Aspiring by Damien Wilkins wins New Zealand Book Awards Young Adult Fiction category

The Director of Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington's International Institute of Modern Letters has won the 2020 Young Adult Fiction Award with his first novel for younger readers.

Damien Wilkins is the author of thirteen books, including novels, short fiction, poetry and long-form essays, and has won and been shortlisted for local and International literary awards. He has written for theatre and television and released three albums of original music, under the name The Close Readers, but until recently he had never written for young adults.

Aspiring (Annual Ink/Massey University Press, 2020) is the story of Ricky Clemens - fifteen years old, 6'7'' - who's growing at the same alarming rate as his small South Island hometown.  At a moment in his life when his body is outpacing his mind, he is questioning himself and everything around him. The Sapling described it as 'an elaborate yarn told with honesty and hope', and the New Zealand Herald called it  'a must-read'.

The New Zealand Book Awards 2020 judging panel said the novel 'demonstrated a stunning insight into the teenage mind, both in its exploration of character and its respect for the intelligence of its audience'.

The Margaret Mahy Book of the Year was won by former New Zealand Poet Laureate Selina Tusitala Marsh. Due to pandemic concerns, the presentation was held in virtual form on 12 August, enabling a larger audience to hear from the evening's winners, judges and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, among others. Read more about the Awards announcement and all category winners.

Massey University Press: Aspiring

'Aspiring to great heights': Damien Wilkins interviewed (Stuff Books, 7 March 2020)

Victoria University Press author page