BookExpo attendees will learn what’s hot in YA at the Young Adult Editors’ Buzz Panel on Thursday, June 1, when five editors will wax enthusiastic about upcoming debuts about which they are especially passionate. Here is a preview, including editors’ thoughts on the value of this annual forum for generating early excitement. The panel will be moderated by Heather Hebert, owner of Children’s Book World in Haverford, Pa.
Connie Hsu, senior editor of Roaring Brook Press, on Tillie Walden’s Spinning
This is an atmospheric and gorgeously written and illustrated graphic novel memoir about competitive figure skating, growing up in the South, first love, and coming out. Tillie’s storytelling and art are so evocative and filled with sensory detail that she’s able to reach readers universally and emotionally, even if the specifics of their lives are different from her characters’.
The maturity in her narration and voice also belies her youth; at just 20 years old, Tillie is one of the few YA authors just months away from her teenage years, lending even more authenticity to her modern LGBTQ young adult voice.
Ben Schrank, president and publisher, Razorbill, on Beasts Made of Night by Tochi Onyebuchi
This novel is set in the walled city of Kos, where corrupt mages can magically call forth sin from a sinner in the form of sin-beasts—lethal creatures spawned from feelings of guilt. Taj is the most talented of the young sin-eaters indentured by the mages to slay the sin-beasts. But when he’s suddenly thrust into the center of a dark conspiracy to destroy Kos, Taj must fight to save the princess who he loves, and his own life.
Tochi Onyebuchi is a fantastic talent, and we’re so, so proud to have him on the Razorbill list. Assistant editor Jessica Harriton and I have been cultivating this book carefully for a long while now. The blurbs we’ve received for the novel, and the enthusiasm that’s building both in-house and out, are testaments to Tochi’s stunning concept, his wonderful prose, and the fact that he’s just a pleasure to be around.
Krestyna Lypen, editor, Algonquin Young Readers, on All the Wind in the World by Samantha Mabry
Sarah Jacqueline Crow and James Holt have fallen in love while working in the fields that span a bone-dry Southwest, a land that’s magical, dangerous, and bursting with secrets. To protect themselves, they’ve learned to work hard and—above all—to keep their love hidden from the people who would use it against them. But when a horrible accident forces them both to start over on a new, possibly cursed, ranch, the delicate balance of their lives begins to give way—and they’re forced to pay a frighteningly high price for their love.
Samantha Mabry transports you to another world; her sense of place is breathtaking. In All the Wind in the World, you feel the blistering desert sun beating down on you and the wind whipping violently past. She’s also able to craft compelling and complex characters whom, despite their flaws, you can’t help rooting for, and she definitely knows her way around a swoony, forbidden romance. In other words, this is everything I want in a young adult novel: a thrilling and atmospheric read with a touch of magic, all wrapped up in lush, urgent prose.
Joy Peskin, division v-p and editorial director, FSG Books for Young Readers, on Dashka Slater’s The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives
This true story was first chronicled in a story Dashka Slater wrote for the New York Times Magazine, which is artfully, compassionately, and expertly expanded upon here. If it weren’t for the 57 bus, Sasha and Richard never would have met. Both were high school students in Oakland, Calif., but they inhabited different worlds. Sasha lived in the middle-class foothills and attended a small private school. Richard lived in the crime-plagued flatlands and attended a large public one. After school each day, their paths overlapped on the bus for a mere eight minutes. But one afternoon, a single reckless act left Sasha severely burned and Richard charged with two hate crimes and facing life imprisonment.
The case garnered international attention, thrusting both teenagers into the spotlight. In her book, the author shows that what might at first seem like a simple matter of right and wrong, justice and injustice, victim and criminal is something more complicated—and far more heartbreaking. This book is essentially about everything that matters most to me: race, class, gender, identity, morality, crime, punishment, and forgiveness. It’s also about bias, both explicit and implicit.
Phoebe Yeh, editor and co-publisher, Crown Books for Young Readers, on Dear Martin by Nic Stone
Justyce, the top student at a fancy private school, is usually just contending with microaggressions from kids at school. But when he starts getting profiled by cops, it’s the last straw. He’s grown up on the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.—except now he’s not sure if they really hold up. Dear Martin is a thought-provoking coming-of-age novel about what it means to be an African-American male teen in the U.S. today.
The first time I read this book, I was taken with Nic’s fresh, original voice. I am a sucker for voice, and I thought how Nic captured Justyce’s voice was pitch perfect, word perfect. The novel is set in the present, and obviously Dr. King is deceased. I thought Justyce’s “letters” to him were a cool way to introduce the civil rights context and its relevance to readers today.
Thursday, June 1, 10–10:50 a.m. The YA Buzz Panel takes place in Room 1E12/1E13/1E14.