About the Titles and Authors

GRA: about titles authors 2021  (Doc)

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Short Listed Titles: Junior

About Junior Category Titles 2021

The Deep Blue Between, by Ayesha Harruna Attah

Twin sisters Hassana and Husseina become separated when their home is left in ruins after a raid. With the ocean between them, they remain connected by shared dreams of water. This richly evocative historical novel, set in late nineteenth-century West Africa and Brazil has among its themes European imperialism, slavery and the connections between West Africans and Brazilians of African descent. As the twins grow up and find their own identities the narrative builds towards an exciting end.  

Also available in ebook format, on Sora and on OverDrive.


Pet, by Akwaeke Emezi

Jam cannot believe her eyes when a creature (it tells her to call it Pet) emerges from one of her mother’s paintings. She cannot believe her ears when Pet tells her that it has come to hunt a monster hidden in plain sight in the house of her friend Redemption.  It is all the more difficult for Jam to believe all this because the children in the city of Lucille are taught that there are no monsters any more. Jam must now protect her friend and discover the truth about the evil in her world.

Also available in ebook format, on Sora and on OverDrive.  


Here the Whole Time, by Vitor Martins (translated from Portuguese by Larissa Helena)

The boy you’ve had a crush on is coming to stay with your family over the school break while his parents are away on holidays. It’s an opportunity Felipe has dreamed of but he’s been waiting for this moment since the school year began to get away from constant reminders from his classmates about how fat he is. Now, instead of a fortnight of bingeing on T. V. shows, reading and YouTube tutorials, he’s going to have to face a list of body image insecurities and the days ahead ending up in a whirlwind of feelings … a funny, heart-warming story dealing with body image, homophobia and fat-phobia.

Also available in ebook format and on OverDrive.


A Kind of Spark, by Elle McNicoll

Addie is learning about sixteenth-century women accused of witchcraft.  She is horrified that innocent people from her own small Scottish village were persecuted and executed. She is determined to lobby for a local memorial — a very personal project for Addie as she and her twin sister are autistic. She knows all too well how people who are “different” can be treated. This book challenges myths and stereotyping and reminds us of how social media feeds ignorance and unkindness … described in reviews as “a powerful book with a gentle touch”. 

Also available in ebook format and on OverDrive in audiobook format.


All Our Hidden Gifts, by Catherine O’Donoghue

Student Maeve runs a much-in-demand tarot consultancy in St. Bernadette’s, a private Catholic school for girls. After Maeve argues over a tarot reading involving a strange, unknown card with her former friend Lily whom she had treated cruelly the year before, Lily disappears and Maeve is left trying to learn more about magic and bring Lily home … a contemporary, humorous story set in an Irish town … a mix of magic, mystery, mysticism, Filipino legend and Christian fundamentalism. 

Also available in ebook format and on OverDrive


Short Listed Titles: Senior

About Senior Category Titles 2021

What Beauty There Is, by Cory Anderson

In the depths of an Idaho winter Jack digs a grave in the back yard for his mother who has just died by suicide.  With his father in prison he and his little brother have nothing now but each other, except Jack’s plan to find the money that sent his father to prison and avoid losing his brother to foster care.

 Ava’s father Victor, controlling, abusive and merciless, has taught his daughter to live in isolation and to love no one. But when he decides to track down the money Jack is looking for, Ava must choose between remaining silent or helping the brothers. This is a chilling novel about broken characters struggling to survive in a brutal world.


Guard Your Heart, by Sue Divin

Modern Derry, Northern Ireland. Post Good Friday Agreement. The Troubles are over, but for a generation that never knew war, the past is still very close and its legacy makes life complex and painful.  For Aidan, from a Catholic, Republican family, his exam results are a ticket out of Derry, until he wanders alone across the Peace Bridge after a post-exam party and becomes the victim of a brutal sectarian attack. The attack, witnessed by Iona, from a Protestant family, brings these two young people together, but the differences between them seem insurmountable. With echoes of Romeo and Juliet and of Joan Lingard’s Kevin and Sadie series, this is a fast-moving, insightful novel.


The Gilded Ones, by Namina Forna

This novel, described in previews as “the most anticipated fantasy of 2021” is a dark story of  patriarchy, misogyny  and violence as experienced in the world of sixteen-year old Deka who leaves her village in Otera to escape a fate worse than death because of being different to everyone else.  She travels to the capital to join an army of girls just like her and to assist the emperor in threats against him.  Deka is desperate for acceptance but she is about to discover that the journey she has undertaken is full of surprises. The first of a series featuring Deka … 


The Henna Wars, by Adiba Jaigirdar

Bangladeshi-Irish Nishat comes out to her Muslim parents and is devastated by their response. She tries to cope by focusing on the T.Y. enterprise project. Her entry, offering henna tattoos, is based on a traditional Bengali art form. Another distraction is Flávia, Nishat’s current romantic interest. But Brazilian-Irish Flávia is also Nishat’s rival in the competition with a second henna project that Nishat sees as cultural appropriation. A rom-com with strong themes of homophobia and racism, and a line-up of multi-layered characters …


Boys Don’t Cry, Fiona Scarlett

Artistically gifted Joe is a scholarship student at a prestigious Dublin school. His family lives in a Dublin block of flats that is under the rule of the local criminal boss for whom Joe’s father is the muscle man. Joe does his best to show his younger brother Finn that there is life beyond the world of drugs, gangs and violence they live in. When Finn becomes terminally ill and their father is imprisoned, Joe’s relationships with his parents, his classmates and his friends crumble and he struggles not to go the way of his father, the path everybody thinks he will inevitably follow.  A tough, gritty novel that critics compare favourably with Roddy Doyle’s depictions of working-class Dublin.  


