Despite the wide range of settings and genres, all of the books featured at the Young Adult Editors' Buzz Panel at BEA on Thursday had a common theme: love. Five editors took the stage to talk about their acquisitions, and the common thread was love of all kinds: first love, forbidden love, love from beyond the grave, and, not to be outdone, deadly love.
The panelists were Laura Chasen, associate editor, St. Martin's Griffin; Wendy Loggia, executive editor, Delacorte Press; Arianne Lewin, executive editor, Putnam BFYR; Christian Trimmer, executive editor, S&S BFYR; and Elizabeth Bewley, executive editor, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt BFYR.
Dreams Things True by Marie Marquardt (St. Martin's Griffin, Sept.) is a love story at heart, but also an immigration story, which Laura Chasen called a "hot button issue" that people are talking about. The editor feels particularly close to the issue because she was a teacher in the south years ago, with a class that had a large immigrant population. “This was exactly the book I wish I had when I was teaching a unit on immigration,” she said."It's tough stuff, but really real," she said. While the books has a theme of immigration, Chasen believes that teens from all backgrounds will like the story. "The author humanizes the situation and I can think of no better way to introduce these issues to readers than with the characters of Evan and Alma."
In Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon (Delacorte, Sept.), 17-year-old Maddy hasn't been outside her house in her lifetime because of an allergy to the outside world. When a tall, handsome boy who dresses in all black moves in with his family next door, Maddy's world is never the same. It's not only a forbidden love that grows between Maddy and Olly, but because of medical complications, it's a love that could actually kill her. Editor Loggia described the book as "honest, truthful, and special. It's packed with teen appeal because of its authentic voice."
Wendy Loggia had a strong reaction to the book from the moment she started reading it. In fact, after putting everything aside to read it, just two hours after she began the story, she was in her editor-in-chief’s office saying they had to buy it. But the process of buying the book wasn’t as simple as making an offer; instead, with a number of other houses interested in the project, each prospective editor had a blind date of sorts (on the phone) with Yoon in order for her to figure out who she wanted to work with. As luck would have it, Loggia’s passion won the author over. With the book’s release just a few months away, Loggia’s excitement for the story hasn’t waned. As she put it, “It’s everything, everything we look for in a book.”
Arianne Lewin started going to sleepaway camp when she was nine years old. When other campers were getting involved in different sports, she was out looking for a place to hide away and read. Lewin said it was during these summers of reading (one summer the Baby-sitters Club, years later Stephen King) that set the tone for the kind of reading – and acquiring– she likes to do. Nightfall by Jake Halpern and Peter Kujawinski (Putnam, Oct.) is set on an island where 14 years of daylight is followed by 14 years of darkness. Lewin said the story is exactly what she loves in a story: "part horror story, part love story, part mystery, all in a world that feels real." The novel begins with twins falling for the same girl and the three of them getting trapped on the island, only to find out that the island belong to others when darkness falls. Lewin especially enjoyed working with both authors on the book because of the fun they brought to the project. “There was a boyish competition between the two when they passed the manuscript to each other.”
The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch, Volume 1: At the Edge of Empire by Daniel Kraus (S&S, Oct.) is a genre-mixing novel told by a 17-year-old who died in 1896. Christian Trimmer, the book's editor, said it's a mixture of historical, coming-of-age, and love story. "The book has not only brains and guts but also emotional depth," he said. Trimmer said he was happy to acquire the book after an auction among seven houses. “We’re both from the Midwest and we’re the same age,” he said of the book’s author, and the two got along famously since the beginning. The book clocks in at 656 pages (and this is just volume one of six) and the story covers a wide timespan, but Trimmer said, “Every detail was meticulously researched.” In fact, the author had the idea for the book for years but didn’t think he’d have time to write it. “He gave up a lot to write the book,” said Trimmer.
For years, Elizabeth Bewley said that when asked what kinds of books she was looking to acquire, she would always say, “realistic young adult fiction.” After working on This Raging Light by Estelle Laure (HMH, Jan.), Bewley has a new answer: authentic young adult fiction. The book, she said,is more than just a romance. "It's a love story, but it also deals with the complexities of friendship," she said. "But even more than that, it's authentic." Seventeen-year-old Lucille is pushed into adulthood when her parents abandon her and her nine-year-old sister. And to complicate things, Lucille falls for her best friend's brother. "I was swept away by the romance," said Bewley, "but it also made me recall the anxieties of growing up. I love that the book lets readers think about their own definition of growing up."
Click here to see our writeup of the Middle Grade Editors' Buzz Panel.