseller magazine, before the winner is selected by a panel of experts. This resource is based on one of two special events for schools which feature a selection of the shortlisted authors: Manjeet Mann, Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé, Krystal Sutherland and Natasha Bowen.

Note to teachers: These books contain some material that may not be suitable for some students. We recommend that teachers read the books carefully before using it in the classroom or recommending it to students and/or seek parental guidance.

The Crossing and Ace of Spades: Exploring Dual Narratives

In Manjeet Mann’s The Crossing, the characters of Natalie and Sammy come from opposite worlds, but each is falling apart. Natalie has just lost her mum, and her brother is full of hate whilst marching the streets of Dover. Sammy on the other hand, has fled his home and family in Eritrea, seeking a new life in an unwelcoming world.

In Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé’s Ace of Spades the main characters of Devon and Chiamaka are bound by very different circumstances. At their school Niveus Academy, where wealth and privilege abound, Devon seeks to keep out of the spotlight whilst Chiamaka is desperate to retain her status as the most popular girl in school. Both the characters have secrets they would like to keep but when their secrets are made public by anonymous texter, Aces, they are entangled together.

Dual Narratives:

  1. What is the effect of intertwining two narrative arcs?
  2. What is the connecting narrative thread between the characters portrayed in The Crossing and Ace of Spades?
  3. What effect can dual narratives have on the reader compared to single narratives?

Book Cover Activity: Inside my Head . . .

 Look at the covers of The Crossing and Ace of Spades. Note down some inferences you can make about the connections between the central characters’, thoughts, feelings, and experiences from the artwork. From looking at the book covers, what do you think connects them? Consider the following:

  • The use or lack of colour
  • The contrast between light and darkness
  • How the characters have been illustrated
  • Anything else you find interesting

Reflect on a relationship you have with someone. What colours reflect your connection? What book title could express what it is inside your head? How would you express this in an illustration on a book cover?

Read the Extract
Taken from pages 1-3 of ‘The Crossing’.

Discussion Questions

  1. What is the effect of the bold font of some of the words?
  • What are the different ways in which lost is portrayed?
  • What do the central characters have in common?
  • What assumptions can we make about the characters based on the language and the words that they use to refer to their parents?
  • How can we distinguish a shift in the narrative voice?

Read the Extract
Taken from pages 11-23 of ‘Ace of Spades’.

Discussion Questions

  1. How does the author convey Devon’s discomfort in his surroundings?
  • How does the author convey the wealth and privilege of the other students at Niveus Academy in comparison to Devon?
  • Why do Devon and Chiamaka have different reactions to being appointed to the school prefect team?
  • How do we get a sense of Devon’s loneliness?
  • What are the commonalities and differences in the way in which Devon and Chiamaka navigate school?

House of Hollow and Skin of the Sea: Entering the World of Fantasy

House of Hollow

In Krystal Sutherland’s book, the Hollow sisters are Grey, Vivi and Iris – are as seductively glamorous as they are mysterious. When they were just children, the Hollow sisters disappeared. And when they came back, one month later, with no memory of where they had been, it was as if nothing had changed. But when Grey goes missing, Vivi and Iris track her down only to also reveal their mysterious past.

Skin of the Sea

In Natasha Bowen’s book, Simidele is one of the Mami Wata, mermaids duty-bound to collect the souls of those who die at sea and bless their journeys back home to the Supreme Creator. But Simi throws all of the Mami Wata in danger when foes against an ancient decree and saves a live boy thrown to sea.  Now Simi must journey to the Supreme Creator to make amends – a journey of vengeful gods, treacherous lands and legendary creatures, risking the fate of the Mami Wata if she fails. Filled with ancient West African mythology, Bowen takes us through a thrilling magical adventure.

  1. How is mystery conveyed in each book?
  2. What are the links between the fantastical, the secret and the supernatural?
  3. When and where is each book set? Does that have relevance to the narrative and how might we compare the books in this light?

Book Cover Activity: Portraying the Mysterious . . .

Look at the covers ofand Skin of the Sea and House of Hollow. Note down what you can infer from the respective fantasy worlds of each book by looking at their covers. How is magic portrayed on each book cover? Consider the following:

  • The textures and surfaces evoked
  • The colours chosen to portray the stories
  • How the characters presented: can we see them in full figure? Why might that be?
  • Anything else you find interesting

Think about what magic means to you, what are the symbols and characters that you would associate with it? Which colours best depict magic to you? Which magical creatures are the first to come to your mind? How would you choose to depict them on a book cover?

Read the Extract
Taken from Prologue pages 1-5 of ‘House of Hollow’.

Discussion Questions

  1. Think about passage describing the break in at the very beginning of the passage, what makes this section so eerie and creepy?
  • Do you think Iris is relieved or saddened by her sisters’ leaving home?
  • What do you think the connection is between Iris’ sisters and the school bully shaving her head during an assembly? Do you think Grey and Vivi are responsible for the event?
  • In what ways does Iris stand out from her sisters?
  • On page 2, Iris refers to a ‘bizarre thing’ that made the sisters famous, can you imagine what that might be?

Read the Extract
Taken from pages 1-10 of ‘Skin of the Sea’.

Discussion Questions

  1. What is Simidele’s attitude to the sea? Does she view it as source of comfort or distress?
  • Think about the passage in which Simidele retrieves the dead woman’s soul, what makes this section so sad?
  • What is Simidele’s approach to her power and her role? Is she grateful or reluctant to be in her position?
  • What is the significance of Simidele’s sapphire? What power do you think it holds?
  • What literary devices does the author use to make the section about Simidele’s mother so poignant? Think about the length and rhythm of sentences to help you answer this question.