On May 31, the 2018 YA Buzz authors—all BookExpo first-timers, hailing from Ontario, Paris, Northern California, and Kansas City, Mo.—take to the stage to talk about their forthcoming novels. Here’s an advance clip of what event attendees are likely to hear, beginning with each novelist’s capsule description of his or her book.
Darius the Great Is Not Okay (Dial, Aug.)
Darius, a nerdy, depressed, 15-year-old Iranian-American, visits his mother’s hometown of Yazd, Iran, for the first time, and has his sense of self transformed through discovering his heritage and connecting with a true friend for the first time.
I was inspired to write the novel when I was visiting my own family in Vancouver for Nowruz [the Persian New Year]. Since I was raised in the U.S. and most of them were raised in Iran, I’ve always felt a certain disconnect with my family, but also deep, deep love. I wanted to explore those conflicting emotions. I think I was 13 when I first got the writing bug, but I’ve been doing it more seriously since 2013. Of everything I’ve ever written, Darius was the easiest, most joyous writing experience. It poured out of me in a way I doubt I’ll ever experience again.
The Girl King (Bloomsbury, Jan. 2019)
The Girl King is an Asian-inspired high fantasy about imperialism, sisterhood, and magic.
I actually first started thinking about this book when I was a teenager. It was just a pencil-sketch of a scene: two enemies, a girl and a boy, meet in the deep of a forest and emerge as allies. But it stayed with me, and the characters grew over time.
When I seriously revisited the idea, I was very influenced by campaigns like We Need Diverse Books. The world in this book embodies a lot of contradictions that are inherent to who I am as the author: I’m writing an East and North Asian–inspired world, but from the point of view of a U.S.-born, Korean-American millennial, with all the specific baggage and ignorances of that particular epistemic gap. There was a lot to be mindful of at every step.
Sadie (St. Martin’s/Wednesday, Sept.)
Sadie is a gritty thriller about a girl on the hunt for her sister’s killer and the investigative journalism podcast that’s following the clues left behind.
I’m fascinated by how we consume true crime as a form of entertainment. What is the potential personal cost of telling these stories? How well are we serving the narratives of subjects who are often no longer around to tell us what happened?
When I realized Sadie could explore both of these questions in the way it was told—via podcast transcripts and a traditional first-person narrative—I had to write it. Sadie marks my first time exploring two different points of view. Having them work together to propel the story while maintaining as much tension as possible was more challenging than I expected. It was a real balancing act, but it was incredibly rewarding when it came together.
Girls of Paper and Fire (Little, Brown/Jimmy Patterson, Nov.)
Set in an Asian-inspired fantasy world where a Demon King takes human girls for concubines, this is the story of the forbidden love between two of the girls and how far they are willing to fight for their freedom—and each other.
It’s a novel about love and friendship, about trauma and despair, about finding hope in the most hopeless of times. More than anything, it’s a story about female oppression and empowerment. I wanted to write a novel which explored real-life issues women face, things that I have personally experienced, but set in a fantasy context. And I wanted that fantasy world to be familiar to me as a mixed-race, British-Chinese girl who grew up between the U.K. and Malaysia. I’m so glad we’re seeing more and more diverse YA fantasies, and that my book adds to the growing list.
The Similars (Sourcebooks Fire, 2019)
The Similars tells the story of Emma, who arrives at boarding school freshly grieving the death of her best friend, only to come face-to-face with his clone—one of a breed of clones called Similars. As she’s pulled deep into his and the other Similars’ orbit, she uncovers dark, unsettling truths about their secrets.
A few years ago, the idea of clones arriving at a high school came to me in a flash, and I knew right away it was a story I wanted to read, so therefore, had to write. I’ve wanted to write a YA novel for ages, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that I committed to writing The Similars full-time. Getting this story onto the page has been all-consuming at times, and thrilling—like keeping my own exciting secret—and I can’t wait to share it with readers.