Loner cover

Shortlist year: 2021

Shortlist category: Young adult literature

Published by: Text Publishing

Lona has dropped out of art school and no one is quite sure why, least of all Lona. It's just that nothing in her life seems to make sense anymore, including art. She spends her days sneaking into the darkroom at her old school to develop photographs and her nights DJ-ing at the local roller disco.

Her aimlessness terrifies her, but everyone else appears oblivious to her fears: her parents are bewildered by her sudden lack of ambition, her brother is preoccupied with his new girlfriend, and her best friend Tab seems to be drifting away. Even a budding relationship with a bass-playing, cello-shredding med student isn't enough to shake her existential angst.

Lona knows it's up to her to figure out what she wants to do with her life: the problem is, she has absolutely no idea where to start.

About the author

Georgina Young

Georgina Young

Georgina Young is a writer and designer from Melbourne. She has previously had her work published in Voiceworks magazine, as well as in Branches, an anthology published by the Bowen Street Press. 'Loner' won the Text Prize for an unpublished Young Adult manuscript in 2019, and is Georgina's first novel.

Judges’ comments

'No one says anything to Lona. It's like they're scared to. There's this assumption that she knows what she's doing and that no one should question it. She really wants someone to question it. So she can yell at them and tell them they're wrong.'

Lona has dropped out of art school. Vulnerable on the inside and prickly on the outside she doesn't know what's next; she can't find joy or meaning in things she used to do, she's questioning everything, trying to find language to understand the paradox that is her life, and she's stuck. In short 'She doesn't want anyone to tell her how to live. She's begging for someone to tell her how to live.'

Lona examines the minutiae of her life and the people in it with sharp clarity, endearing honesty, dry humour and a vivid peppering of literature and pop culture references, laying bare the contradictions of her existence. Working casual jobs at the supermarket and the roller-skate rink, and to escape everyone asking what her plans are for the rest of the year, Lona takes her single bed and moves into her first share house, falling into a relationship with a cello-playing med student. Her best friend Tab seems to be drifting away from her, and Lona finds it impossible to express how she feels. How Lona navigates this time is as painful as it is hilarious, and we cheer her on as she pushes through to find a way back to herself.

This debut novel is memorable because of the spiky, intelligent, honest, witty, exasperating and endearing voice of Lona. Cleverly written, in short sharp chapters, it captures the false bravado, the awkwardness, the misunderstandings, the inability to say how you feel: it is a snapshot of what life is like for so many late teens and 20-somethings, who are beset with anxiety, aimlessness, unable to move forward or move back. The novel leaves you wanting Lona to see, in the best possible way, that she really is on the path to become her full creative, idiosyncratic self.