The Carnegie Medal shortlist was unveiled last week. As I’d blogged previously, the Carnegie Medal is the bees knees when it comes to the world of Children’s/Young Adult fiction. Ask any author who writes in this genre which matters to them the most, and they’ll say it’s this one.
Our shadowing groups will start to meet as of today, and in the near future we hope to get our shadowing page on the Carnegie Greenaway website up and running too. I’m really looking forward to hearing what our girls will make of the shortlist, but in the meantime I can share my thoughts on the two books I’ve read so far. They couldn’t be more different, but both are standout reads in their own right. First up is Kevin Brooks’ The Bunker Diary:
I’m a big fan of Brooks: he refuses to water down his hard-hitting stories, putting his characters in to the most desperate of situations and offering them no easy way out. Gore Vidal once said that writing fiction is all about sticking your characters up trees, throwing rocks at them, but then eventually bringing them down from the tree. I’m not so sure Brooks lets his characters off so easily: he doesn’t always believe in closure, and he certainly doesn’t believe in happy endings.
The Bunker Diary pushes the envelope further than Brooks has dared to push it before. Trapping his first-person narrator Linus in the titular bunker, with a gallery of characters who vary in age, appearance and sympathy, Brooks succeeds in evoking a cloying, tension-head atmosphere. Bleak and downbeat as it is (it’s definitely not for younger/sensitive readers), the novel is a thought provoking page turner, asking unsettling questions about what people are capable of when things are as bad as they can possibly be, and refusing to give us the answers.
The other book I’ve read, Katherine Rundell’s Rooftoppers, could not offer a starker counterpoint:
This is a vibrant novel that is in love with the wonder of the world, celebrated in its firework-prose, gloriously eccentric characters (who wouldn’t want to have a father like Charles?) and amazingly vivid sense of place. Having been to Paris several times, I can tell you that I will never look at the French capital in quite the same way again.
What makes this novel linger in the memory, though, is its undying conviction that you should not be shy of dreaming big and defying those who insist you think small. As its tagline says, you should never ignore a ‘possible’, and it is this inner belief which propels protagonist Sophie onward and ensures we simply can’t help but root for her. Unique and original, Rooftoppers fully deserves its place on the shortlist and might just be a dark horse for the medal itself.
So there we have it: two very different books, but two excellent ones in their own right. If the rest of the shortlist is as good, then the standard this year promises to be very high indeed. We can’t wait to get our teeth stuck in to them!