2021 - Shortlisted
Clever, considered and crafty, Loner follows Lona, an art-school drop-out who DJs for middle-graders at her mother’s friend’s roller disco and who has no idea what to do with her life. Lona’s aimlessness and insecurity about the future hits hard, manifesting in awkward, stilted relationships with everyone from her immediate family to her best friend Tab, to the perfect-on-paper love interest who doesn’t quite get the reception even Lona thinks he deserves.
That Lona is endearing rather than frustrating is a testament to Young’s fresh and uncompromising approach to tackling her story. Snippets of Lona’s everyday life — experiences, characters, places — drive the narrative in lieu of chapter headings. Third-person omniscient narration gives the reader a no-holds-barred insight into Lona’s everyday, without the sometimes overbearing intimacy of first-person narration. Yet the story never feels distant or hard to follow: Young’s writing is pleasurable, and her observations devastatingly real. Loner subverts the conventions of the genre, which dictate that a coming-of-age narrative ought to conclude in a way that is comprehensive and satisfying for the narrator. It perfectly captures the existential crises facing young people today in a way that is compassionate and real, filters be damned.