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A rather tetchy argument has been raging on social media and in the press. Some
believe that there has been a bias towards older, darker fiction in recent years and this
year's win for Kevin Brooks' The Bunker Diaries is further evidence of this.
I can see both sides to the argument. Frank Cottrell Boyce and Shoo Rayner, for
example seem to be saying they'd like to see YA excluded from the Carnegie prize and
I can understand why. YA books are not for children, they are for Young Adults, (or
Adults, in many cases). Whilst some younger readers may be ready for the Bunker
Diaries, I'm guessing most are not. Looking through the list of previous winners on the
Carnegie website, the recent winners do seem to be aimed at teenagers and older
readers. There's not a lot in there for middle-grade readers or 5-7 year olds. Where is
the quality literature written for under 8s in the last 20 years?
On the other hand, librarians like Matt Imrie and Caroline Fielding make the equally
reasonable point that the judging guidelines for the Carnegie Awards are extremely
broad. They are looking for the best literary work aimed at children and young people.
Who are Young Adults if not Young People? If that's where the quality is, then that's
where the prizes go and it's up to authors to write better books for the under 12s.
Speaking for myself. I write YA and I also write children's books. They are not the same.
I also have young children, including a 10-year old girl. Though I haven't read the
Bunker Diaries, I get the impression it's at least as dark as my own YA titles HAV3N and
Seven Second Delay. I wouldn't let my 10-year old read my own books and would
certainly want to read The Bunker Diaries or any other YA title before passing it to my
daughter. With all due respect to the judgement of librarians, I know my own children
and know what they are ready for, and what they are not ready for. The Carnegie
Medal winners list is not where I'd go to find a good book for my children. Maybe in a
few years, but not now.
My view is that the Carnegie Medal has such a broad (and broadening) age range of
titles to draw from that it might be worth considering splitting it into two categories,
under 12 and over 12, perhaps. It might encourage publishers to commission more
literary fiction for younger readers, and it might encourage authors for younger
readers to write better books.
And maybe it'll stop the arguments...