If you live in SoCal and love YA books, then YALLWEST is one of the best days of the year. It’s as simple as that. This yearly Santa Monica book festival is a full day of raucous, outrageous, and wonderful bookish activities centered on teens. Almost 25,000 of them, in case you’re curious. Fourteen of this year’s attendees were teen interviewers from PickMyYA, some of them returning veterans from last year’s event but most of them first-time attendees. After nearly twelve hours of bookish fun, they left talking about the new books they’ve added to their TBRs and their desire to one day be up there talking about their own book.
Here are ten reasons why this year’s YALLWEST was the best yet...
#1) Angie’s Two Big Announcements
For the first time ever, the morning keynote was too big to fit in the theater and needed to be moved to the outdoor amphitheater. There, Angie Thomas and Nic Stone chatted about the ways that teens can overcome obstacles and become the next generation of dreamers. Plus, Angie made two big announcements. The first was a joke, in which she threw out the idea of a President campaign and slogan. (Because I'm extra, I made her campaign poster.) The second announcement was a total slip of the tongue, in which Angie revealed that her much-anticipated third book (which we already knew was set in the same neighborhood of Underhill) would focus on a character from The Hate U Give. This is HUGE. Who's it going to be? Teenage Sekani? An origin story for Big Mav? A backstory for King, in which we see what led him to join the King Lords? Be sure to give Angie a follow on Twitter so you don't miss the upcoming announcement!
#2) YA Trivia
At the gallery, hundreds of YA readers gathered together to test their bookish knowledge in a live game show. The event was headlined by four fabulous authors, including Instagram royalty couple Ransom Riggs and Tahereh Mafi.
#3) Food Trucks
The food trucks at YALLWEST were out of this world. There was even a food truck devoted specifically to David Yoon’s new novel, Frankly In Love (out September 2019). But the most popular food truck of the day had to be The Boba Truck, which teen interviewer Aislee visited multiple times throughout the day.
#4) Authors Reading Throwback Stories
One of the most fun moment events of the day had to be the Juvenilia session, in which authors shared some of their writing from high school. The standout piece had to be Charlotte Nicole Davis’ angsty first-person story about Santa Claus’ kid getting ready to leave the North Pole and his beloved runt reindeer Rudy to attend college in California. Best line? “Hold your reindeer.” Charlotte's debut book, The Good Luck Girls, comes out in October.
#5) The Queer Avengers
The biggest panel of the day was the Ask Me Anything: LGBTQIA+ Edition, which featured eleven authors and a packed audience. The love and support was palpable in the room, as everyone from Adam Silvera to Rosiee Thor to Bill Konigsberg answered audience questions from the (predominantly queer, predominantly teen) audience. Sara Farizan, who moderated the panel, referred to the assembled authors as The Queer Avengers, and it was perfect.
#6) Nic Stone
Nic Stone is the real MVP. For the second year in a row, she hosted two of teen interviewers as her VIP guests. Sasha and Jatziry got to meet all the authors in the green room and had access to the front row at all events. Plus, they got to hang out with Nic all day! And let me just tell you… she’s every bit as awesome IRL as she is online.
#7) The Bookish Scavenger Hunt
Yeah, a bit of shameless promotion. But we hid picks around YALLWEST all day and then posted pics to our Instagram. Readers ran around the event looking for the books, trying to find the hidden book before anyone else. It was awesome.
#8) Free Books/ARCs
When we first arrived to YALLWEST, the volunteers gave each of our teen interviewers an empty blue backpack. Those backpacks were full by the end of the day, mostly with books that aren't yet available in bookstores. The biggest haul for our group of teen interviewers? Thirteen books, nearly all of them giveaways. Some of the most anticipated reads for the day were Randy Ribay’s Patron Saints Of Nothing (out in June), Sona Charaipotra's Symptoms Of A Heartbreak (out in July), and Nic Stone’s Jackpot (out in October).
#9) The Signings
Oh, the signings! So many authors, so many books to be signed. Ransom Riggs and Adam Silvera were two favorites among our teen interviewers. But, of course, no one’s pen game was quite as great as Adam’s. Check out this pic. Is it just me, or does it look like he's about to take down an enemy helicopter?
#10) The Smackdown
The folks at YALLWEST sure know how to save the best for last. The final event of the festival is the Smackdown, an hour-and-a-half variety show in the theater that featured everything from Mad Libs to live cover recreations to a BTS lip sync/dance performance. This year’s Smackdown hosts were Sarah Enni, Maureen Goo, and Abdi Nazemian, and they KILLED it.
So those are the ten things we loved most about this year's event. We’re already looking forward to next year, but you don't have to wait until then to connect with your favorite authors. If you're a teen, the conversation doesn’t have to be over. We’re looking for more teens who are interested in interviewing their favorite authors. If that sounds like something you’d be interested in, click the picture below to learn more.
And as an added incentive (and a thank you to the coolest author ever), we’re giving away copies of Nic’s new book Odd One Out to the first five teen who submits interview questions for an upcoming #BeyondTheBio. Click the picture below to learn how to submit your questions. Giveaway ends on Sunday, May 12th.