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Hot off the press: What Happened to Serenity? wins inaugural Monica Hughes Award

Photo of Vancouver author and teacher P.J. Sarah Collins sourced from

P.J. Sarah Collins wrote the first draft fourteen years ago. Now, the Vancouver children novelist's What Happened to Serenity? has been recognized with inaugural Monica Hughes Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy, Red Deer Press announced today. It was administered by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre with a prize of $5,000, "honour[ing] excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy writing for children and adolescents”.

“It was a wonderful and completely unexpected surprise,” said Collins, in the press release sent to us by the publishing house mentioned above. “Monica Hughes was part of, what some historians term, the Greatest Generation: those who fought oppression and survived World War 2. I admire and aspire to many of her ideals and it is a huge honour to have my name in the same sentence as hers. I hope the creation of this award brings comfort and pride to her family and encourages a new generation of readers to explore the new worlds she created.

“An engaging blend of science fiction," the jury expressed sheer praise in the release. "Canadian history, adolescent growth and potent regional writing…Collins cleverly combines the strong elements of a good mystery with the frightening possibilities of dystopian YA, and creates a hauntingly beautiful and contrasting worldview of post-apocalypse Canada… Collins’ poetry and prose echo Katherine’s inner conflict with her outer world, giving the reader a thrilling and satisfying read…This is intelligent, compelling, gorgeously written science fiction at its best.”

Collins' book "a haunting story about the search for truth"

Collins’ book features a determined and courageous teen protagonist, Katherine, who lives in a in a post-apocalyptic community completely cut off from the rest of the world. Suspicious about certain contradictions in the order of the Community, Katherine can barely contain her questions—where asking questions is unwelcome, to say the least. But when her best friend’s little sister disappears, Katherine puts everything on the line and goes to extreme lengths to find the truth. What she discovers is anything but what she expected. What Happened to Serenity? is a haunting story about the search for truth and the fight for freedom.

P.J. Sarah Collins is a children’s novelist and teacher living in British Columbia.

Praise for What Happened to Serenity:

"[T]he author does a good job of creating enough suspense to keep readers engaged. The writing is solid, the story is believable and the author has incorporated messages about intellectual and physical freedom, as well as environmental issues…it will appeal to reluctant and young teen readers."
— Canadian Children's Booknews

"Collins weaves an intricate story that keeps readers intrigued and thinking about the meaning of truth and whether being sheltered from it is preferable to hard reality...Collins moves beyond the basic mystery and explores the intricate workings of the mind, the body, and the power of basic knowledge. Her story will keep readers engaged from beginning to end."
— School Library Journal

“An ideal addition to a middle school dystopian literature collection”
— CM Magazine

"A most interesting story for younger readers, who enjoy a tale with a distinct difference. In an odd town a girl named Serenity vanishes. Katherine must find the truth as those in town try to keep their secrets intact. Both creepy and very compelling."
— Shelf Life

"What Happened to Serenity? is a well written, well placed dystopian novel. Collins has created a strong heroine and has created a world that his both familiar and distant...This novel would be a good one for those interested in dystopian societies and for those who are interested in conspiracy theories and the government."
— Resource Links

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