Earlier last week I had the fun and pleasure of attending The Centre for Youth Literature's YA Showcase for 2017. In front of an awesome group of YA fans, writers and industry workers, different publishers shared with us their most exciting YA reads coming out in 2017.
With a front row seat I live-tweeted the event which you can peruse here. I've also finally come around to compiling my own round up of the showcase; talking about the YA titles that grabbed my attention, and the shape 2017 seems to be taking now and towards the future with YA and YA publishing.
VALENTINE- Jodie McAlister | Jan 2017
Four teenagers – all born on the same Valentine’s Day – begin to disappear. As the bodies mount up, Pearl Linford has to work out what in the supernatural hell is going on, before it happens to her. Finn Blacklin is the boy with whom Pearl shares a birthday, the boy she has known all her life and disliked every second of it, the boy her subconscious has a totally annoying crush on. Finn is also the Valentine: a Seelie fairy changeling swapped for a human boy at birth. The Unseelie have come to kill the Valentine – except they don’t know who it is. And now both the Seelie and the Unseelie think Pearl is the Valentine, and if they find out she isn’t, she’ll disappear too. Pearl must use all her wits to protect herself. Finn must come to terms with his newfound heritage. And then there’s the explosive chemistry between them that neither of them know quite what to do about.
IDA- Alison Evans | Jan 2017
Ida struggles more than other young people to work this out. She can shift between parallel universes, allowing her to follow alternative paths. One day Ida sees a shadowy, see-through doppelganger of herself on the train. She starts to wonder if she’s actually in control of her ability, and whether there are effects far beyond what she’s considered. How can she know, anyway, whether one universe is ultimately better than another? And what if the continual shifting causes her to lose what is most important to her, just as she’s discovering what that is, and she can never find her way back?
STARGAZING FOR BEGINNERS- Jenny McLachlan | Apr 2017
Science geek Meg is left to look after her little sister for ten days after her free-spirited mum leaves suddenly to follow up yet another of her Big Important Causes. But while Meg may understand how the universe was formed, baby Elsa is a complete mystery to her. And Mum's disappearance has come at the worst time: Meg is desperate to win a competition to get the chance to visit NASA headquarters, but to do this she has to beat close rival Ed. Can Meg pull off this double life of caring for Elsa and following her own dreams? She'll need a miracle of cosmic proportions.
LIFE IN A FISHBOWL- Len Vlahos | Jan 2017
Jackie’s life wasn’t perfect, but at least it was normal. That is, until her dad received a terminal cancer diagnosis. Then he went and did what anyone faced with mountains of medical bills and a family to support would do: he sold his life to the highest bidder. Which turned out to be a TV station. Suddenly everyone from psychotic millionaires to cyber-savvy nuns wants a piece of Jackie’s family as they become a reality TV sensation. Jackie’s life spirals out of control just as her dad’s starts to run out, and meanwhile the whole world is tuning in to watch her family fall apart.Acidly funny and heartbreakingly sad, Life in a Fishbowl is an exploration of the value of life and what memories mean to us. Perfect for fans of Patrick Ness.
NIGHT SWIMMING- Steph Bowe | Apr 2017
Imagine being the only two seventeen-year-olds in a small town. That’s life for Kirby Arrow—named after the most dissenting judge in Australia’s history—and her best friend Clancy Lee, would-be musical star. Clancy wants nothing more than to leave town and head for the big smoke, but Kirby is worried: her family has a history of leaving. She hasn’t heard from her father since he left when she was a baby. Shouldn’t she stay to help her mother with the goat’s-milk soap-making business, look after her grandfather who suffers from dementia, be an apprentice carpenter to old Mr Pool? And how could she leave her pet goat, Stanley, her dog Maude, and her cat Marianne? But two things happen that change everything for Kirby. She finds an article in the newspaper about her father, and Iris arrives in town. Iris is beautiful, wears crazy clothes, plays the mandolin, and seems perfect, really, thinks Kirby. Clancy has his heart set on winning over Iris. Trouble is Kirby is also falling in love with Iris…
BEGIN, END, BEGIN: A #LoveOzYA Anthology | May 2017
The YA event of the year. Bestsellers. Award-winners. Superstars. This anthology has them all. With brilliantly entertaining short stories from beloved young adult authors Amie Kaufman, Melissa Keil, Will Kostakis, Ellie Marney, Jaclyn Moriarty, Michael Pryor, Alice Pung, Gabrielle Tozer, Lili Wilkinson and Danielle Binks, this all-new collection will show the world exactly how much there is to love about Aussie YA.
