I know, I know, this is coming to you late. This month has been horrendous for academic deadlines, and I’ve had to do a lot of work in quite a rush, and between that and the long hours spent at my laptop trying to make my brain focus, I ended up going on a sort of impromptu hiatus. Which means my review of YALC and a breakdown of the gigantic haul I snagged while I was there, has been put back to now.
As some of you may know, at the end of July, I attended the Young Adult Literature Convention with some of my favourite people in the world. It’s always a great time, full of books and fun events, and we always get some time to go downstairs and look at the brilliant stuff going on at the comic-con section too.
This year was a little bit different. There were lots of ARC drops and giveaways and things going on, especially in the earlier slots. And we were told this year, YALC would be doing Virtual Queuing tickets [basically, this is when you get a ticket with a number on it ahead of a signing, and then you go up when the batch with your number in it is called for that author] in the morning. As soon as we got in on the Friday, me and a few others high-tailed it over to pick up an ARC of Infinity Son by Adam Silvera. The stall was giving away 100 copies a day [though I think perhaps they were running a little low by Sunday as they started raffling them]. With that achieved, we then legged it over to the Hodder stand, which were doing a deal where you got an ARC with the purchase of two books. My friend really wanted a copy of Girls of Storm and Shadow by Natasha Ngan, but unfortunately we got in the line a little late. We did manage to snag the last two copies of The Beautiful by Renee Ahdieh, but we did run into some problems. The people a few behind us in the line basically got it into their heads to pick up the ARC they wanted before they even picked which books they wanted to buy, which meant the people just behind us missed out on what they wanted, even though they’d just paid £10. We did let the staff know, since it seemed really unethical (I mentioned it to one of the women who did this, but she just shrugged and told me everyone else had done it) but they seemed kind of swamped, and I’m not sure how well they maintained the line over the rest of the weekend.
After that, we secured a spot in the chill out zone. This year, we found ourselves tucked into the corner of the room, which meant all of our stuff was out of the way [last year we sort of just huddled around the Book Box Club stand]. While I appreciated that there was a lot of extra space in the area this year, which was great considering all the bags and suitcases of books we brought with us, it was a bit of an issue for people with disabilities who needed actual seating. There were some inflatable chairs around, which looked like lots of fun, but there were very few proper chairs with back support, and though I never saw squabbling over them, I did have to stop someone from moving them when other people needed them. I’ve seen on other blog posts about this that LFCC did have a bunch of chairs in storage, which is super frustrating.
Next on our list was the VQ tickets. Friday wasn’t much of a hassle for this, possibly because not everyone was aware that VQ tickets were a thing. The year before, it was just a case of rolling up to the signing line and, if it was busy, grabbing a VQ ticket from the volunteer at the end. YALC still did that for most signings [except possibly the insanely busy ones where they’d already given away like 300 tickets], but it was still somewhat reassuring to pick up tickets first thing and be done with it for the day. Friday’s authors I wanted to meet included Laura Steven, Renee Ahdieh, and Eoin Colfer. I was super excited to meet Colfer and get my Artemis Fowl novels signed, since I’ve been a fan of his books for years now, and my copies are all from when I was in primary school. He thought it was sweet how bashed up they were [seriously, the foil was practically torn off the first book], and it was just great to finally meet him. As always, the authors were so sweet and friendly. Because of the amazing deals this year, there were lots of stalls which offered an ARC when you purchased a book, which meant I also snagged a proof copy of Wild, Savage Stars by Kristina Perez, who signed it later in the day. Renee was also very awesome to meet, and we had a cool chat about fairy tale retellings while she signed my books. It was good to get the ARC of her new book that morning, since it meant I now have all of her books to date signed.
Friday wasn’t too busy in terms of authors. We did see Jason Mamoa floating around [at one point, I turned around and almost bumped into him] but to be honest, he’s such a staple of YALC at this point that the screams actually died down pretty quickly.
Friday was probably the biggest day in terms of getting hold of books and swag. I picked up some awesome stuff for my secret santa [we actually drew names early this year so people could buy stuff for it at YALC], and I got some amazing Vicious and A Darker Shade of Magic pin badges over at the Illumicrate and Fable and Black stall. Thanks to all the amazing deals on books and having the whole weekend’s budget in my bank account, I came away with eleven new books [annoyingly, I missed Song of the Abyss out of my total haul pic]. The best bit came towards the end of the day, when a member of staff from the My Kinda Book stall tentatively came over and let our group know that there was a whole bunch of unclaimed copies of Wilder Girls from their raffle earlier in the day, and would we perhaps like them? This turned out really nicely, as I think almost everyone in our group who wanted a copy got one, and it was incredibly kind of her to come over. I’d actually somehow managed to lose my raffle ticket for that event too, so it was nice to grab a copy despite that.
