Author Sally Rooney. Photo: Tony Gavin 19/5/2017

Sally Rooney Is the Youngest Author to Win the Costa Novel Award

She beat us to it…

Upon completing a diligent google search of the name, “Sally Rooney,” one thing becomes clear: the internet seems to be unsure of whether this Dublin native is twenty-seven or twenty-eight years of age…but also that this woman has a fire inside of her… The type of fire that propels the rocket of a writer’s heart towards truth. In 2015, Rooney wrote an essay entitled “Even If You Beat Me” which pretty much launched her career. She has described the essay as being a little bit too revealing, but I imagine all writers feel this way when looking back at something written when they were relatively anonymous, before the onslaught of critique and recognition. In her essay, she deconstructs the experience of debating at the university level; she personalizes it in a way that is riveting. The entire essay basically becomes a blunt yet universally resonate metaphor for the pursuit of success.


MRW I get accepted to medical school

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Successful debaters are the most popular, have the most friends, are listened to the most but are ultimately living shallow and lonely lives. Rooney examines the idea of societal disconnect as debaters achieve a phony state of celebrity; sometimes even faking knowledge and experience just to win a game. Her essay emphasizes the importance of understanding the reality of one’s place and living in the real world, being motivated not by greed or comfort but by existential relevance. Be honest and good, help people. At least that’s what I took away from it. I can’t imagine people in the debate community were very happy with her essay but I think it’s awesome. She clearly has a voice that hungers to say something different and real.


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After people read it, they wanted more of whatever she had, so she utilized the before referenced fire and went to work. This eventually led to her debut novel Conversations with Friends (a doomed romance of sorts) which was apparently subject to a seven-party auction for publishing rights (at least according to Wikipedia. Yeah, I used Wikipedia just now. I apologize to everyone who has ever advised against that). Her newest novel, Normal People just won the Costa Novel Award for best book of 2018. Sally Rooney is the youngest author to ever win this award. Hell yeah. Unfortunately, it takes things like awards for people to notice the work of others (ironically), regardless, Normal People is now flying off the shelves in the UK. The novel takes place five years ago and explores the relationship between two characters, Connell and Marianne, who attend the same school in Ireland. That’s really all that needs to be said, read it.


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Sally Rooney is consistently receiving rave reviews for work that focuses on relationships and characters more so than plot. For writing coming of age tales that point a finger at adulthood archetypes. Her editor at Faber and Faber has infamously (someday infamously if Rooney keeps this up) described her as a “Salinger for the Snapchat generation.” She is abundantly real, witty, critical of herself and the world around her. In an interview with Irish Independent, she once said“There is a part of me that will never be happy knowing that I am just writing entertainment, making decorative aesthetic objects at a time of historical crisis.”This sort of thinking contributes to prose that is thoughtfully rooted in realism. Normal People was snubbed by the 2018 Man Booker Prize for Fiction, making the longlist but failing to make the short, however, won the Costa Novel Award anyway; the final sentence of her essay feels appropriate here: “Even if you beat [her], [she’s] still the best.”


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Normal People is about to be adapted by BBC Three with the help of Academy Award-nominated director of Room, Lenny Abrahamson.




Dear Sally,

I’m jealous.

You clearly possess an astute understanding of the lost art that is properly sporting a slick leather jacket.





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