The books dished about during the YA Editors’ Buzz Panel included some with multicultural characters, some that unfold in vibrant fantasy worlds, and some that capture pivotal moments of history. The panelists were Karen Chaplin, editor, HarperTeen; T.S. Ferguson, associate editor, Harlequin Teen; Alvina Ling, executive editorial director, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; Daniel Ehrenhaft, editorial director, Soho Teen; and Krista Marino, executive editor, Delacorte Press. The panel was moderated by Valerie Koehler of Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston.
Chaplin discussed The Jewel (HarperTeen, Sept.), the first in a planned fantasy trilogy by debut author Amy Ewing. The novel takes place in a world called the Lone City, whose territories are sharply divided by social class. Violet is meant to serve as a surrogate in the Jewel, the wealthiest quadrant of the Lone City. With fantasy elements and a dusting of feminist polemic, the book may draw comparisons to Kiera Cass’s The Selection (2012).
Lies We Tell Ourselves (Harlequin Teen, Sept.), by debut author Robin Talley, takes place in 1959 Virginia, during the beginnings of the civil rights movement. The story features a protagonist who confronts her deeply embedded racial prejudices when she becomes emotionally involved with a black student. Calling the novel “fearlessly realistic,” Ferguson described how Talley cogently parallels the struggle for equal rights for African-Americans and the fight for gay rights today.
Graudin’s The Walled City (Little, Brown, Nov.) is set in a fictional version of a densely populated settlement that existed in Hong Kong until 1994. It follows a cast of teenaged characters living within a brutal and lawless society. Calling the book “genre bending and gender bending,” Ling noted that despite its edgy themes of human trafficking, drugs, and survival, the novel is fundamentally “a moving and powerful book about sisterly and brotherly love.” Ling jokingly suggested that, with its integration of historical and dystopian elements, the book might fall into a new genre category: “Hystopian? Dystory?” She also praised the book’s multicultural cast and its ability to “walk the lines between reality and fantasy.”
From the squalid maze of the Walled City, the panel shifted focus to the 1960s New York City music scene. Songwriter Cynthia Weil (her credits include “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling”) draws from her own experiences writing music at the Brill Building in her historical YA mystery, I’m Glad I Did (Soho, Jan.). Ehrenhaft commented on Weil’s “acuity in remembering those days” and the way she weaves social commentary about segregation and other issues into the book, as she did into her songs.
Merino introduced author and musician Frank Portman’s King Dork Approximately (Delacorte, Dec.), a sequel to his 2006 novel, King Dork, which Merino purchased based on the character-driven appeal of a small sample (“I bought 50 pages of voice and it was 100% worth it,” she said). The story of high school student Tom Henderson, whose ambitions include playing in a rock band, getting a girlfriend, and discovering why adults love The Catcher in the Rye so much, continues in King Dork Approximately. Merino revealed little about the second book, saying only that Portman “pulls the carpet out from under his readers.”