Saturday got off to a bit of a rough start. I was aware that Saturday would be the busiest day, and although there was nothing pressing I wanted to go to as soon as we got in, I knew the VQ line would be jammed because of V.E. Schwab’s signing. I didn’t actually need a ticket for her, since she came to Nottingham recently, but I knew it would be a bit chaotic. We also set off a little later than we’d have liked, and thanks to some Tube problems, I had a bit of a panic attack while we were travelling to YALC. This was totally not helped by a very rude member of the TFL staff, who basically told me I was being bad-mannered for turning away from him during a conversation [I was upset and turning to my friend to ask her something] and then told me there was no reason to panic when I told him I was having some anxiety over the lateness of the trains. I found this incredibly frustrating, especially since the number one thing you should never say to someone who is having an anxiety attack is that there’s ‘nothing to worry about.’ Annoyingly, we also had a bit of an encounter with the same asshole on the Sunday, which soured things a bit.
Because of all this, I wasn’t really mentally ready to deal with the giant swarm of people that greeted us at the VQ tables once we arrived. I know the staff were trying very hard, and I imagine some of them were probably from downstairs and didn’t know it would be such a busy day up at YALC, but there did seem to be some organisational issues here. The staff were trying to fix those issues by trying to make everyone form an orderly, single-file line, but obviously a lot of people didn’t want to risk losing their spot in the line and just didn’t move when they were told to. I did, but then berated myself for probably giving up my spot too easily and effectively putting myself at the back of the line. At this point, I was really struggling, as was pretty much ready to just go home. I left the line, but thankfully one of my friends saw I was having a hard time and came over to help me get tickets for the signings I wanted. Another girl who was having some difficulties was also very kind, and talked me down. I will say, the staff who spoke to me while I was in crisis mode were all lovely. I just wish there had been some better planning and the line had been sorted properly to begin with.
With the VQ tickets sorted, I made it into my first panel of the weekend, which was a fascinating talk about magic with some of the biggest authors of the weekend. I left during the Q and A section to start lining up for the signings. Melinda Salisbury was lovely, as always, and it was nice to get to speak to Zen Cho too. Over to the side, the V.E. Schwab line was INTENSE. I’m pretty sure they were up to about 400 people by the time she finally stopped signing. I am pleased Schwab seemed okay by the end of it though. There was lots of discussion on Twitter when she announced she was capping the amount of books she’d sign per person, since she’d ended up signing for 5 hours the last time she’d been at YALC, and it had caused her a lot of stress. I know there were some people who were a bit annoyed about it, but honestly, I was just pleased to see she was dealing with it okay and she had people around her bringing her food and things. We need to take care of the authors!
While all of that was going on, I caught up with some writer friends over coffee. Then I got my copy of Two Can Keep a Secret signed, and then stood and had a great conversation with Holly Jackson as she autographed my copy of A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder. Holly seemed so delighted to be there with her first book, and it was awesome to chat to her [even if she did later threaten to murder me in her book because I ‘started the giant signing line’]. Dhonielle Clayton was great, and she had a lovely conversation with us too. We also did a little bit of celebrity spotting while waiting for author signings. I bumped into Brendan Fraser [who said hi to me and waved as he walked past and it took me a full minute to realise who he was], and we briefly saw Lana Parrilla, Robert Carlyle, Jenna Coleman, Tom Ellis, and Alfie Allan. Alfie had an interesting technique to avoid being spotted- he brought his amazingly cute dog with him, which meant everyone spent so long cooing over cute doggo that it took a while for us all to cotton on to who was actually walking the dog.
For the first time ever, I also won a raffle 😀 I have notoriously bad luck with these things, so it was great to get an ARC of American Royals from the Penguin stall.
For the last section of the Saturday, I spent some time with one of my friends down in the comic-con area, where she got to have a picture signed by Emilie de Ravin and a photo taken with Robert Carlyle 😀
Sunday was a lot easier, especially in terms of getting to the convention centre. The trains were mostly running on time, except for that never on time Olympia train. It was fun getting to the venue, especially since one of our friends was in full cosplay mode as Aurora, which drew some entertaining looks on our journey. We did bump into asshole TFL worker though, who obviously remembered us and was loudly telling his co-worker how I was incredibly rude to him the day before. What a dick. Still, we swept by him and wandered down the street to YALC for the final time that weekend. There was a bit of an issue with the lifts [someone accidentally let everyone go too early and had to stop people on the stairs and in the lift] but otherwise it was a lot more organised than the Saturday. When we got upstairs, there was a long but single-file line to pick up VQ tickets. Thankfully, my friends had picked me up an early number for Natasha Ngan since I had to leave a little early to get my coach back home.
Most of the authors I wanted to meet over the weekend had Sunday slots, so it was quite a hectic morning. In a short space of time, I had met Adrienne Young, Bex Hogan, Christine Lynn Herman and Rachel Burge. Although I had a ticket for P.M. Freestone, so I could get my signed copy of Shadowscent personalised, in the end I gave up. It’s usually the case with the Sunday. I was struggling to stand in lines because my feet felt like they were on fire. It’s hard to remember to actually sit down for long periods of time, since there’s so much going on and you want to make the most of it all while it’s there. I also ended up entering and winning some more raffles and competitions. To be fair, I like that there seemed to be such a high volume of ARCs at YALC this year, and I appreciate that a lot of stalls had raffles to give them away. However, I noticed that a lot of stalls basically crept back to how they were a few years ago, when there was lots of running and lining up to grab copies of things. Although I don’t mind that they’re trying to introduce some different things, like being one of the first hundred people in a line, exploring to find hidden items in return for a copy, etc. I did wonder how difficult it must be for someone with accessibility issues. It didn’t seem entirely inclusive and I hope that organisers and stalls take this into consideration next year.
