Six editors touted their favorite fall teen reads at the YA Editors Buzz panel during BEA with what can best be described as naked passion – the tone set by a story from Jennifer Weis from St. Martin’s about how she came to acquire Infinite Days by debut author Rebecca Maizel.
Weis read the book, about a 500-year-old vampire who chooses to become human again, the day the manuscript arrived from agent Matt Hudson of the William Morris Agency. “There was a lyricism to this author’s voice that elevated the storytelling and showed a real command of language,” Weis said. She had a long editorial conversation with Maizel before submitting a bid for a Friday afternoon auction – which she lost. Weis was crushed.
“Saturday afternoon, I had just gotten out of the shower, and the agent called to say, ‘My client woke up this morning and thinks she made a terrible mistake,’ ” Weis recalled. “I was in a towel and the towel dropped.” Maizel signed with Weis instead; rights have been sold in seven languages. St. Martin’s grassroots campaign will include giving away copies at movie theaters during the opening weekend of Eclipse.
“I don’t have nudity in my acquisition story but I can add some if you like,” is how Julie Strauss-Gabel, Dutton’s associate publisher, began her pitch for Matched by another first-time novelist, Ally Condie.
Though she was on maternity leave, Strauss-Gabel said yes when agent Jodi Reamer called to ask if she could send her a manuscript. “When Jodi tells me she has something for me, I take it really, really seriously,” said Strauss-Gabel, who downloaded the manuscript to her Kindle intending only to read enough to have something constructive to say when she said no. Instead, she stunned the office by calling to say she was going to buy a book they hadn’t known she was reading. “Newborn babies make a fabulous rest for a Kindle.”
Condie’s novel is set in a futuristic society that is “pretty damn perfect and a rather nice place to be,” Strauss-Gabel said. At 17, teenagers attend a “match banquet,” during which their perfect mate is revealed. But Cassie’s mate is a good friend she’s known all her life – she’s much more interested in another boy – one with “some dangerous secrets.”
Strauss-Gabel praised Condie’s extraordinary writing. “You will not want to stop reading, which is good because we have two more coming.”
Arthur Levine of Scholastic set the bar fairly high when he began his remarks about Plain Kate by Erin Bow by saying that because he had a hand in bringing Brian Jacques, Philip Pullman and J.K. Rowling to U.S. audiences, “I’ve been sent a lot of fantasy, some of it quite good. But it’s very rare for a book to stand out for me the way Plain Kate did.”
The story of a girl who loses her father and is imperiled by suspicions that she is a witch, Levine said Bow’s prose has the “lyrical strength and classic proportions” of master writers. “She is a truly original talent,” Levine said, evidenced by a “breathless e-mail” he got from an associate at the most recent London Book Fair who said Printz Award winner Meg Rosoff had read Plain Kate and couldn’t stop raving about it. Rosoff’s blurb – “anything but plain, full of poetry, magic, sorrow and joy” – will be on the cover.
The DUFF, said Cindy Eagan, editorial director of the Poppy imprint at Little, Brown, is the “designated ugly fat friend,” a term she hadn’t heard but the younger editorial assistants at Poppy had. Author Kody Keplinger had heard it, too – in the hallways of the high school she graduated from last year. The 18-year-old, now a college freshman, wrote a story “so honest and so funny,” Eagan said it reminded her of The Catcher in the Rye.
The novel follows the evolving relationship of two “enemies with benefits” who come to sincerely care for each other after starting off on the very wrong foot when Bianca hears Wesley call her a DUFF.
“I’m always interested in stories that are about what it’s like to be a teenager today,” Eagan said. “There’s a great feminist message, too.”
Panel moderator Jack Martin, assistant director of public programs and lifelong learning at the New York Public Library, introduced HarperTeen editor Farrin Jacobs by saying her title, Firelight by Sophie Jordan, was “steamy.” The novel is about Jacinda, a dragon who can change into human form, whose life is saved in the opening pages by a “very hot” dragon hunter.
“Jacinda then goes into the real world in her human form and who does she see – actually she feels him before she sees him – across the hallway at school but the boy who just saved her life,” Jacobs explained. Firelight is the first book in a planned trilogy.
Following the book pitches, the editors answered questions posed by Martin until one of the panelists, Levine, came up with a question of his own for Jacobs: “When dragons have sex, does fire come out of their nose?”
Jacobs shot back with what every editor was hoping they’d convinced the audience to do. “Arthur,” she said, “you will have to read the book.”