Teenage author Tabitha Rubens has scooped this year's BBC Young Writers Award for her short story 'Super-Powder'.

The 19-year-old from Islington heard her win announced on Radio 4's Front Row on Tuesday. (October 19.)

Judges praised the 'distinct' and 'original' tale about the exploitation of insecurity in teenagers, with Mercury Prize winner and YWA judge Arlo Parks commenting that she loved its "spirit of adventure."

"It is sharp, slightly surreal and the writer’s voice is absolutely original. I see a bright future ahead," she said.

Tabitha's story exposes social media's peddling of insecurities for profit, at a time when young people are struggling with their mental health and self-esteem.

“I wrote ‘Super-Powder’ in April," she said. "After the winter lockdown when mental health in the UK, particularly amongst young people, had been steadily worsening for some time.”

Seeing the devastating effects on friends and family, she set out to write a story about the "baselessness of most insecurities" and how money is made from promoting unrealistic ideals. The tale revolves around a mysterious powder which can make anyone popular, beautiful, and powerful, and the text moves around the page so the reader has to shift gaze to follow them - in the same way that "your attention is manipulated on social media platforms by targeted adverts."

“I was inspired by the world moving online in the pandemic, which exacerbated the idea of everything being conveyed over a social media platform, where you only put across your perfect self," she added: “I wanted to make the point that perfection is a construct rather than an achievable reality.”

Tabitha, who is studying Chinese at Cambridge University, was also shortlisted for the award in 2018. She didn’t win but says it boosted her self-confidence and allowed her not to worry about rejection. Last November, she won the HG Wells International Short Story Competition..

"I try to write joyful stories that still have substance," explains Tabitha, whose own favorite book is My family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell.

“It’s so beautiful and has a poignant message but doesn’t take itself too seriously. I value being able to carry a message, and make a point but without writing something really heavy. There’s enough misery in the world.”

Islington Gazette: Tabitha Rubens celebrating her awardTabitha Rubens celebrating her award (Image: Supplied)

As part of her prize Tabitha will be mentored by acclaimed Irish YA author, Louise O’Neill. In the future Tabitha who is a member of the National Youth Theatre and European Youth Parliament, representing the UK at international forums, would love to work with young people to get their voices heard.

"That's a thing that this award has really done for me. I think young people have a lot to say, but they don’t necessarily have the opportunity to raise their voices.”

The BBC Young Writers’ Award with Cambridge University is open to all writers between 14 - 18 and was created to discover and inspire the next generation of writers. ‘Super-Powder’ is available to listen to on BBC Sounds. Tabitha will be interviewed on Radio 1’s Life Hacks on October 24.