In the basement of the Jacob J. Javits center, a panel of editors looked out at a completely packed room. Dozens of chairs were filled with eager YA fans – other editors, agents, publicists, bloggers and regular readers alike – to listen to what the editors had to say about their favorite upcoming YA titles. Those who couldn’t find seats lined the edge of the room, not letting the lack of chairs keep them away from what may be the next big thing in YA lit.
This year’s Young Adult Editors’ Buzz panel at BookExpo America, a yearly professional conference that allows publishers a chance to showcase the titles they’re most excited for in the upcoming year, featured five editors at five different publishing imprints, each talking about the books they were most excited about in the upcoming year. This year, the BEA Young Adult Editors’ Buzz Books panel ran on Thursday, May 28. A secondary panel with authors of the buzz books ran the next day.
Associate editor Lauren Chasen from St. Martin’s Griffin couldn’t stop gushing about Marie Marquardt’s Dream Things True, which releases this September. Dream Things True follows Evan, a wealthy Southern boy, who falls in love with an undocumented Mexican girl named Alma. The book warmed Chasen’s heart – it was a story about a topic she believed in that readers “can’t help but be inspired” by.
“[Dream Things True is] a book that might change the world,” said Chasen, calling it a “conversation starter” that adds an important voice to the [immigration]conversation. “It gives a voice by telling a love story – a really good one.”
But Dream Things True wasn’t the only love story to come out of the Young Adult Editors’ Buzz panel this year. Almost every story featured a romantic element in some way.
For Wendy Loggia, the executive editor of Delacorte Press, the romance in Nicola Yoon’s Everything, Everything was something she couldn’t pass up. Everything, Everything is about a girl named Maddy whose disease leaves her allergic to the world. Though unable to leave her house, things change for her when a boy named Olly moves in next door.
“It was sprinkled with fairy dust from the moment it arrived. … [Everything, Everything] is everything, everything you look for in a book,” laughed Loggia.
According to Loggia, everybody in Delacorte who read the book loved it, and Loggia had to put aside all of her work to read it in one sitting. She described it as being “for anybody who likes contemporary, Rainbow Rowell, [and]forbidden romance” – and with how many tote bags and galleys they gave away at BookExpo America, there’s no doubting they want this September title to succeed.
Romance also belonged to This Raging Light by Estelle Laure, which Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers’ executive editor Elizabeth Bewley loved, and which will hit shelves in January 2016. When Lucille’s mother disappears, she and her sister try to deal with the consequences, but things become complicated when Lucille falls for her best friend’s older brother.
Bewley’s attraction to the story came, in part, from the honest and raw writing from Estelle Laure. “Writers are willing to get hurt,” said Bewley. “To rage.”
Even the epic sci-fi novel The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch, Volume 1: At The Edge of Empire by Daniel Kraus – a book the size as the four other editors’ picks combined – started with an element of romance. Christian Trimmer, the executive editor of Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, explained that lead Zebulon Finch is caught in a tangled romance that ends very abruptly when he dies – and is then brought back to life.
The story begins in 1989, “where he was shot and murdered,” and then finds himself alive again. But Zebulon is found and sold to a circus and starts living his life through American history. The entire story is Zebulon’s memoir of his life – or, rather, his second life – one last recording of it all before he passes. The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch, Volume 1: At The Edge of Empire releases in October.
— Indigo Teen (@IndigoTeen) May 28, 2015
The only editor who didn’t mention romance as being a part of the plot was executive editor Arianne Lewin of G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers. Her pick was Nightfall by Jake Halpern and Peter Kujawinski, a fantastical horror story that will hit shelves in October.
In Nightfall, Marin lives on an island where sunrise only comes every 28 years. The townspeople flee on boats to wait out the long Night. And since none of the adults will tell Marin and her friends what happens during the Night, they aren’t prepared for what happens when they’re accidentally left behind.
“At night, the island belongs to the Others,” said Lewin, leaning forward with a sly grin on her face. “And the Others want them gone.”
At the end of the panel, it became clear that the readers in the room wanted to learn more about the Others – and all of the other stories. They leapt from their chairs, eager to grab galleys for the books they were most excited for, and the huge stacks of books in the corners of the room quickly vanished into the hands of hungry readers.
What buzz book are you most excited for? Sound off in the comments below!