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Tag: john searles

ALA Annual 2014: The Alex Awards Presentation

alaac14_logoFollowing the fabulous YALSA Coffee Klatch that Lalitha Nataraj wrote about, several of my tablemates and I needed to get the 2014 Alex Awards presentation. The trek, like the layout of the Vegas strip, seemed walkable and relatively close by on paper, but ended up being at the very end of the convention center. Thankfully, all the caffeine that we had just consumed while meeting fabulous YA authors allowed us to powerwalk and arrive on time for the session.

Danielle Dreger-Babbitt, chair of the 2014 Alex Awards committee, got things started by reminding the audience of how the Alex Awards were first given out in 1998, became an official ALA award in 2002, and honor the work of Margaret A. Edwards, who was called “Alex” by her friends. Book jackets of the ten winning titles were shown along with short descriptions.

John Searles signs books for April Witteveen and Sarah Levin at the 2014 Alex Awards presentation

Typically, three to four winning authors attend the award presentation at ALA Annual. This year, only one author was able to make it – John Searles, who won for his book Help for the Haunted. As John began his presentation, he joked that when he heard there were nine other winning authors he killed them all and buried them in the backyard (a nice tip of the hat to 2014 winner The Death of Bees by Lisa O’Donnell).

What followed was a truly delightful, heartfelt presentation that included home movies (cinematic proof that from an early age John wanted to be an author as the super 8 pans his childhood living room and we see him writing away in a mini steno pad); a picture from high school (with John writing, of course); a scan of a truly scathing rejection note for an early manuscript submission, and photos of John’s hometown library (where he has been immortalized on a quilt featuring local authors). 

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BEA trendspotting: YA Crossovers

Last year around this time, I spent a lot of timing sighing over my Twitter feed as authors, librarians, and publishing types that I follow and admire tweeted excitedly about BEA. After three days of keeping tabs on publishing’s biggest weekend, I resolved to go in 2013, and with a little luck and a couple of vacation days, I was able to make it happen. I spent most of Thursday and Friday roaming the massive exhibits hall, going to panels, meeting authors, and picking up ARCs that I’m excited to share with the teen readers at my library. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, just for things that piqued my interest: new titles from authors that I or readers at my library love, plots that sounded fresh, covers that drew me in. I wasn’t planning to look for trends, but I noticed one anyway: crossover titles.

Crossovers straddle the line between YA and what’s traditionally thought of as adult fiction. Books in this category are sometimes referred to as “new adult.” I’m not a fan of that term because I think it’s exclusive; to me it implies young adult books are for people aged 12-18, “new adult” books are for people aged 18-30, and, I guess, adult literature is only for people aged 30+. “Crossover” feels more inclusive, like saying “here’s a book that will appeal to teenage readers and people in their 20s and 30s and beyond.” Crossovers often have protagonists who are a little older than the typical YA novel or who are dealing with more adult issues. Other times, the writing style, plotting, or other literary elements help create all-ages appeal. I spotted lots of crossovers at BEA; here are the five most buzzed about:

If You Could Be Mine Sara FarizanIf You Could Be Mine by Sara Fariszan

Sahar and Nasrin: two young women in love in Iran, where homosexuality is illegal and punishable by death. When Nasrin is engaged to be married, Sahar becomes desperate to keep Nasrin, and discovers a strange loophole in Iranian law: although homosexuality is a crime, sex re-assignment surgery for transgendered people not only legal — it’s paid for by the state. Sahar has never felt uncomfortable in her body, but the surgery would allow her to be with Nasrin, legally and openly. This novel grapples with complex cultural issues, which often appeal across ages, and features characters dealing with adult decisions. If You Could Be Mine was featured at the YA Buzz Panel.