This Is How We Change the Ending

Shortlist year: 2020

Shortlist category: Young adult literature

Published by: Text Publishing

Sixteen-year-old Nate McKee is doing his best to be invisible. He's worried about a lot of things—how his dad treats Nance and his twin half-brothers; the hydro crop in his bedroom; his reckless friend, Merrick.

Nate hangs out at the local youth centre and fills his notebooks with things he can't say. But when some of his pages are stolen, and his words are graffitied at the centre, Nate realises he has allies. He might be able to make a difference, change his life, and claim his future. Or can he?

About the author

 Vikki Wakefield

Vikki Wakefield

Vikki Wakefield writes realist fiction for young adults. Her work explores coming-of-age, family, class, relationships and the lives of contemporary teens. Her novels 'All I Ever Wanted', 'Friday Brown', 'Inbetween Days' and 'Ballad for a Mad Girl' have been shortlisted for numerous awards.

Judges’ comments

In Vikki Wakefield's fifth novel for young adults she plunges headlong into well-trodden young adult territory—the dead-end country town, the absent parent, the blended family, the boy who can't live up to the masculinist expectations of his elders, the shame of being clever in a world of crushing underachievement, the jaded teacher doing his best to boost the main character out of their funk of learned inadequacy—each of these has been explored many times over, but rarely have they resulted in a novel as fine as this.

'This Is How We Change the Ending' embraces all of these tropes and, rather than taking the path most travelled, crashes into the undergrowth, using them like machetes to clear a path to that great emotional motivator and agent for change—hope. Wakefield achieves this through her razor-sharp wit and instinct for subversion, as well as a sense of restraint around the threat of male violence that lurks in the corners. Her ability to take a moment and make it light even whilst shadows drift menacingly past the windows is matched only by her gift for characterisation and, even more impressively, dialogue. There are few writers who can create such dazzling conversation from the most unremarkable situations, all the while raising questions in the mind of the reader, advancing the story, and bringing a smile to the face with the charming effortlessness of it all, even as the tension of Nate's Sisyphus-like existence continues to quiver in the middle distance.

This is a novel which lives on in the mind long after it has been closed. Yes, in its composite parts it is a story that has been told before. But the execution of the elements, and the destination to which it leads, make it utterly remarkable.