LA Times Festival of Books Sunday Panel- Young Adult Fiction: Teens and Turmoil

The last panel that we attended on our Sunday trek to the Los Angeles Times Book Festival was “YA: Teens in Turmoil”. My friend has her Master’s specialization in Children’s Literature and this heavily appealed to her. Rather than list question and answer as in my previous posts about the other panels we went to I will merely summarize the events of the panel.

The panel was moderated by Sonya Sones who wrote Novels in Verse. It was her first time moderating a panel, as she very chirpily announced. Panelists included Gayle Forman(You Can’t Get There From Here), Cynthia Kadohata(A Million Shades of Gray) and Jandy Nielsen(The Sky is Everywhere). I was intrigued by Foreman’s background in magazine publishing and Jandy Nielsen’s mention that she had two MFA’s(I’m super jealous and in awe of this).

There was a small introduction to all of the Panelist’s current works  and then the questioning began. A question that really stood out  to me was if the turmoil the teens go through in their respective novels and ficticious lives is hard for the author to write? Answers ranged from it affords catharsis for the situation(Foreman) to eupohoric(Nelson) because the writing process for her is joyful even if the subject is torturous.

There was a great discussion about the editing process and how it shapes and reshapes the author’s work especially in Young Adult fiction. Nelson said the editing process toned down a lot of sex and replaced it with sensuality and sexual tension. Forman echoed this sentiment as some of the graphic material in her novel was made to be off the page in revisions.

This was an interesting panel for a couple of reasons and it was my least favorite panel of the day. I felt really bad for Cynthia Kadohata who was very much misplaced on the panel. Her novel was more of a documentary novel about a boy and his relationship to an elephant in a different type of turmoil than Foreman and Nelson wrote about in their works. The poor pairing of Kadohata on the panel echoed into the book signing that took place after the panel. Both Foreman and Nelson were constantly signing but Kadohata just sat there with nothing to do.

I was expecting more drama, more psychological trauma and it’s effects on teens to be discussed but the panel turned more to sex, and teenage relationships protrayed in YA. The lack of cohesion in the panelists made for a very weak panel experience. My friend bought books from both Foreman and Nelson and had them signed. Pictures from the signing are below.


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