♥ Tir na n-Og Awards 2022 Winner: Secondary♥
(suggested) reading age: 13+
(suggested) interest age: 14+
(some themes may cause distress but overall, we believe that these would be suitable for 14+)
Innovative. Ambitious. And more importantly – authentic. These are only some of the words I associate with this project. As far as I’m aware, nothing like this has been done in Welsh, and this leads the way for how books should be published and marketed to teenagers/YA going forward. When the books were published, a considerable amount of marketing was done on social media, such as a new Insta page specifically for #YPump and the use of platforms such as AM to share the content e.g. playlists associated with the novels.
The series, edited by Elgan Rhys, contains 5 unique novels about 5 very special young people. What is really exciting about the series, however, is that published, experienced writers have co-worked and co-written the novels with young people who have lived some of the experiences mentioned in the books.
What a good idea - to have young Welsh writers nurturing and mentoring the next generation of writers. By working together in such a way, we ensure that the stories are honest and genuine, presenting real issues and experiences in a real and credible way (rather than having writers talking about subjects they have no experience of). There's nothing more cringe, than old people trying to sound cool and 'down with the kids.' Fortunately, there's none of that here, just the voices of real young people reflected on the pages.
The element of collaboration between the authors is exciting, and something that should be done more, moving forward, particularly when tackling challenging topics. It’s also worth remembering is that the authors and editors were able to do all the collaborative work in very unusual circumstances in the midst of the pandemic and this should be a source of pride for everyone involved in the project.
Who are the Five?
The series follows the lives of five friends in Year 11 at Ysgol Gyfun Llwyd. It addresses some of the complexities of being a young person in this day and age. We follow the stories of Tim, Tami, Aniq, Robyn and Cat as they meet, and join together to form a crew of friends – Y Pump [The Five]. This is a group of young people who have been socially marginalized, as they may not have fitted the label of what is considered 'normal.' (an ugly word, I might add!)
Each character gets their own 20,000-word novella (which I think is a good length for a YA novel - not too short, not too long). Each novella stands firmly on their own but, much like Y Pump, I feel that the series is strongest when they are together.
Each one of the Pump are unique and special, and the novels shed light on some of the contemporary issues that are important to young people today, as well as being a celebration of the diversity that can be seen in modern 21st century Wales. Although themes such as mental health, race, gender, sexuality and depression are introduced to name but a few, the novels succeed in avoiding being preachy, and the experiences of the characters and their relationships are at the heart of each one.
The novels are in the first person, and it’s fascinating to see the world through the eyes of the different characters, and how they interact with each other. Each character brings another perspective and dimension to the table.
Here’s the order of each novella:
1. Tim – Elgan Rhys a Tomos Jones
2. Tami – Mared Roberts a Ceri-Anne Gatehouse
3. Aniq – Margin Elen Wiliam and Mahum Umer
4. Robyn – Iestyn Tyne a Leo Drayton
5. Cat – Megan Angharad Hunter a Maisie Awen
Novels 4 and 5 are the standouts from the series in my opinion. Although it’s perfectly possible to enjoy any of the stories as stand-alones, the best way to enjoy them is as part of a series. You can get the books in a snazzy box-set if you want – quite the bargain at £25!
Teachers – if you’re teaching Welsh in secondary school, please consider introducing these to your classes.
Tir na n-Og Awards
Congratulations to everyone involved in the project on your success at the Tir na n-Og Awards 2022. The judges felt that the series deserved to win, rather than one of the books individually, which I think is a first for the awards.
Well done to the authors, co-authors, editors, mentors, marketers and Y Lolfa for taking a risk and giving the idea a chance. It was a privilege to be at the ceremony in the Urdd Eisteddfod, Denbigh. I could see how much the award meant to each of the ones present. I’m looking forward to seeing future projects from the #YPump writers.