As five editors talked up their favorite YA fall releases to a packed room of about 200 people during the YA Editor’s Buzz panel at BEA, a few things became clear: these books are what happens when editors want titles that reflect elements of Twilight, The Hunger Games and Harry Potter. This fall, it’s all about multi-layered thrills, chills, adventure, and romance, mixed in with the paranormal.
Nothing is as it seems to be in the worlds created in Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor (Little, Brown); Au Revoir Crazy European Chick by Joe Schreiber (Houghton Mifflin); Carrier of the Mark by Leigh Fallon (HarperCollins); The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin (Simon & Schuster); and Down the Mysterly River by Bill Willingham (Tor). In fact, moderator Jack Martin of the New York Public Library declared at one point, the novels “deal with real problems real kids have” – though “amplified.”
“It’s a tough book to summarize,” Alvina Ling of Little, Brown admitted, before praising Daughter of Smoke & Bone as a novel that’s “sophisticated yet accessible,” as well as “mysterious and strange.” It’s “unlike every other book you’ve ever read,” she added. Comparing the main character, Karou, to Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Ling described Karou as essentially a girl with mysterious powers who’s just “trying to find herself” as she falls into a star-crossed romance.
Carrier of the Mark revolves about Megan, a girl who’s just moved to Ireland, where she falls in love with the mysterious Adam. But they are two of four “marked ones,” editor Erica Sussman of HarperCollins explained, with powers linked to the natural elements; their romance threatens the entire world.
Au Revoir Crazy European Chick, is, editor Margaret Raymo of Houghton Mifflin says, “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo meets Ferris Bueller with a dash of John Green,” as a suburbanite kid takes a geeky Lithuanian exchange student to his high school prom in New York City. But she turns out to be a trained assassin, and the two embark on an adventure as he tries to foil her plans. “It’s an intelligent, fast-paced thriller,” Raymo said, “And it really captures New York City at its best. It’s the city that never sleeps; anything is possible here.”
Introducing Courtney Bongiolatti of Simon & Schuster, moderator Martin declared, “Let’s move from the hilarious to the twisted.” Bongiolatti obliged by outlining the plot of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, one of the “sexiest, most exciting mysteries” she’s ever read. “The ending threw me for a loop,” she said of the tale of a girl who wakes up from a coma after an accident in which her friends are killed, not knowing what happened.
Like Mara Dyer, Max, the main character in Down the Mysterly River doesn’t know what happened either, when he finds himself in a forest populated by talking animals. Before long, Max and his friends are on the run, fleeing from hunters who want to change their very essence. “It’s a story with unforgettable characters,” editor Susan Chang declared, explaining that the author is a big fan of Edgar Rice Burroughs. “It’s the kind of fiction that comes out of the pulp fiction tradition.”
The panelists certainly did their job in drumming up excitement for their fall releases. After the session ended, the audience – much younger than typical BEA attendees, as many seemed to be book bloggers and junior employees at publishing houses, rather than booksellers or librarians – surged towards sealed boxes of books in a back corner of the hall. When no official representative appeared to cut open the boxes of books and distribute them, a few attendees tore open the boxes and handed stacks of books to others, who passed them back through the eager crowd until the books were gone.