The Sunday Times Charlotte Aitkin Trust Young Writer of the Year Award Shortlist

In 2019 I was privileged to be a shadow panel judge for the Sunday Times Charlotte Aitkin Trust Young Writer of the Year Award. You can read all about my experience here. All the details about this year’s 30th anniversary books and events are available here.

The Sunday Times Charlotte Aitken Young Writer of the Year Award is awarded for a full-length published or self-published (in book or ebook formats) work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry, by an author aged 18 – 35 years.

The winner receives £10,000. There are three prizes of £1,000 each for runners-up.

The winning book will be a work of outstanding literary merit. The award is an annual prize, sponsored by the Sunday Times and the Charlotte Aitken Trust. The prize is administered by the Society of Authors.

You can follow the award on Twitter @YoungWriterYear, Facebook and Instagram.

I’m thrilled to have been sent a copy of all of this year’s shortlisted books by the lovely people at FMcM and soon I’ll be sharing my review of the poetry collection My Darling from the Lions by Rachel Long, but first, I’ll give you a few more details about the featured books.

You might also like to know that tickets to an exciting event featuring all these up and coming young writers to be held at Waterstones Piccadilly on Wednesday 23rd February 2022 are available here, before the winner is announced on Thursday.


Acts of Desperation by Megan Nolan

She’s twenty-three and in love with love. He’s older, and the most beautiful man she’s ever seen. The affair is quickly consuming.

But this relationship is unpredictable, and behind his perfect looks is a mean streak. She’s intent on winning him over, but neither is living up to the other’s ideals. He keeps emailing his thin, glamorous ex, and she’s starting to give in to secret, shameful cravings of her own. The search for a fix is frantic, and taking a dangerous turn…

We’re all looking to get what we want – but do we know what we need?

Acts of Desperation is published by Vintage and is available for purchase here.

Here Comes the Miracle by Anna Beecher

It begins with a miracle: a baby born too small and too early, but defiantly alive. This is Joe.

Then, two years later, Emily, arrives. From the beginning, the siblings’ lives are entwined.
Snake back through time. In a patch of nettle-infested wilderness, find Edward, seventeen-years-old, and falling in love with another boy.

In comes somebody else, Eleanor, with whom Edward starts a family. They find themselves grandparents to Joe and Emily.

When Joe is diagnosed with cancer, the family are left waiting for a miracle.

From one of our finest new authors, this is a profoundly beautiful novel about the unexpectedness of life and the miracle of love.

Here Comes the Miracle, is published by Weidenfeld & Nicholson and is available for purchase through the links here.

Islands of Abandonment by Cal Flyn

This is a book about abandoned places: ghost towns and exclusion zones, no man’s lands and fortress islands – and what happens when nature is allowed to reclaim its place.

In Chernobyl, following the nuclear disaster, only a handful of people returned to their dangerously irradiated homes. On an uninhabited Scottish island, feral cattle live entirely wild. In Detroit, once America’s fourth-largest city, entire streets of houses are falling in on themselves, looters slipping through otherwise silent neighbourhoods.

This book explores the extraordinary places where humans no longer live – or survive in tiny, precarious numbers – to give us a possible glimpse of what happens when mankind’s impact on nature is forced to stop. From Tanzanian mountains to the volcanic Caribbean, the forbidden areas of France to the mining regions of Scotland, Flyn brings together some of the most desolate, eerie, ravaged and polluted areas in the world – and shows how, against all odds, they offer our best opportunities for environmental recovery.

By turns haunted and hopeful, this luminously written world study is pinned together with profound insight and new ecological discoveries that together map an answer to the big questions: what happens after we’re gone, and how far can our damage to nature be undone?

Islands of Abandonment is published by Harper Collins and is available for purchase through the links here.

My Darling From the Lions by Rachel Long

Rachel Long’s much-anticipated debut collection of poems, My Darling from the Lions, announces the arrival of a thrilling new presence in poetry.

Each poem has a vivid story to tell – of family quirks, the perils of dating, the grip of religion or sexual awakening – stories that are, by turn, emotionally insightful, politically conscious, wise, funny and outrageous.

Long reveals herself as a razor-sharp and original voice on the issues of sexual politics and cultural inheritance that polarize our current moment. But it’s her refreshing commitment to the power of the individual poem that will leave the reader turning each page in eager anticipation: here is an immediate, wide-awake poetry that entertains royally, without sacrificing a note of its urgency or remarkable skill.

My Darling from the Lions is published by Picador and available for purchase here.

Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson

Two young people meet at a pub in South East London. Both are Black British, both won scholarships to private schools where they struggled to belong, both are now artists – he a photographer, she a dancer – trying to make their mark in a city that by turns celebrates and rejects them. Tentatively, tenderly, they fall in love. But two people who seem destined to be together can still be torn apart by fear and violence.

At once an achingly beautiful love story and a potent insight into race and masculinity, Open Water asks what it means to be a person in a world that sees you only as a Black body, to be vulnerable when you are only respected for strength, to find safety in love, only to lose it. With gorgeous, soulful intensity, Caleb Azumah Nelson has written the most essential British debut of recent years.

Open Water is published by Penguin and is available for purchase through the links here.


I wonder which of these talented young writers most appeals to you?

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