The final Editors’ Picks panel for the U.S. Book Show on May 27 spotlighted big YA titles coming out this fall, moderated by PW reviewer Sanina Clark. Joining Clark were the eight editors of the books discussed: Tor Teen editor Ali Fisher presenting All of Us Villains by Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman; Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers editor Kendra Levin on Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World by Benjamin Alire Sáenz; Dial editor Dana Chidiac on Huda F Are You? by Huda Fahmy; Candlewick editor Andrea Tompa on Revolution in Our Time by Kekla Magoon; Levine Querido editor Nick Thomas on A Snake Falls to Earth by Darcie Little Badger; HarperCollins/Tegen editor Katherine Tegen on Terciel and Elinor by Garth Nix; Little, Brown Books for Young Readers editor Alexandra Hightower on We Are Not Broken by George M. Johnson; and Bloomsbury editor Mary Kate Castellani on We Light Up the Sky by Lilliam Rivera.
Kicking off the panel, the editors shared what their title is about and why it stood out to them. Castellani stated, “What I love most about this book [We Light Up the Sky] is Liliam’s modern and inclusive take on classic sci-fi storytelling.”
Chidiac had been a fan of Fahmy’s webcomics for a long time, “the way that she [Fahmy] makes jokes about identity and about other people assuming they know who you are based on the way you look.”
Fisher recalled how “basically everyone at Tor Teen went wild for [All of Us Villains]; we all became obsessed”; and the same enthusiasm was had by Hightower “when I brought this project [We Are Not Broken] to my acquisitions team. All of Little, Brown BFYR was just so excited.”
“It’s such a groundbreaking book for so many teens,” Levin said of her pick Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World, “especially teens on the LGBTQ+ spectrum; it told a story that hadn’t been told enough.”
The panel then segued to a q&a section with the attendees. Topics ranged from trends that the editors are seeing in YA, in particular the types of genres (“the golden age of memoirs” as observed by Thomas) and characters, to how fandom has shaped the book market. “[There has been an] enormous increase in diversity and voices and formats,” Tompa states. “What’s considered YA is really broadening as well,” Thomas pointed out. Levin added that romances are also big. Especially “more books that are depicting love stories that we weren’t able to see [before].”
Social media, especially young readers on TikTok, was another prominent subject. “We are following the teens wherever they are,” Levin said. “We have to be really responsive. The digital space is bigger and bigger.” “They can smell when it’s not genuine,” Hightower continued. “There’s a lot of backlist that we’re seeing that they’ve been reading or they’re finding again.” Chidiac observed, “Algorithms on all social media sites are impossible to crack but TikTok is its own special thing.” Fisher added, “I think it’s very cool and fun to see the people behind the book, because publishing is such a big scary wall of industry and a lot of people are enjoying seeing the folks who are marketing the books.”
When asked about the balancing act in publishing books written primarily for teens that also appeal to adults, the editors agreed that the priority “has to be for the teens first and foremost,” as Tompa stated.
“I do feel there is perhaps a need for more adult coming of age books,” Fisher suggested. “We’re all coming of age in different ways,” Chidiac agreed, “especially when thinking about books that are about marginalized identities, so often the adult readers’ reactions to those books is, ‘Oh I wish I had this when I was a teenager.’ ”
The future of YA looks to be a promising one, according to the editors. “I feel like the quality of publishing has gone up so much over the past 10 years,” Tegen said. “And I just see it getting better and better and better.”
Fisher added, “It feels like it’s more accessible than ever. You can find agents on Twitter.”
“[There is] more opportunity for people who have been historically been shut out of the industry,” Levin concluded. “And while I think we would all like it to be happening more quickly, it is happening nonetheless and I think it’s going to keep happening.”