Hey there! Today’s an exciting day here at PickMyYA! We’re kicking off our annual Book Madness tournament, in which readers like you help us pick the best YA book of all time. Can reigning champion The Hate U Give defends it title? Or will one of the other 63 competitors fight its way to a championship? Only you get to decide!
And, sticking with the basketball theme, we’ve got the most perfect interview lined up for today! As always, we’ve paired a teen interviewer with a YA author that they love, and today’s guests are both big basketball fans. (Want to learn how you can be one of our teen interviewers? Click here.)
Our first guest today is Wesley King, whose new book Training Camp comes out later this week. This book, which is the first part of the Wizenard series, is a collaboration between Wesley and basketball superstar Kobe Bryant. Wesley’s previous books include OCDaniel and A World Below.
Our second guest is our awesome teen interviewer, Michael. He’s a high school freshman who loves Star Wars and cream soda. He’s also a firm believer in the superiority of Playstation over Xbox. You may remember Michael from when he interviewed bestselling author Robin Talley about her new book Pulp back in December.
And be sure to stick around until the end of the interview. We’re giving away three signed copies of Training Camp to people who vote and share this first round of Book Madness.
I'll let Michael and Wesley take it from here!
Michael: Hello there! I just finished reading the Wizenard series, and I gotta say: the characters in this book are phenomenal, and their stories really helped me relate to them. How would you describe this series to someone who hasn’t read it?
Wesley: The characters are definitely the basis for this story; we really wanted to make sure they authentic, interesting, and easy to relate to for our readers. Both Kobe and I have been interacting with readers and ball players for a long time, so we utilized that experience. I would describe the book as magic meets psychology. These stories are all about how we can grow on and of the court by facing our fears and opening ourselves up to risk.
Michael: I used to play basketball, and I've delved into magic and fantasy books, so it was easy for me to relate to this book. Do you think even people who aren't athletes will enjoy the series?
Wesley: Absolutely. The issues our characters face are universal. Social disparity, self-esteem, grief...there is a character in there that every reader can see themselves in. While the magic scenes are awesome and there is a lot of ball, at its heart, this is a story about people.
Michael: Rain was definitely my favorite character. I found him to be so interesting. Who's your favorite character?
Wesley: I think Rain will be a popular one. For me, I related most to Twig, so I think he is my favorite. I think Kobe put himself into every character...who do you think he is most like?
Michael: Kobe is definitely like Rain, I mean they both have fathers who are amazing at basketball and they both want to give back to those they love. Your book is so unique in the way that it mixes sports and fantasy. What are books or movies you'd recommend to someone who likes Wizenard?
Wesley: Great question. There are some stories that mix the two, but mostly I gravitate toward a great story. Kobe and I are both huge Harry Potter fans, and that's obviously stop number one for all things magic. But also check out The Knights of the Borrowed Dark series for more magic and the Jason Reynolds Track Series for sports/human stories.
Michael: I saw in your Twitter bio that you're an aspiring Jedi. I'm a Star Wars fan myself. So I've gotta ask... what’s more powerful sand or the high ground?
Wsley: I am indeed. Still working on the logistics. The high ground. I always listen to Obi-Wan.
Michael: Speaking of great mentors, Coach Rolabi was so mysterious and wise. Is he strictly human? Or is he more of a god-like figure?
Wesley: Good questions...all to be answered in future books. The first sequel is already in the works!
Michael: This book was a great introduction to the world you created, and I can’t wait for the next one to come out. When can we expect the next one?
Wesley: Spring 2020. Can you guess which character will take the forefront in the next installment?
Michael: I'm excited for Reggie to take the forefront! I don't know exactly why but Reggie seems like he's being set up to be my new favorite character in Wizenard. I can't wait!
That’s it for today’s interviewer, but don’t leave yet! We’re teaming up with Wesley and Kobe to give away three signed copies of Training Camp. Want to win one? Vote through the first round of Book Madness, and then enter your email address at the end.
This year’s competitors are grouped into four different categories: Returning Favorites (last year’s Sweet 16), 2019 Bestsellers, Best Of 2018, and YA Series. Within each category, the books have been randomly selected to face their opponent. So don’t hate us when the choices are tough!
Pick your favorite, then be sure to share! We’ll be announcing the winners of this first round on Wednesday, March 20th.
Click the image below to get started on this year's Book Madness.