This weekend, I had the good fortune to attend YALLWest, a celebration of Young Adult books and authors held in Southern California. This sister-festival to YALLFest (which is held in South Carolina) just celebrated its fifth year, and it was so much fun to see excited book lovers coming together! The festival is held over one and a half days and definitely pushes you to make some hard decisions about which events you want to prioritize, but was still a lot of fun and had a lot on hand to offer. Before I highlight some of the books I managed to score, I wanted to talk a little about the things I enjoyed and one or two frustrations I had, so that those new to either of these festivals know what they’re getting into!
It’s free! That’s right, you can do 90% of the things the festival has to offer without paying a dime for admission. The exception are the four keynote panels, which are relatively cheap (I think it was $8 a ticket) which feature big name authors like Victoria Schwab and Angie Thomas. This being my first year, I sprung for the $28 VIP Megapass, which got me priority entry to all four panels, plus a swag bag. If I attend next year, I’ll likely skip the pass as the priority entry was nice, but not necessary, especially as I only went to two of the keynote panels, and the swag was simply a drawstring bag; I’d been erroneously hoping that perhaps there would be a special ARC inside, which would have made the ticket worth it.
Lots of free ARCs. You have to be willing to wait in some considerable lines to get them, but if you want to devote your day to it, you can certainly come home with a sizable haul. I myself came home with nine books, and if I’d planned my day a little differently, I would have come home with more.
Author Signings Galore. If you are someone who really values having your books signed by authors, there are plenty of opportunities. The “half day” of this year’s YALLWest went to the Fierce Friday preview event, which was largely dedicated to author signings. This is another free event that allows you to choose two author signings, one for each hour of the event. I went with Victoria Schwab, as A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC is one of my favorite books of all time, and Jay Kristoff, who I admittedly haven’t read but I have had enough people telling me to read his books that I bought AURORA RISING and NEVERNIGHT and got them signed. Next year I think I’ll go for smaller authors – while you are guaranteed two signings, you are more than welcome to get in the back of a line without a wristband and the author will sign if they have time. There were plenty of wonderful authors there would equally needed love and support and I wish I’d been able to spend time with them!
For me, the signings are much less important than the talks. I love hearing about an author’s creative process, and there were TONS of opportunities to hear some of my favorite authors speak! Because I prioritized ARCs this year, I only went to two panels, MECHANICS OF MAGIC and a conversation between Victoria Schwab and Lilliam Rivera about world building. They were fantastic, and I wish I had had the chance to go to more!
The book giveaways can stand to be a bit more organized.
I’m under no illusion that when I go to a con, I’m going to be standing in line. That’s something I accept and I come prepared for and I’m fine with it. What frustrates me is when the organizers aren’t equally prepared for the line situation. Most publishers at YALLWest were on point. They had organized lines, they gave out tickets so you knew if you were guaranteed a book or if you were just trying your luck to see if they had extras, they told you when and where to came back for giveaways. The one glaring exception was the SORCERY OF THORNS ARC signing at Riveted. The organizers at the booth refused to create an official line until noon – which was when the signing started. The result was that an orderly unofficial line started about an hour before the drop, and then a more disorganized mob started creeping in ten minutes before noon. When faced with the fact that 1) over 100 people had lined up for giveaway that had only 50 copies (something people in line were unaware of) and 2) they had no way of sorting out who had been there first, the solution was to wade into the crowd and hand out 50 post it notes to 50 random people. You can imagine the insanity that ensued. After being one of the people that had been waiting for an hour, I was BEYOND relieved that I managed to get the very last “ticket” for the signing. I’m surprised that the booth was not better prepared and organized for this particular event.
But when all was said and done, I still came home with some fantastic books! I’m most excited for SORCERY OF THORNS, which I’ve been trying to get my hands on for months. I’m absolutely in love with the cover and cannot wait to read about warrior librarians who guard against magical books. WITH THE FIRE ON HIGH and A MATCH MADE IN MEHENDI are two rare contemporary YAs that have caught my eye, and I’ll be looking for a chance to put them into my monthly TBR. THE STARS WE STEAL is a YA sci-fi romance that is new to me, but I’m down to check out what seems to be almost a regency romance crossed with spaceships!
That’s a wrap on YALLWest! Did anyone else go to this or YALLFest? Looking forward to BookCon? Share your thoughts in the comments!