Bernard Beckett writes fiction and drama for children and young adults, and also works as a secondary-school teacher. Beckett’s teaching role affords him a comprehensive understanding of teenage culture, and his credible adolescent characters evidence this understanding. He has published numerous novels, winning many awards for his fiction - including the Young Adult Fiction Category of the 2005 New Zealand Post Book Awards and the 2005 Esther Glen Award at the LIANZA Childrens Book Awards. His novel Genesis, which won the Young Adult Category in the 2007 New Zealand Post Book Awards, made publishing history when UK publisher Quercus Books offered the largest advance ever for a young adult novel in New Zealand.
Bernard Beckett (1967 –) is a children's writer and secondary school teacher, whose knowledge of teenage culture is reflected in his believable adolescent characters.
His first novel for young adults is Lester (1999). The novel traces the relationship between 16-year-old Michael and Lester, a tramp who returns to the fictional New Zealand town of Langton just as an evangelical mission is becoming established. Jill Holt said of the novel: ‘This is an accomplished first novel that realistically portrays teenagers' concerns (including sex) and shows them conscientiously engaged in their own town’ ( NZ Listener).
In 2000, Red Cliff (2000) became Beckett’s second published novel. It tells the humorous story of how a teenage boy's attempts to ‘beef up’ and impress the most popular girl in the school go awry.
Beckett describes his chilling psychological thriller Jolt (2002) as ‘a novel about revenge'. Jolt was a finalist in the senior fiction category at the 2002 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults .It was also included in the 2002 Storylines Notable Senior Fiction List.
No Alarms (2002) revolves around Sharon, a frustrated teen who hates her home life, is in trouble at school, and blames the system for her failures. For its nuanced and perceptive representation of the New Zealand teenager, the novel was listed as a 2003 Storylines Notable Senior Fiction Book.
Beckett has also written numerous large- and small- cast plays for his students at Hutt Valley High School. Three of these were published in a single-volume work titled 3 Plays: Puck, Plan 10 from Outer Space, The End of the World As We Know It (2003), which provides 'twisted new takes on the business of being a teenager.'
In the same year, Beckett’s book Home Boys was released. Set in London immediately following World War Two, the novel captures the struggles of Colin and Dougal to find a ‘home’ halfway across the world.
Malcolm and Juliet (Longacre Press, 2004) is a comedic novel about Malcolm, a 16-year-old with the mind of a scientist, the body of a teenager, and a desire to reconcile the two via his latest research project: sex.
Malcolm and Juliet won Best in Young Adult Fiction at the 2005 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. It also received the Esther Glen Award at the 2005 LIANZA Children's Book Awards. The judges said of the novel: 'Malcolm and Juliet combines quirky humour with a sophisticated literary and theatrical style elevating the story into something more than simply farce or satire. Cleverly and tightly plotted with strong dialogue reflecting the novel’s origins in a stage-play, this book challenges readers and keeps them guessing. Loose ends are tied up in an appropriately stylised, Shakespearean way.' Malcom and Juliet was listed as a 2005 Storylines Notable Young Adult Fiction Book.
Beckett co-wrote Deep Fried (Longacre Press, 2005), with Clare Knighton, one of his former students. Deep Fried tackles controversial themes by fusing a satiric narration with the plot elements of a thriller. It was nominated in the young adult category for the 2006 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, and was also listed as a 2006 Storylines Notable Young Adult Fiction Book.
Beckett’s sci-fi novel Genesis – which the author acknowledges as the best-known of his novels - was published in 2006. Genesis details a dystopian world in which Anaximander must vie for a place at The Academy by participating in a gruelling examination. For Genesis, Beckett received the Young Adult Fiction Award at the 2007 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, and the Esther Glen Award at the LIANZA Children's Book Awards. Genesis was also listed as a 2007 Storylines Notable Young Adult Fiction Book. The novel has been published in 22 countries.
In 2010 he won another accolade for Genesis, this time France’s prestigious Prix Sorcieres.
His young adult novel August was published in 2011 by Text Publishing. It is the second in a series of three books, the first of which was Genesis.
Beckett was the 2012 Writer in Residence at Victoria University of Wellington.
In 2015, Beckett’s novel Lullaby was released. Incorporating many of the scientific and philosophical elements present in the author’s earlier works, Lullaby tells the tale of identical twins Theo and Rene, who together must navigate a situation of which the consequences are life or death. Lullaby was a finalist for the Young Adult Fiction Award in the 2016 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.
Beckett currently resides in Wellington.
Last updated September 2016.
- Bernard Beckett's website
- Bernard Beckett: Playing with the rules of YA gravity - Book Council e-newsletter interview
- Bernard Beckett's Text Publishing profile
- Home Boys features in the Winter 2004 Issue of BRAT: Books for Readers and Teachers
- Interview with Christchurch City Libraries
- Jolt - Random House
- Bernard Beckett on the National Library’s transformation of its services to schools
- Bernard Beckett on what reading brings humanity
- Do New Zealand books make the grade in classrooms?