Initially I wasn’t sure how to approach reading for the shadow panel. While I’m a prolific reader and I’ve learned to read critically through my undergraduate studies, I’ve never had to read anything while considering it for a prize. In the end I decided that the best thing to do was not to change how I normally read at all. For me to truly engaged with a book I have to immerse myself in it. This normally involves a very large mug of coffee and a comfy corner. I like to read for long stretches at a time, burying myself so deeply that I can ignore the outside world. Often though I’ll come back into the world a bit confused and unsure of the time. To me the ability to get completely lost in the narrative is the sign of a good book.
Of course, I did have to look more deeply than that. I was on the first book panel so the goal was not just to judge each book as a book, but to consider how it stands as that writer’s first published book. Questions I asked myself throughout include, “Is this a strong debut?”, “Would winning the award help the writer go further with their work?”. I had to keep these sorts of questions in the front of my mind while reading. In my opinion, the idea of this award is not necessarily to find the most flawless and perfectly executed debut. In my opinion it’s about finding the writer with the most potential.
In the end though it really came down to was plot for me. There were aspects of each of the books that appealed to me. They were all books I would happily read again but it was Goblin and Beneath the Skin that kept me so involved I had no idea how long I had been reading. Quite a few times I looked up from pages and was utterly unable to understand why it was now dark outside. I’m eagerly waiting for more from Ever Dundas and Sandra Ireland.