Later in the day, I met Natasha Ngan, who remembered me and my flower crown from Bookcon in June. And then I got my copy of Caged Queen signed by Kristen Ciccarelli. I also bumped into Sasha Alsberg in the bathroom line as I was getting ready to leave, and we had a really quick but sweet conversation [I interviewed her at Bookcon for my PhD and she remembered me]. During the day, I also met some amazing writer people and talked about beta reading and things, which was fun. This was the first year I didn’t try pitching to agents, but I actually felt okay about not doing it, which surprised me a bit.
After that, it was time to leave. I did swing by a few of the stalls again before I left, and wound up buying another book or two, but it’s probably a good thing I had to go before all the sales started. My suitcase was practically bursting with books by the time YALC was over, and even the bus driver pulled a bit of a face when he lifted my case onto the coach.
And that was it. Another wonderful year at YALC. There were some ups and downs, as always, but I do think the event is getting bigger and better every year and I can’t wait to go back again. It’s just so great to spend a weekend with all the amazing bookish people, especially the brilliant Book Box squad, and to appreciate all the nerdy things together. I’m crossing my fingers I can go again next year, but it might have to be limited to a single day or two, since I’m probably attending a wedding on the Saturday :’/ If I do go next year, I think I’ll probably apply for an accessibility wristband though. I thought I’d be okay this year, but the big crowds and long lines and the chaos of London’s transport really did a number on me, and I think it’s just easier to have some of the anxiety inducing stuff taken off me.
My YALC Haul:
In total, I came away from YALC with 17 new books. Most of them were either ARCs or free books, which was quite a nice surprise since I’ve either been totally oblivious to their existence at YALC in past years, or just didn’t manage to get many. For the next few months, I’ll be adding some of these to my TBR, based on what I fancy reading and what is about to hit shelves in stores.
- Infinity Son by Adam Silvera. We stood in line to grab one of the first 100 copies.
- Wild, Savage Stars by Kristina Perez. Free with the purchase of another book.
- Song of the Abyss by Makiia Lucier. Free with the purchase of another book.
- The Beautiful by Renee Ahdieh. Free with the purchase of two books.
- A Throne of Swans by Katherine and Elizabeth Corr. Won after I posted a picture of me posing as a swan for the competition.
- The Last Human by Lee Bacon. Free with my YALC swag bag.
- Scars Like Wings by Erin Stewart. Raffle win.
- American Royals by Katherine McGee. Raffle win.
- Furious Thing by Jenny Downham. Free in a lucky dip.
- Wilder Girls by Rory Power. I think this one might have come out earlier in July.
- Again, but Better by Christine Riccio. There was a gigantic sale on hardbacks that I just couldn’t resist, and I’ve had my eye on this one since Bookcon.
- Red Rising by Pierce Brown. Admittedly, I am not dying to read this book, but I needed to buy two books from the Hodder stand to get The Beautiful ARC. While I probably won’t get around to this with any urgency, I am curious to read it because it keeps getting recommended to me, and I’m trying to read more sci-fi.
- Fire Blood by Elly Blake. Again, not desperate to read this soon, but I have had Frost Blood on my kindle for at least a year now, so I’m anticipating needing book two at some point in the future.
- Paper Hearts Society by Lucy Powrie. I went a bit back and forth with this one before finally picking it up from the Waterstones on site to get signed. I have heard it is on the young side of YA, and that’s usually not something I enjoy much, but I wanted to support her debut so I figured I’d give it a go.
- The Brightsiders by Jen Wilde. I have been DYING to grab a copy of this book, but managed to restrain myself because I’ve only ever seen it in hardback on Amazon and it cost quite a bit. But the stall had paperback copies in, so it was super cheap, and I got an ARC with it for free, so it was a brilliant bargain [also, I just finished this and I am literally DEAD].
- Descendent of the Crane by Joan He. I picked this one up from the Illumicrate stand. I’m a little disappointed it wasn’t signed and came without a bookplate, but I liked the pretty stained edges and have heard good things about the book.
- All the Wandering Light by Heather Fawcett. This hardback was on sale by the time I realised it was being sold at all, so I’m glad I accidentally waited to snag this one. I do feel a little guilty that I forgot to order it during the preorder, since I did enjoy Even the Darkest Stars a lot, but it was one of those books that I enjoyed at the time and then kind of forgot a lot of what happened. Still, I’m keen to get round to this one in the next few months.
And that’s it from me for another year of YALC. Did anyone else go? What did you all think of it? Feel free to leave comments below ❤