Shortlist year: 2015

Shortlist category: Fiction

Published by: Penguin Books Australia

Colt Jenson and his brother Bastian have moved to a new, working-class suburb. The Jensons are different.

Their father, Rex, showers them with gifts—toys, bikes, all that glitters—and makes them the envy of the neighbourhood. To Freya Kiley and the other local kids, the Jensons are a family from a magazine, and Rex a hero. Successful, attractive, always there to lend a hand. But to Colt he's an impossible figure in a different way: unbearable, suffocating. Has Colt got Rex wrong, or has he seen something in his father that will destroy their fragile new lives?

About the author


Sonya Hartnett

Sonya Hartnett's work has won numerous Australian and international literary prizes and has been published around the world. Uniquely, she is acclaimed for her stories for adults, young adults and children.

Her accolades include the Commonwealth Writers' Prize (Of A Boy), The Age Book of the Year (Of A Boy), the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize (Thursday's Child), the Children's Book Council of Australia Book of the Year for both Older and Younger Readers (Forest, The Silver Donkey, The Ghost's Child, The Midnight Zoo and The Children of the King), the Victorian Premier's Literary Award (Surrender), shortlistings for the Miles Franklin Award (for both Of A Boy and Butterfly) and the CILP Carnegie Medal (The Midnight Zoo). Hartnett is also the first Australian recipient of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award (2008).

Judges’ comments

Golden Boys begins with the arrival of the Jenson family into a working class suburb of Melbourne. Despite their more obvious trappings of wealth, the two Jenson boys, Colt and Bastian, attempt to manoeuvre their way through this unsettling milieu of new families and neighbourhood kids.

Chief among them are the Kileys, Joe and Elizabeth and their six children, including twelve-year old Freya, whose complex relationship with Colt and his father Rex forms one of the many strands of this short but densely narrated story. Set sometime around 1980, Hartnett's novel depicts a world of childhood that is far from innocent. Her children, away from prying adult eyes, inhabit a timeless domain of backyard swimming pools, bike rides through suburban streets, of cruel teasing and bullying, and all-too knowing conversations.

While the novel touches upon themes of domestic violence, its genuine darkness centres on the ambiguous relationship between Colt’s father, Rex, and the other neighbourhood boys.

Hartnett's beautifully written novel, rendered in a seamless and rhythmic prose, is full of mystery and tension. She evokes not just the uncertainty and confusion of childhood, but also the complicated rituals children act out as they navigate a path to adulthood.