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September 16, 2018

YA, Middle Grade and Many Signing Lines at the AJC Decatur Book Festival 2018 --- Guest Post by Grace P.

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Every Labor Day Weekend I have the exciting opportunity to attend the Decatur Book Festival in Atlanta, Georgia. This year marks my fifth straight year in attendance, and each year it has only been a better and better experience. The 2018 festival featured some very popular authors like Angie Thomas, Becky Albertalli and Jason Reynolds. This year, I even got to serve as media as a Teenreads blogger. I also had many more wonderful individual conversations with authors this year than ever before.


The Festival has a dedicated YA Stage that relocates every year to a new venue, and this year it was in a very cool and air-conditioned building that it shared with the Children’s stage (which featured some great middle grade authors). The festival kicked off on Friday night with both the Keynote and Kidnote addresses. This year, because of Harry Potter U.S. Edition’s 20th anniversary, the Kidnote was all about YA and middle grade authors celebrating Harry Potter and featured Becky Albertalli (author of SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA), Laurel Snyder (author of the Charlie and Mouse series), Nic Stone (author of DEAR MARTIN), and Tony DiTerlizzi (author of the Spiderwick Chronicles). It included a costume contest, trivia and an essential conversation about Harry Potter’s impact on children’s and YA literature.

While I didn’t attend the Kidnote or Keynote because I saw each author’s individual event on the Teen Stage later, I was at the festival all of Saturday and Sunday. The children's and YA stages were close enough together that I got to go to both, and some incredible YA authors were attending for their middle grade books. Jason Reynolds, who I met the last year for his book, MILES MORALES, had such an excellent showing for his Great American Read event that the Teen room was completely full. Angie Thomas, the author of THE HATE U GIVE, spoke on Saturday night and had over seven hundred people show up! I am so happy that THE HATE U GIVE is so popular as that was one of the best books I read last year.

On Saturday, I attended four YA panels and one middle-grade panel. McCall Hoyle, author of THE THING WITH FEATHERS and the September release, MEET THE SKY, resides in my area and spoke on the Sidekickin’ panel. I spoke with her afterward about how great her new book is and how I met her almost two years when her first book was still not out at ALA Midwinter. Later after the If It Ain’t Love panel, I spoke with the author of ALWAYS FOREVER MAYBE, Anica Rissi, about reading BAD ROMANCE by Heather Demetrios, which I really enjoyed, because their books have similar themes. Another author from Saturday that I loved speaking to from the panel, Nisha Sharma, convinced me to watch some Bollywood movies and starred in the film list in the back of my book which ones I should start with. Her book, MY SO-CALLED BOLLYWOOD LIFE, is one I can’t wait to read! I then went to Aisha Saeed’s middle-grade panel, author of WRITTEN IN THE STARS, for her new release AMAL UNBOUND. The final YA panel I went to on Saturday featured Becky Albertalli, Tracy Banghart, Jeff Giles and Nic Stone. It was the most interesting panel of the weekend because the panel centered around lane changes, and each author discussed writing from the point of view very unlike their own and the controversy surrounding doing that.

Sunday was also jam-packed, and I went to a greater mixture of YA and middle grade panels. I started off at the Not What You Expected panel where David Arnold, Tiffany Jackson, Sandhya Menon, and Kara Thomas chatted about writing books that they necessarily had not ever thought they would write. I was excited to meet Sandhya Menon and Tiffany Jackson because I loved WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI and recently devoured ALLEGEDLY by Tiffany Jackson. The panel featured tons of “not what you expected” jokes and many laughs. I then missed Roshani Chokshi’s middle-grade panel but got in her signing line so that I could chat with her for the third time. I loved THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN and STAR-TOUCHED STORIES, which I reviewed, and CROWN OF WISHES. I had to pick up her new middle-grade novel ARU SHAH AND THE END OF DAYS from Rick Riordan’s imprint. I then went to Victoria Schwab’s middle-grade panel for her new book CITY OF GHOSTS, which centered around just how scary books for kids can get. My final YA panel of the festival was Strange Heroes with Justina Ireland, Claire Legrand, Natalie Parker, Tochi Onyebuchi, and Lilliam Rivera. Justina Ireland’s DREAD NATION looks fantastic, Natalie Parker’s SEAFIRE is a book I couldn’t resist buying and Claire Legrand’s FURYBORN has been just about everywhere lately. This panel of highly anticipated novels was a great ending to my book-filled weekend. I came home with over 20 signed books that I can’t wait to start reading --- right now!

Ultimately, I had a phenomenal time this year at The Decatur Book Festival as always, and since I don’t know where I am going to college next year yet, I don’t know if I’ll be able to go next year. So not only was this year’s author lineup incredible, but it could be my last DBF in a while. I am so lucky to have it so close to me, and I can’t to read the massive pile of books I brought home. The YA Stage has grown over the years, and I am so glad to have witnessed all of the authors of the past festivals; they have genuinely made my love for books stronger.