The £30,000 Orange Prize is the FUBU of awards: an all-female judges’ panel picks a winner from a roster of books by female authors including the likes of Toni Morrison. The panel picked Home, by Marilynne Robinson as this year’s winner.
Of course, a gender-driven prize could not exist without some controversy. In 2001, an all-male shadow panel was set up to hedge criticism of the ladies’ only award. The men picked their winner and the women picked theirs, with the men’s choice bearing no weight on the actual award. This year, there’s been a lot of focus on youth reading and the meaning of Young Adult fiction. While some authors think it’s slight be called a YA author, others earn acclaim for and revel in the title (*cough* John Green *cough*). So another shadow panel was set up, this time with teens ages 16-19—male and female—to judge the books on the Orange longlist. Again, their choice would not impact the actual winner. The kids chose Blonde Roots, by Bernadine Evaristo.
According to The Guardian, both shadow panels had the same complaint about the “legitimate” shortlists, with the men saying the judges favored “worthy books about issues which we found anathema,” and the teens, putting it more bluntly, “don’t like the shortlist. It just looks like a bunch of books women would read.” Which is, indeed, the point.