Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Readers

On Sunday at the Anderson's YA Conference, a young woman bounced up to me and said, "Does your publisher give free ARCs to bloggers?"

This is why I wish the internet had existed when I was in high school. I totally would have copied her gig. Free books, in exchange for writing about them? Yes, please. (Note to colleagues: I will totally blog about your books if send me them. The catch is that I'm almost criminally honest, so don't send me dreck.)

Anyhow, I told the young woman that if she came back at the end of the day, I'd give her an ARC of The War That Saved My Life. She did and I did.

I took several ARCs with me to Chicago. I gave a few to Becky Anderson for raffle prizes. I gave one to a second child blogger. I gave one to a lovely young woman named Margeaux, who sat at my table and who reminded me both of myself at that age and of my daughter, in different ways. Margeaux was one of the few readers at the conference who claimed to love historical fiction even more than dystopian. How could I not be charmed?

I gave another arc to a set of five friends who also sat at my table Saturday morning. I told them to pass it amongst themselves and then give it to their school librarian. Two of the five were sisters, and Goth. I'm pretty much over stoner Goths, but these were artistic literary Goths, and somehow I always find that type vulnerable and charming. Like the black eyeliner is a sort of armor. One of the Goths spent the keynote sessions doodling amazing art onto a sketchpad. (Teachers, please note: it is perfectly okay with me if your students doodle while I'm speaking. To me that's like knitting, something that makes it easier to listen.)

All five of the group that included the Goths had taken black marker and drawn runes on themselves. This has something to do with the series City of Bones. I haven't read those books so I don't understand the runes, but I LOVE THEM. I love them so much. I love that someone, in this case an enormous woman with hot pink hair, wrote down stories she made up in her head, and teens read those stories and identified with them. The Goths are less alone in the world because of those books.

One girl in the group looked almost anti-Goth, with perfect Irish red hair, milk-white skin, freckles, and an amazing smile. It was only when you looked close and saw that her hair had brown roots that you realized she did have something in common with the Goths (hair dye) besides a whole-hearted love of dystopian fiction. That girl's name was Bella; on Sunday, she was on my quiz bowl team, where she absolutely blew me away with how much she knew about current teen fiction and those who write it. Then, just to make me love her more, she leaned toward me and said, "I started the book you gave us last night. I really like it so far."