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2021 - Shortlisted
The F Team is an endearing, big-hearted novel fuelled by vividly drawn characters desperately searching for themselves in a world that demands to define and stereotype them. The story follows Tariq Nader, who leads the ‘Wolf Pack’ at his ‘too terroristy’, maligned Western Sydney boys’ high school. Race and class clash as Tariq and his friends are forced to join a rugby competition and form a team with students from Cronulla.
Rawah Arja is a keen and astute observer of adolescent emotions and behaviours, a master of writing about young people’s vulnerabilities, social competencies and quirks with compassion and a good dose of irony. Connecting the personal with the political, Arja hilariously and affectionately sketches the realities of life for a group of teenage boys struggling — sometimes valiantly, sometimes obnoxiously — against the slings and arrows of growing up as they navigate systemic racism, schoolyard pranks, misunderstood neighbourhoods, and chaotic, loving family lives.