2021 - Shortlisted
Rawah Arja’s debut YA novel, The F Team, nails the bravado – and fragility – of Tariq and his ‘wolfpack’ of friends from Punchbowl Boys High, Lebanese-Australian adolescents growing up in Sydney’s south-western suburbs. Tariq understands very well the stereotypes that trap and limit him, but he too is full of prejudice, quick to anger and not exactly diplomatic. And if Tariq doesn’t have enough issues at school, he is certain his family would win any craziest family competition.
When the wolfpack is forced to form the F Team and play rugby league alongside four boys from the distinctly non-Muslim Shire, and Tariq is made co-captain with the Jewish Aaron, questions of friendship, trust and loyalty move to a new level. It’s on Tariq’s shoulders to win the comp, save Punchbowl Boys and win respect all around. Then there’s Jamila, supremely attractive, self-assured and not about to take any of his bullshit.