Andrew Barron attended his second young adult book fest. Photographs by Andrew Barron.
Charter Oak High School

YALLWEST: Through the eyes of a book-eating young adult

If you could gather young adult readers, bloggers, vloggers and writers, throw in a confetti of literary booths–publishers, monthly book subscription box business, literary apparel, you would find yourself at the second annual young adult book festival, Yallwest, at Santa Monica High School. Sister to the original festival Yallfest, in Charleston, N.C., Yallwest sponsored over 113 authors including New York Times Bestsellers along with locally acclaimed authors, as well as notable Hollywood directors and creators.

On Friday, Yallwest held a Fierce Friday event at the Santa Monica Public Library, as a preview to the actual festival that started the next morning. A few of the bestselling and award-winning authors in attendance at the preview night were Jenny Han, author of “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before”; Leigh Bardugo, author of “Shadow and Bone”; and David Levithan, author of “Everyday.” These and numerous other authors signed books for over three hours, always keeping a smile on their face, excited to see their enthusiastic fans.

Fortunately, I was able to attend this event and got to meet the very sweet Rainbow Rowell, author of the bestselling novels: “Eleanor and Park,” “Fangirl,” “Carry On” and few adult books. A highlight from her long line –which was definitely worth the wait- was that she had started a story, that she wanted us, her readers, to continue it. She started with the sentence, “A girl tripped over a unicycle” and by the time I had reached that point in line, the story had found its way to the Emerald City. It was really great to meet her, and afterward I left the event since I had only gone to the preview night to see her.

Learning something from going to Yallwest last year was that prepping for the event was not only a good idea, but also necessary. First off, I decided I would not bring over a hundred books–like I mistakenly did last year—but instead only four: “The Divergent Trilogy” by New York Times Best Selling author Veronica Roth and “Everything, Everything” by New York Times Bestselling author Nicola Yoon, plus my copy of Fangirl, which Rainbow Rowell signed the night before. My schedule for the second festival day included attending two signings, snagging multiple free advanced readers copies of upcoming books, publishing later this year, and a few panels. Feature_YWest_pic1-475x357

I was so obsessive about sticking  to my schedule and trying to slip things in last minute that my aunt and I failed to schedule time to eat. We had water and shared a bag of Dorritos. This is something I do not recommend because I am quite sure I was on the verge of passing out, but all the excitement that kept me upright.

After leaving the festival, we left to a restaurant, Areal, and I had a delicious margherita pizza. The day of starvation was worth it. I gathered everything on my hotel bed and stared at all six of my new tote bags, filled with bookish goodies and the six arcs (advanced reader copies) I had acquired that day.

Waking up feeling successful, I was excited about volunteering later during day 3. I arrived an hour early and stuck to my schedule for the first half of the day before I was scheduled to volunteer. This day was more focused on attending panels and getting at least one more arc that I was uber excited for (enough to make me begin flailing at the sight of) that I would enjoy and feature on my young adult book blog. “This Savage Song” by Victoria  Schwab was being given away at 2:00 p.m., and I made sure to schedule my early arrival for this particular giveaway.

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Another fact I learned was that you have got to learn to practically teleport from place to place. Seeing that Santa Monica High School is pretty big, I made sure to hustle from place to place, panel to panel, giveaway to giveaway and signing to signing.

Something really awesome was being featured on Epic Reads Snapchat story, filmed by the fabulous book shimmy queen, Margot Wood, which she had told me would be seen by over 5,000 other book lovers like myself. I felt pretty cool, not going to lie.

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I also attended the ZOMG! Authors As Fans panel, moderated by authors: Margaret Stohl with Victoria Aveyard, Alexandra Bracken, Soman Chainani, Danielle Paige, Neill Shusterman and Melissa De La Cruz. Here they discussed all their favorite fandoms and personal experiences through these fandoms. I especially favorited Aveyard’s story on how she broke both her arms for Pokémon cards. That is what you call passionate love. There was also much talk over strong love for Star Wars and their all the feels moments of the latest installment of “The Force Awakens.”

After I had accomplished my goal of acquiring a copy of This Savage Song, I headed over to the volunteer Green Room, checked in, got my badge and rushed over to the signing area, my backpack heavy with five books weighing me down. I took a paddle board with an author’s name, who seemed familiar, and when I met her the pieces clicked together. Aimee Friedman was kind enough to carry a conversation with my awkward-self, and I was happy to continue it back. Her newest novel, “Two Summers,” published this past Tuesday, and I am excited to read it. The second author I helped during their signing hour was Pseudonymous Bosch, a wildly popular, middle-grade author. And the third author I helped was the New York Times Bestselling author Danielle Paige, author of the “Dorothy Must Die” series and forthcoming “Stealing Snow” series. She was also very kind, and I loved helping, running after all of her bookmarks blowing away in the wind, holding down umbrellas for the fans and checking in with each author.

A few other authors that made my past weekend all the more special were Evelyn Skye, author of the forthcoming “The Crown’s Game”; Simon Curtis, author of the forthcoming “Boy Robot”; and a few of the amazing 2016 debuting authors: Jessica Cluess, Tara Sim, Traci Chee and Audrey Coulthurst. You can find all of their upcoming books on the awesome literary website, Goodreads.

In all, every author at the event were extremely kind and I’m going to miss all their faces until next festival. But I must thank all the panelists, the authors, the booths and everyone behind the setup of Yallwest. And a special thank you to the readers, bloggers and vloggers in attendance, you all keep the world of literature here and make all the authors smile, knowing that their work is appreciated.

–Andrew Barron

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