BEAUTIFUL MESS- Claire Christian | Late 2017
Last year’s Text Prize winner gives us a raw, affecting coming-of-age story that starts a conversation about mental health.
THE THINGS WE PROMISE- J.C.Burke | Mar 2017
Set during the 90s, this coming-of-age tale about a sister and her older brother sounds beautiful and heartbreaking. Set in the 1990’s, the only things that Gemma can think about is looking perfect for her first school formal. Her brother Billy; New York’s up and coming make-up artists has made her the ultimate promise – he will be there to make her night perfect. But, when he returns both her and their family are hiding secrets. And Gemma’s life is changed forever when her brother is diagnosed with HIV positive.
AMELIA WESTLAKE- Erin Gough | Late 2017
Two very different teenager girls come up with a grand feminist hoax to bring down their elite school, and somehow end up falling for each other.
FROGKISSER- Garth Nix | Feb 2017
Poor Princess Anya. Forced to live with her evil stepmother's new husband, her evil stepstepfather. Plagued with an unfortunate ability to break curses with a magic-assisted kiss. And forced to go on the run when her stepstepfather decides to make the kingdom entirely his own. Aided by a loyal talking dog, a boy thief trapped in the body of a newt, and some extraordinarily mischievous wizards, Anya sets off on a Quest that, if she plays it right, will ultimately free her land-and teach her a thing or two about the use of power, the effectiveness of a well-placed pucker, and the finding of friends in places both high and low. For fans of Howl’s Moving Castle, this story is 50% fairytale, 50% adventure and 100% hilarious.
FINDING NEVO- Nevo Zisin | Mid 2017
20-year-old activist Nevo Zisin is an inspiring young person who identifies as transgender; this is his story.
MR ROMANOV'S GARDEN IN THE SKY- Robert Newton | Feb 2017
A violent incident sparks an unlikely and surprising friendship between a young girl and an old man, leading to an adventure that brings both drama and understanding to their lives in contemporary Melbourne.
GEEKARELLA- Ashley Postan | Mar 2017
Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic sci-fi series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball, and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck (and her dad’s old costume), Elle’s determined to win…unless her stepsisters get there first. Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons—before he was famous. Now they’re nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but Starfield fandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake—until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise. But when she disappears at midnight, will he ever be able to find her again? Part romance, part love letter to nerd culture
There were a many great more books shown at the showcase; proving just how imaginative and broad Aussie's YA interests can be. As I tweeted throughout the event, the calls for more diverse, representative (and honestly queer) stories to emerge from Oz YA are being answered (especially given the above line-up, we've gained momentum and are only increasing in diversity). Something which is beautiful, uplifting and hopeful- really shining a star on the Australian YA industry, from writers, to agents, to publishers, to marketers and all in-between.
This being said the YA showcase does hold up a mirror for Australia's literary scene; a particularly white literary scene.
Australia has always grappled with the issue of culturally diverse representations in our literary work and industry. With white Australia having more than our fair share of opportunities, platforms, support and representation- we’ve shut (and are continuing to shut) our fellow multicultural/poc creators, industry reps and publishers out.
Yes, we’ve started to make strides in diversity in both the Aus and YA literary scene, but so clearly, so painfully this isn't yet enough.
The challenge of reshaping Australia’s insular and homogenous literary industry isn’t new or easy. In fact, with the entire industry facing chronic government defunding it’s never been a more necessary step for all of us, on every level, to fight for inclusivity. While of course the larger issues of societal discrimination/disadvantage can’t just *poof* and be fixed, we can make room for our multicultural brethren, give more diverse writers and publishing orgs the platform to share, market and develop their work. Industry reps can decide to employ, mentor and develop Australians from more diverse backgrounds, across all levels. They can commission more diverse content, invest in corporate roles aimed at improving diversity and understanding. And we as writers and creators of literary work can lift up our fellow multicultural writers, support their work and craft, and most of all step to the side, bunch up together and give them room beside us.
These sorts of events like the YA Showcase (my first and certainly not my last) are such wonderful, unionising and exciting events, the more we expand, stretch out and include others; the greater and more fruitful future events will become.
I think that's the thought I was left with after the YA Showcase ended: we've made great strides in our representations and diversity in YA, but we still have a long way to go.