The eighth annual YALLWEST, the largest YA and middle grade book festival in the country, took place April 29–30 at Santa Monica High School in Santa Monica, Calif. This marked the first in-person YALLWEST since April 2019. Co-founders Melissa de la Cruz and Margaret Stohl, along with festival producer Shane Pangburn and middle grade director Pseudonymous Bosch (aka Raphael Simon), welcomed more than 10,000 readers and fans to Saturday’s panels and signing. In addition, 700 students from local Title I schools were provided transportation, lunch, and book vouchers as a part of the festival’s school partnerships program. We’ve gathered a selection of highlights from the events. All photos by Gina Clyne, unless otherwise noted.

Excited readers descended on Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade for the Fierce Friday signing event sponsored by Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group on behalf of their authors. All attendees observed Covid-19 protocols.

(From l.): Melissa de la Cruz and Margaret Stohl, along with board members Victoria Aveyard and Soman Chainani, and Aveyard’s fiancé, Jordan, attended the Friday night kickoff party at Stohl’s Santa Monica home. Photo: Sam Roach.

YA authors Tracy Deonn (l.) and Chloe Gong opened the festival on Saturday with the morning keynote at Santa Monica High School’s Barnum Hall.

Author-illustrator and festival producer Shane Pangburn (l.) illustrated the annual Storyball, hosted by Pseudonymous Bosch (not pictured), with a little help from son Pangburn’s son Ezra.

Student readers chose their own books for purchase with vouchers provided by YALLWEST, as part of the festival’s school partnership program.

(From l.): Authors V.E. Schwab, Tahereh Mafi, and Ransom Riggs shared the mic at the Sequels & Expectations panel.

(From l.): Author and game developer Lewis Peterson moderated game, tech, comics, and prose authors and editors Cookie Hiponia, Charlie Jane Anders, Jeanine Schaefer, Christine Thompson, and (not pictured) Sam Maggs and Abigail Hing Wen at the Digital Future of Story panel.

Dhonielle Clayton and Pseudonymous Bosch at the middle grade keynote.

Volunteers cheerfully staffed a full day of author signings on the campus’s sunny Science Quad.

The SCBWI staff with author Adam Silvera: (from l.) Sarah Diamond, Chelsea Hall, Silvera, and Avery Silverberg.

Authors Adalyn Grace (l.) and Stephanie Garber (r.) with SCBWI’s Tammy Brown.

Jason June reads his juvenilia on stage at the annual Smackdown.

The all-author cast of the Smackdown took the stage at Barnum Hall to close out the day.