What would we do without our best friends? How did our first crushes make us feel, and did they meet our expectations? What role do “frenemies” play in our social life? These issues and more will be the focus of this afternoon’s #IReadYA panel “Book Besties,” which features three of Scholastic’s most popular YA novelists—Francisco X. Stork, Maggie Stiefvater, Aimee Friedman—along with debut novelist Jeffery Self. Fans will have the opportunity to meet the authors and question them about love, lasting friendships, and the authors themselves.

“You might say that these early relationships are the origin stories of ourselves,” says David Levithan, author and editorial director of Scholastic, who will moderate the panel. “They help define our own identities,” he continues. “I chose these four authors because there is an emotional truth in how they write young adult realism, and I always feel for the characters in Maggie Stiefvater’s [urban fantasies].” The four authors may have different approaches to identity and relationships, but they agree that the teen years provide the context for lifelong friendships and initial self-awareness.

Stork’s latest book, The Memory of Light, was released in January. “In this book, I tried to create a suspenseful, interesting, and hopeful story about a young girl with depression,” he says. He thinks adolescence is a profoundly important time in one’s life. “It’s when our lifelong apprenticeship on love begins,” he says. “Here’s where the true struggle against selfishness starts and where, if all goes well, we discover others as separate beings worthy of respect and independence.”

Stievfater, meanwhile, was inspired early on by the characters created by fantasy author Diana Wynn Jones. “I identified with all of them as people I could get in trouble with,” she says, “especially Howl. He’s such a drama queen.” She still has very strong friendships with the people she met in her teens. “Friends are our mirrors, and also our opposites. The worst thing is to stop being friends with someone,” says Stiefvater, whose new book, The Raven King (Apr.), is the final installment in her series the Raven Cycle. “I expect there will be a lot of questions about the end of the Cycle during the panel.”

Self is an American actor and writer, whose debut novel is Drag Teen (Apr.). The story centers on a boy who needs money for his college tuition and enters a drag queen contest with hopes to win the first place cash prize. “When you’re young and in that age of discovery, all of your experiences take on a more profound effect and stick to you like glue,” he says. “It’s important to honor those experiences as you continue to grow up.”

Friedman, author of many YA bestsellers whose new book is Two Summers (Apr.), echoes Self’s assessment: “I like to say that adolescence is a time of ‘intense firsts.’ First crushes, first kisses, first heartaches,” she says. “And firsts, for better or worse, serve as a kind of template for all that follows. Sometimes we try to re-create the magic of those firsts; sometimes we try to reverse them. But we’re always guided by them as we grow up, and fall in and out of love.”

As Stork describes it, the “Book Besties” panel will be mindful of the truth that teens are individuals. “The insights gained in our teens on what it means to be a human being are the seeds we will water the rest of our lives,” he says.

BookCon’s #IReadYA panel “Book Besties” takes place in room W475, 5:15–6:15 p.m.

This article appeared in the May 14, 2016 edition of PW BEA Show Daily.