Shortlist year: 2012

Shortlist category: Young adult literature

Published by: Penguin Random House

Dan and his brother Eddie take off for the coast, in search of their lost mother, in search of a better life . . . but it's a long road they face and Dan must use all his wits to get them there in one piece.

When they are taken under the wings of a group of would-be soldiers marching over the mountains to join up for the Great War, Dan and Eddie's journey becomes something quite unexpected. The experiences they share will shape their future beyond recognition.

This extraordinary rite of passage is a powerful, heart-rending story – Robert Newton at his very best.

About the author

Robert Newton

Robert Newton works as a full-time firefighter with the Metropolitan Fire Brigade. His first novel, My Name is Will Thompson, was published in 2001.

Since then he has written six other novels for young people, including Runner, The Black Dog Gang and When We Were Two, which won the 2012 Prime Minister's Literary Award for Young Adult Fiction.

He lives in Melbourne with his wife and three daughters.

Judges’ comments

The looming shadow of war is ever present in When We Were Two and the book speaks of the innocence, naivety and hope of a generation of young men and boys who marched towards it. 

Yet the strength of the story lies in the unconditional love between the two brothers, and in their spirit and courage which are destined to survive the slaughter to come.

This is historical fiction of rare accomplishment. When We Were Two deserves to become a classic.