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Los Angeles Festival of Books: Rites of Initiation in Brief

April 29th, 2006 (08:07 pm)
awake

Current Mood: awake
Current Song: Cruel Summer by Bananarama

Every spring, the Los Angeles Festival of Books overtakes the UCLA campus, turning it into a book lover's paradise. This year's festival was held the last weekend in April. Independent booksellers, chain stores, used book stores, and publishing houses of all sizes set up booths. An children's area featured authors and illustrators for the younger set. Friends and strangers alike struck up conversations while standing in line to meet their favorite authors, and book recommendations ran rampant.

During panels held both indoors and outdoors, writers interacted with their peers and their fans. One such panel, Young Adult Fiction: Rites of Initiation, featured four authors who have found recent success: Markus Zusak (The Book Thief), John Green (Looking for Alaska), Per Nilsson (You & You & You), and Andreas Steinhofel (The Center of the World).

Three of the four men are from overseas, which enabled them to discuss not only the differences between the book market for teens and that for adults, but those between the American market and those in their native countries. For example, Zusak's most recent release, The Book Thief, is shelved in the adult department in bookstores in his native Australia. In America, the book is located in the teen fiction department.

Earlier in the event, Zusak had teased, "It's hard to (find and sell) your books when your last name starts with a zed and you're on the bottom shelf in the back of the store."

All four panelists were passionate about books. When asked to list their favorite novels of all time, classics seems to be prevalent. Zusak said he enjoys John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath and Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five. Green (who jokingly called himself "the token American") spoke of his admiration for Zora Neale Hurston and his love for The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Tom Sawyer and the works of J.D. Salinger. Steinhofel confessed that he read under the table at school and that George Orwell's 1984 was "the first serious novel (he) ever read." Nilsson called Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and the Margarita "the best book in the world."

The definition of "young adult books" differs from country to country, not to mention from person to person. Some of the aforementioned writers specifically write for teens, while others wrote stories that happened to feature teens. No matter what the inspiration, all of them have produced amazing stories which, thankfully, they chose to share with audiences around the world.

This article was also published in the June issue of The Edge of the Forest.