All titles in the Senior Category are also available in ebook format, on Sora and on OverDrive.


Short Listed Authors 2021: Junior

Junior Category

Ayesha Harruna Attah is a Ghanian author currently based in Senegal.  She was educated at Mount Holyoke College, Columbia University, and New York University and holds degrees in Biochemistry, Journalism and Creative Writing. Her love of words started in her teenage years. She is a successful author of adult fiction but she wanted to write a book for younger people  because she wanted to create the magic for them of being immersed in another world that she experienced as a teenage reader.  The Deep Blue Between deals with global topics and has a wide cultural and intergenerational appeal but its author says that when she starts to write something it is from a very local place with a very small audience in mind.

Akwaeke Emezi, a “non-binary trans and plural person”, is a writer and artist born in Nigeria and now living in the United States. They began writing about the age of five with encouragement from the school principal and are a reader from childhood, crediting this to the numerous books they had access to from a young age. Their reading is reflected in the several references or nods to Black women writers in Pet — Gwendolyn Brooks, N. K. Jemisin, Lucille Clifton and Toni Morrison.


Vitor Martins is a writer, illustrator and translator. He lives in São Paulo, Brazil, with his boyfriend and their two cats. Here the Whole Time started out as a short story that turned into a short novel. One tip Martins has for aspiring writers is to think about your story and plot points and characters when you’re not actually writing so that when you do sit down to write everything will be somewhat clearer in your head and you’ll get your story down on paper that bit faster.  Being able to hear feedback from readers is very rewarding for Martins who says that knowing something you wrote has a positive impact on readers changes you as a person.


Elle McNicoll is a Scottish neurodivergent writer living in London.  She explains the word “neurodivergent” as “a relatively new term, and not often heard in the mainstream. It’s a catchall term for people with neurological differences. Autism, dyspraxia, learning difficulties, ADHD, Tourette’s Syndrome, dyslexia, etc. It’s a great word! It allows people to quietly establish that they are disabled…”. She believes that all children deserve to see themselves in stories and that inclusive books develop empathy and understanding.  She describes A Kind of Spark as a book telling autistic readers and reviewers that “they are seen”.


Catherine O’Donoghue is an author, journalist and host of the award-winning podcast Sentimental Garbage that celebrates women’s fiction. Now living in London with her partner and their dog, a visit home to her native Cork in 2019 due to a serious family illness was the starting point for putting together ideas for her debut YA novel. The story, centred around a girl very much like herself, was inspired by memories of her adolescence. She wrote the sequel to All Our Hidden Gifts during Lockdown.


Short Listed Authors 2021: Senior

Cory Anderson, a native of Idaho, writes about her home in the Rocky Mountains. She grew up an outdoor girl and her father, a park ranger, taught her to see what beauty there is in the world. Growing up she had two friends: Nature and books. She read White Fang at a young age and attributes her stark writing style to Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, a book that she says has influenced her for life.  The characters of Jack, Matty and Ava in What Beauty There Is have a deep personal meaning for her because they are inspired by difficult periods and episodes in her own life.


Armagh-born Sue Divin was eight years old when she had her first experience of sectarianism: she was in hospital having her tonsils out and the other children on the ward would not play with her, assuming she was the “wrong religion”. She was brought up Presbyterian but would now just describe herself as Christian. She has been working in Northern Ireland for over fifteen years in peace and reconciliation.  Growing up, her parents taught her to challenge boundaries and encouraged her to experience communities and cultures outside of her own.  In regard to her debut novel, she is aware that reconciliation can be a fragile process and she wondered if fiction might be a means of helping understanding.     


Namina Forna moved to the U. S. A. from her native Sierra Leone, West Africa, when she was nine years old.  Now a Los Angeles-based screenwriter and novelist, she grew up during Sierra Leone’s civil war, which gives her a good understanding of violence and trauma and its effects. This aspect of The Gilded Ones made it a difficult and painful writing experience. She based the Ritual of Purity in her novel on a secret society of women in Sierra Leone that practices female genital mutilation (F.G.M.), a practice prevalent not only in Sierra Leone but all across Africa, Asia, the Middle East and even in Europe and America. She expresses the view that all the violence in The Gilded Ones has a point: “I’m not having torture scenes because I think they’re cool — each one always illustrates a point that is central to the narrative”. 


Born in Dhaka, Bangladesh, writer and teacher Adiba Jaigirdar has been living in Dublin since she was ten. She holds a B. A. in English and History from University College Dublin  and an M. A. in Postcolonial Studies from the University of Kent, England.  She says that books helped her cope with the loneliness of being a Muslim immigrant in Ireland.  The Henna Wars is very strongly issue driven but Jaigirdar looks forward to a time when books by people of colour no longer need to tackle “issues”. Among her pastimes are playing video games and  expanding her lipstick collection. Her first YA historical novel is due for release in 2022.


Dublin-born Fiona Scarlett, a full-time primary school teacher, now lives in Co. Kildare with her husband and family. She grew up in suburban Blanchardstown; her mother came from Ballymun and her father was a music teacher at Riversdale, in Blanchardstown. Scarlett researched her work on Boys Don’t Cry by watching documentaries about the inner city, gangland crime, Mountjoy Prison and the Ballymun Towers and reading blogs about parents and siblings who had lost a child to cancer. She says that doing an M. Litt in Creative Writing from the University of Glasgow gave her confidence to trust in her own writing voice and she credits her late father, who passed away in December 2020, as the inspiration for her debut YA novel, saying that he trained as a teacher in his thirties “so that he could give the same opportunities to the young adults in his care that he himself was given”.


Compiled by: Breege O’Brien, August 2021