Will Hill has won The Bookseller’s YA Book Prize 2018 for his novel, After the Fire.
Hill saw off tough competition from nine other incredible authors, including Philip Pullman, Sarah Crossan and Alex Wheatle, to win the £2,000 prize in a ceremony at Hay Festival on Thursday 31 st May, presented by Marcus Brigstocke.
After the Fire tells the story of teenage girl Moonbeam, who is trying to come to terms with her past and prepare for a new life, after leaving behind the religious cult she grew up in. It marks a change of direction for Hill, who has previously written the Department 19 YA fantasy series.
The book was inspired by the 1993 Waco Siege, a standoff between the Branch Davidian religious sect and the American authorities that ended with more than 80 people dead. Hill said: “I wanted to explore how someone would feel when their entire world ends, and how they would even start to think about moving forward afterwards.”
Author Louise O’Neill—winner of the inaugural YA Book Prize in 2015 and one of this year’s judges—said: “After The Fire is an engrossing, brilliantly realised story which is almost impossible to put down. Both thoughtfully structured and fast-paced, it is one of the most sensitive portrayals of trauma that I have read in a long time.” Fellow judge, hip-hop artist, writer and historian Akala described it as a “well-written book on a challenging subject”.
During the ceremony at Hay, The Bookseller also awarded a YA Book Prize Special Achievement Award to Stripes Publishing and the authors of its YA anthology A Change is Gonna Come, published in August 2017. The Bookseller’s web editor and chair of the YA Book Prize Caroline Carpenter said: “A Change is Gonna Come was one of the most important UK YA books published last year and we wanted to recognise that with this award. Stripes and its authors highlighted a major problem facing the children’s book industry, and took active steps to tackle it.”
The YA Book Prize is awarded annually to a YA title written by an author living in the UK or Ireland. The prize celebrates great books for teenagers and young adults and aims to get more teens reading and buying books. The prize is organised by book trade magazine The Bookseller and it is run in partnership with Hay Festival.