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Ethel Turner Prize for Young People's Literature Past Winner

Year Winner Judges' comments

A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty

In dual narratives (punctuated by alternative texts such as witty travel guides and outrageously funny newspaper columns written by travelling Sister Princesses), Moriarty tracks the lives of teenagers Madeleine, living in Cambridge, England, and Elliott, denizen of the town of Bonfire, in the province of The Farms, in the Kingdom of Cello. Madeleine and Elliott have much in common: both are experiencing the loss of a father and the first stirrings of romantic love. But where Madeleine’s troubles are typically those of a girl in our world, Elliott’s are complicated by living in a world where sentient Colours sweep across the land: the Reds that evince feelings of romantic love, the Lemon Yellows, which strike dart-like — first at the eyes, and then the heart. Madeleine and Elliott connect through that corner of white — the ‘slim seam’ of the envelopes containing letters they post to one another through a crack between their respective worlds. 

Bringing together science, history, poetry, a dash of philosophy, a sprinkling of the mystical and a whole heaping of imagination, A Corner of White is that rare thing — an astonishingly original novel, that speaks equally to the heart and the intelligence of its audience.

Long known for her epistolary novels of teenage life, love and intrigue, Moriarty’s A Corner of White sees her tread new ground — that of parallel-world fantasy — while maintaining her trademark humour and eccentricity of plot, language and character. Moriarty displays masterful control over her various narrative threads, and the book rewards multiple readings. A Corner of White sees one of Australia's best writers for young adults at the peak of her not inconsiderable craft.

Only Ever Always by Penni Russon

Only Ever Always is a magnificent psychological puzzle that uses complex shifting points of view and a dreamscape of alternate realities. Moving between a crumbling dystopian cityscape and the recognisable realism of a suburban home in our own world, this complex and challenging narrative employs the doubles motif, contrasting Claire’s grief with Clara’s struggle to survive. These parallel realities dwell on the border of dreaming and awakening and are linked by an object of definition, the music box. Only Ever Always interrogates the relationship between self and material objects and explores the question: ‘Do we create our environment or does our environment create us?’ 

Only Ever Always is a philosophical enquiry into how we make sense of ourselves and our own values. What matters? How do we define ourselves? It challenges the reader to ponder what is real — the dream or the dreamer? Who occupies the space between the real and the imagined?

Only Ever Always is a mysterious, elliptical novel of place, dreams, grief and identity. Russon’s dazzling narrative choices draw in and implicate the reader as a participant, as a third version of Claire/Clara. Melancholy drives the narrative, creating a haunting and suspenseful atmosphere of foreboding, gently leavened with warmth. The language style is lyrical and poetic, yet characters dwell ‘only just inside language’ in a way that is refreshingly original. This is not a novel for a casual reader – it requires close attention, not just from the intellect, but from the heart.