Debut author Rosie Rowell and her editor Emily Thomas were announced as the winners of the 2015 Branford Boase Award for Leopold Blue (Hot Key) at an award ceremony on July 9 at Walker Books in London.

Leopold Blue, a coming-of-age story that captures the pleasure and pain that balancing family and friends bring in adolescence, draws on Rowell’s own experience of growing up in Cape Town, South Africa. AIDS, racial harmony and discrimination, and small-town prejudices provide the backdrop to 15-year-old Meg’s life.

Awarding the prize to Rowell, C.J. Flood, last year’s winner, said “Leopold Blue spoke to each of the judges so deeply it made it feel as though it were written for us especially. It is a book so understated and vivid and unique that we each felt that perhaps we were the only one who truly got it, when in fact, we had all fallen in love with the place, the characters and the writing. The mark of a truly exceptional book.”

Speaking to PW on winning the award, Rowell said, “The Branford Boase Award is unique in that it recognizes and celebrates the journey of writing and not just the end result. Winning it is a huge honor and validation of the writing life.”

Rowell, who came to the U.K. after studying at the University of Cape Town, recently completed a M.A. in Creative and Life Writing at Goldsmiths University of London. Her second title, Almost Grace, was published in June 2015.

Editor Emily Thomas is one of the founding team of Hot Key Books. She has previously worked as a children’s nonfiction and fiction editor in Kingfisher and Hodder Children’s Books.

Launched 16 years ago, the Branford Boase Award is presented annually to a debut author and their editor in memory of author Henrietta Branford and her editor Wendy Boase. Previous authors who have won the Award include Marcus Sedgwick, Mal Peet, Meg Rosoff, and Annabel Pitcher; previous editors include David Fickling, Fiona Kennedy, Barry Cunningham, Venetia Gosling and Rebecca McNally.