July has been a really rough month for several reasons, but it’s really impacted on my reading – as I’ll talk more of in my wrap up in a few days. However, I did have the chance to go to YALC (Young Adult Literature Convention) in London on Friday, the first ever book convention I’ve ever been to, and it was such a fantastic experience.
To start things off, I think one thing I did learn from the experience is that although I loved it as a whole, next time I’d want to go to a convention that either had more than just YA or more authors that I knew and loved. If I had been at the convention all three days, I think I would have very easily grown bored and fed up. Although there are a lot of YA books that I love, there seems to be far more that I seriously dislike. Going from stall to stall hearing the same kinds of plot lines. So-and-so discovers that she has powers and has to save the world, whilst being caught up in a tricky love triangle. So-and-so is a fairy demon that must take on his father the overlord to take back the kingdom. So-and-so is fighting *insert illness here* and discovers the true value of friendship. And with characters that are mostly 15-17 year olds, it’s difficult to keep reading if you can’t engage with the story.
But there is something special about YA, possibly due to the fact that there are so many YA authors these days. No other genre, or at least in my experience, covers so many bases and aspects of real life. The vast amount of YA literature that includes and discusses mental illnesses, LGBTQ+, themes of police brutality, discrimination, racism – the list goes on. The fact that you could probably separate YA as a whole into fantasy YA, LGBTQ+ YA, contemporary YA and more just shows the range of literature in just one genre.
Anyway, back to the convention. Along with a wide range of literature, there was also a wide range of ages – teenagers from 13 were present as well as adults that looked to be in their forties (and not accompanied by anyone younger). The atmosphere was incredible, the enthusiasm and joy from just discussing books. The panels I attended were about fantasy in YA, and being able to hear from authors I didn’t know much about before was wonderful.
One of the main reasons I wanted to attend was to meet and listen to Victoria Schwab, or V.E Schwab for some of her books. I’ve mentioned her books in several other posts in reviews and how much I just love every single one of them. She was honestly such a lovely human being, and her responses in panels seemed to be as beautifully crafted as her books – even though she couldn’t have pre-written her answers, due to the unknown audience questions. Her eloquence in speaking and brilliant answers were inspiring and just incredible – I could honestly listen to someone interviewing her for hours. It was also fun to dive into a book signing in true convention style – joining a rather large queue for a quick twenty second chat with an author you love.
The final thing that I loved about the convention was the various activities and chats you could join, from workshops to small talks. Two I attended were on working in the publishing industry, which had so many great speakers with varied advice on the industry, and an ‘Agent 1-2-1’ where you had five minutes to pitch an idea to an agent for feedback. Informative, encouraging, and still with the element of book-loving-joy, I would highly recommend.
So for my first ever book convention, it was wonderful to attend and I’ll definitely be on the lookout for others. It’s definitely given me a boost to get straight back into reading, and I can’t wait for August.