What Gets Me (And Publishing) Excited: Part II

Last year, I went to BEA and noticed that all of the books that made me excited dealt with the power of human nature. This year was a bit different. But first, let me tell you what was definitely not buzz-worthy this year, in contrast to last year – no dystopian and no vampires, werewolves, or zombies. (Note: This is not counting new books that are part of an already established series.)

Now, on to my Top 5 Buzzworthy Books, as per the YA and Adult buzz panels:

1) Birds of Paradise by Diana Abu-Jaber (adult): A 13 year old runs away from home and returns to her family five years later as a different person. While the focus of the book seems to be Felice, the young runaway, the rest of the family is just as intriguing. I can’t wait to read this book to get to know them and watch them come to terms with what Felice’s return means.

2) The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach (adult): I’m especially excited about this book because it seems to combine two of my loves: literary fiction and baseball. And it’s a debut novel! Surface-wise, this book is about a small town kid whose chances of making it to the majors are destroyed when a wild pitch has disastrous results. But underneath the plot, there’s a story of ambition and youth and heartbreak.

3) Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor (YA): After reading last year’s Lips Touch Three Times, I knew that I’d be interested in Laini Taylor’s new book. Daughters of Smoke and Bone features winged strangers, star-crossed lovers, an ambiguous main character, and… teeth? I must know what it means! This book also accomplished the near-impossible, which was to get me interested in (gasp!) a book with angels. 

4) The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin (YA): When I listened to the editor talking about this book, I became frantic that I wasn’t going to be able to get a copy. Sadly, I was right. Michelle Hodkin is a debut author, and this first book sounds dark and twisted and just plain eerie, all complete with a mysterious main character and a hot boy. Basically, it’s completely my style.

5) We The Animals by Justin Torres (adult): This is another debut novel and another book that focuses on a family, particularly of three brothers. What was touted most about this book is the writing style, which is supposed to border on the magical and lyrical, so I am very excited to read this. (Sadly could not get a galley!) What else interested me about this title was its coming of age plot, its simple, child-like cover art, and its shorter length (about 150 pages). This book was on the adult buzz panel, and I wondered what would happen if they marketed it as YA. The brothers do, in fact, grow up, bringing the book into adult territory, but what appeals to me here is its crossover characteristics. I’ll be interested in seeing where/how it is reviewed when it is released.

5a) OK, this one is more like a special shout-out – Fracture by Megan Miranda (YA): This book wasn’t on any buzz panel, but I picked it up at the Walker/Bloomsbury booth and was instantly hooked just from reading the back copy. Here’s a taste: “It only takes three minutes without air for loss of consciousness. Permanent brain damage begins at four minutes. And then, when the oxygen runs out, full cardiac arrest occurs. Death is possible at five minutes. Probable at seven. Definite at ten.”

The main character gets pulled out of the icy water she’s drowning in after eleven minutes. The story is seemingly told from her perspective while she lays in a coma. I’m not entirely sure if that’s the case since I had to force myself to stop reading after the first page because I was getting in everyone’s way.

I’ll probably buy Fracture when it comes out even though I have the ARC because the cover wasn’t final and I like when books look pretty on my shelf. It’s also a debut novel, which I always love to support, monetarily if possible. (From an indie store, of course!)

So, there you have it. The books that got me most excited at BEA this year. There were others, of course but blog posts can only be so long. While I mentioned that last year the draw for me was human nature, this year was packed with intricate plots, tons of emotion, and characters who leave you with questions.

The takeaway is that paranormal is dwindling, but not dying, and the paranormal that is still coming out sounds spectacular. Gone are the days of “girl loves boy. boy is not human. conflict ensues.” No, these characters are complex and the plots are twisted, dynamic, and – to borrow a buzz panel word – “un-put-down-able.”

The stakes are as high as ever for paranormal, and the stakes are just as high as they’ve been for contemporary/realistic/literary. If there’s one lesson I learned from BEA this year it’s that only the strong survive. But, there seems to be a whole lot of “strong” going around – debut fiction included.

What Gets Me (And Publishing) Excited

I could spend today talking about all of the amazing, wonderful things I learned about publishing at BEA this week, but the truth is, Janet Reid is doing a far better job of saying everything I would say on her own blog (here!).

This was my second year going to BEA. A year ago, I did not have a blog or Twitter account, and I didn’t really know many other people in the industry. While my biggest fear in life is still “networking,” I think I was in better shape this year. That said, this year’s BEA, like last year’s, remained what I wanted it to be for me: the literary equivalent of Supermarket Sweep. 
Books I didn’t even care to read were thrown into my tote bags, and some of them I don’t even remember picking up. It was amazing. Of course, some books got me more excited than others. “Buzzworthy Books,” if you will. So here are my Top 5 books that not only am I personally excited about, but the publishing industry is excited about too.

1) The Passage by Justin Cronin. Good lord were they hyping this book! Sadly, I was not able to get a copy because I’m fairly certain they ran out within ten seconds. It’s yet another vampire book, but it’s one that reminds us that vampires do not, nor should they ever, sparkle. Post-apocalyptic, gritty, and destined to be a bestseller! In fact, I think it is already.

2) Room by Emma Donoghue. I’m very excited to read this book. Told from the perspective of five-year-old, Jack, Room is about being forced to live in captivity, and thinking of it as home. Of course, to Jack’s mom, it’s a prison from which she thinks she cannot ever escape. But more than that, it’s about the bond between a mother and son. I hope it’s not too premature to say that I think this book might do for mothers and sons what The Road did for fathers and sons.

3) The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore by Benjamin Hale. An absurdest “memoir” of an evolved chimpanzee named Bruno who falls in love, and shares a detailed intimate moment, with his human caretaker, Lydia. That should pretty much explain it all.

4) The D.U.F.F. by Kody Keplinger. You can accuse me of being biased, since Kody is a friend of the blog, but I am definitely not the only one excited about this book. It was a featured title on the “Buzzworthy YA” panel and her editor’s praise could not have been any higher or more genuine. The D.U.F.F. is about Bianca, the “Designated Ugly Fat Friend,” who begins a relationship with the hot and popular, Wesley. It’s realistic fiction that might be so real it’s raw, which I think is something sorely missing in YA lately. 

5) Matched by Allie Condie. This is another title I, unfortunately, could not snag at BEA, but I look forward to buying it. It was described in a way that reminded me of Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishigur. That is, a seemingly Utopian world that turns out to be anything but. In Matched, teenage Cassia looks forward to getting matched to her “perfect guy,” only to have her Matching Ceremony act as the catalyst in discovering her world is not what it appears to be. 

What’s exciting to me about each of these titles deals is that they deal more with human nature than they do with plot. Yes, The Passage will rely heavily on events and action, but like with any dystopian novel, what will make it interesting is how the characters struggle to survive. To me, this only proves that publishing is not a lost cause. At its heart, it still wants, needs, and gets excited about stories. Throw a vampire in there. Add a world-turned-upside-down. Or maybe just set it in a high school, letting the natural drama surrounding that world project your characters forward. In any case, remember it’s the story that matters, not the gimmick.