I can’t believe it’s been a week since I attended Book Con. After the excitement (and backaches) of Book Expo, Book Con felt like a mini-vacation. Not because it wasn’t exciting itself, but because it felt like a love letter to readers of all genres. Below are some highlights:
Cassandra Clare Panel
This was the first panel I attended and it was loads of fun. I’ve never read any of Clare’s work but after attending her panel, I made the decision to add her books to my very long list of reads. She was very funny and engaging and her fans adore her. Cassandra mentioned that she finished her next book but that the readers may feel a way about the ending. Almost everyone in the audience voiced their suspicions and you could feel the nervousness in the room. Since I’ve never read her books, I had no clue why fans were upset, but my curiosity was peaked. So I went to Cassandra’s author page and was blown away by the number of books she’s already written. The Shadow Hunter series alone has six books in total. Don’t get me wrong, I could read those books in record time. But after Book Expo, I have so many ARCs to read I couldn’t make time for Cassandra’s books just yet. But I’ll definitely get to them.
Refugee Writers Panel
This panel was absolutely amazing and so timely. Moderated by Porochista Khakpour and featuring Viet Thanh Nguyen (The Sympathizer), Joseph Azam and Thi Bui, the writers discussed the anthology The Displaced, which is currently available for purchase. Each writer talked about their experiences as refugees in America. Mr. Nguyen said something during the panel that stayed with me: “Refugees bring the fear of contamination,” which is so true of how many feel about the current refugee crisis and the people who are suffering. Each writer read part of their contribution, except for Ms. Bui. She told her story using drawings, which could have easily lost all meaning but instead expressed her family’s struggles beautifully.
Magic and Power Panel
This panel was super fun (I know, I sound like a teenager) but it really was! Moderated by Daniel Jose Older (who, by the way, was HYSTERICAL) and featured Cassandra Clare, Marissa Meyer, Brandon Sanderson and Tomi Adeyemi, the writers talked about what it means to write books about magic and power, elements in many YA novels. They also spoke about criticisms many YA novels received from more “high brow” authors and critics. But those critics can’t ignore the truth: YA novels are becoming more and more popular and many tackle issues tweens and teenagers find relatable. I’ve read some incredible YA novels (The Hate U Give, Eleanor & Park, and of course, the Harry Potter series, just to name a few), all of which told stories of loss, love, belonging and other real-life issues that bring us all together as readers. YA novels are also very diverse, which is why many young readers (and adults) find these stories appealing. The worlds in these novels look like the real world (excluding any magic or vampires). And there are tons more stories making waves. This year alone, I’ve read praise for Children of Blood and Bone and Furyborn, both of which are sitting on my shelf to be read this Summer.
The Great American Read Panel
If you don’t know about this already, PBS has a new show called “The Great American Read,” which showcases books that mean the world to celebrities and regular folks alike. The list, consisting of 100 books, can be found on PBS’ website and you can vote for your favorite book. The panel was lively, with a mock March Madness bracket pitting several books from the list against each other. As each book was randomly chosen, the panelists (Daniel Jose Older, Veronica Roth, Yahdon Israel) had to make their case for why the title they chose should move to the next round. The highlight of the game was when Yahdon Israel gave his passionate (and very sound) defense for Moby Dick. I have never read that book, but after listening to Mr. Israel state his case, I may have to make time for Captain Ahab and his quest for the great, white whale. The winning book was Harry Potter, which surprised absolutely no one.
I was lucky enough to attend two movie panels, both starring actress Amandla Stenberg. She’ll be in The Darkest Minds (a book I’ll be reading for my BuzzFeed Book Challenge) and The Hate U Give (which I’ve already read but will probably re-read before the film is released), two very different films. At both panels, the audience was treated to footage from each film, with The Hate U Give showing us its very first trailer. When it was over, I could barely contain my tears and neither could anyone else. It was so good and so emotional, that a standing ovation was absolutely necessary.
At The Darkest Minds panel, Amandla and author Alexandra Bracken discussed the film and what it was like to work with such a great cast. Ms. Bracken also talked about what it was like for her through the entire adaptation/filming process. She said for the longest time, she did not think the film would ever be made, considering that many books that have been optioned never make it to the screen. She also said that seeing the trailer and watching her work become a visual medium was surreal and pretty exciting.
At The Hate U Give panel, Amandla, author Angie Thomas, Director George Tillman, Jr. and actress Sabrina Carpenter watched in awe as the audience gave them a standing ovation. None of them were prepared for the love they received after we watched the trailer. Once we all settled down, the panelists got into what it was like bringing Ms. Thomas’ book to life, the emotions they all experienced, and what they hope the film will accomplish. When the panel was opened up to questions from the audience, one in particular peaked my interest. One very young reader asked if Ms. Thomas received any backlash and she revealed that her book had been banned in one of the Southern school districts. But the kids there were not having it. They organized and fought for their right to read, created their own book clubs, and eventually brought The Hate U Give back to their libraries and schools.
So did I only attend panels? Yes, for the most part because they were fun and informative. Sitting through panels with industry folks is very different from attending with fans. The energy from the fans is palpable, especially from the younger readers. These kids LOVE to read and love the books and authors. Many of them left with rolling carts full of books and huge smiles on their faces. If you can afford to attend Book Con next year, I recommend you do, especially if you have young readers in your family. They will never forget it.
Until next year! Happy Reading!