Festival of Books: YA authors' love of 'firsts'

YA panel at #bookfest features @sarahdessen, @MegWolitzer, @robynschneider, @emerylord, @theames

Think all young adult novels are all about the same thing? Authors Sarah Dessen, Meg Wolitzer, Robyn Schneider, Emery Lord and Amy Spalding disagree.

"High school was never about any one thing so I never want my books to be about any one thing," Dessen said at the "Young Adult: Connections & Consequences" panel at the Los Angeles Times Book Festival on Saturday.

Dessen, who has penned 12 YA books, said "conflict is fun," which is why writing about complicated, authentic characters is more interesting.

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Other panelists echoed that sentiment, noting that writing for a younger audience gives the authors the ability to tap into their own vulnerabilities growing up.

"[Writing about] the time of firsts is so powerful," said Wolitzer, author of "The Interestings." "It allows you to think about when you weren't jaded about anything really."

Wolitzer, who primarily writes books for adults, said she once uncovered a heart-shaped necklace given to her by a high school boyfriend, which made her feel "so sad and happy all at once."

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Such is the nature of growing up. "I don’t want to read a book that’s smooth sailing," she said. In a "nonfiction world," the purpose of fiction is to "affect and change and move people."

Ultimately, "good writing is good writing," she added.

Schneider, author of "The Beginning of Everything," said she prefers "writing about applied firsts as opposed to firsts themselves."

Though "it can be fun and easy to go for the black or the white," Emery said she is mostly drawn to writing about characters "in the between spaces."

All the authors agreed one of the main perks of writing for young readers is their constant enthusiasm.

"I see you fan girls," Lord joked, pointing to part of the crowd.

Immediately following the panel, the packed room of attendees rushed out the door to get their books signed by the authors.

"They are amazing," one teenage girl, who was holding a copy of Dessen's "That Summer," said to her friend as they walked out the door. 

Check out the Festival of Books schedule for this weekend.

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