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Adult Books 4 Teens
Inside Adult Books 4 Teens

BookExpo Summary

BookExpo can be an overwhelming experience. This year was no exception. In summarizing it here, my plan is to limit myself to adult books with potential teen appeal and their authors. Apologies to all of the wonderful YA and Adult authors and titles that will not be mentioned here.

Overall, I was impressed by how many of the adult books being promoted this year have potential appeal to younger readers. Consensus seems to be that there were fewer advanced reader copies available at BookExpo this year, and some attendees were disappointed. Maybe, but the quality of the books being promoted was exceptional. I came away very excited about the coming months, and having enjoyed three wonderful days in the company of passionate fellow booklovers.

It all started first thing Monday morning with Library Journal’s Day of Dialog, and an Editor’s Picks panel. These are always a treat; it is a rare experience to hear directly from the editors. Here are the titles I starred for potential teen appeal:

From Henry Holt:
And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut: a life by Charles J. Shields (November). This biography may be a stretch, but Vonnegut is popular with many teen readers.

From Atria:
The Map of Time by Felix J Palma (June). First in a trilogy set in Victorian London that may appeal to steampunk fans; includes characters such as H.G. Wells.

The Dog Who Knew too Much by Spencer Quinn (September). The fourth Chet and Bernie mystery. These funny and charming mysteries told from the dog’s point of view have natural appeal for teen readers.

Triangles by Ellen Hopkins (October). The first adult novel from the very, very popular YA author certainly sounds adult (three friends face midlife crises). She will be releasing a 2012 novel for YAs telling the same story from the teen point-of-view. (Click here for a glimpse of the cover.)

From Bloomsbury:
Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward (August). A pregnant 14-year-old takes the reader through 12 days in Mississippi, culminating with the arrival of Hurricane Katrina.

Day of Dialog continued with an author panel titled “Truth or Dare: Presenting the Past in History and Fiction.

I especially look forward to reading The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka (Knopf, August), the author of When the Emperor was Divine (Knopf, 2002). Picture brides come to the U.S. to marry Japanese men they have only met through letters and photographs. Most are 13-15 when they set sail, and the novel is written in the “choral we” voice of the young women.

Tony Horwitz, author of Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War (Holt, October) is married to Geraldine Brooks, one of my favorite authors (The People of the Book, March, Year of Wonders, and currently Caleb’s Crossing). He was very funny describing all of the strenuous historical research he must go through, while his wife sits across the room in their attic office, happily “just making stuff up.” (If you’ve read her books, you know that’s simply not true!) Midnight Rising sounds like a fascinating read.

As does Mightier Than the Sword: Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the Battle for America by David S. Reynolds (Norton, June), which the author described as a cultural biography – Uncle Tom’s Cabin was both shaped by the culture of the time, and has ever since itself shaped the culture of those who read it. Sounds like a shoe-in for school library collections.

Amy Waldman, author of The Submission (Farrar, August), was a journalist with the New York Times for years. She talked about how freeing it was to write fiction after writing articles. Her novel is about a Muslim architect who submits a plan for the World Trade Center memorial. Waldman had to change some of her novel when it came too close to reality after the story broke about the Mosque being planned within blocks of the site.

Late Monday afternoon I headed over to the Javits Center to attend the Adult Buzz Panel. This is another chance to hear editors talk about their picks for fall. In this case there are six editors, and each talks for 10 minutes about one book. Of the six, five (!) had possible teen potential:

Running the Rift by Naomi Bernaron (January 2012). Once again, Algonquin will publish the Bellwether Prize for Fiction winner (following Mudbound and The Girl Who Fell from the Sky). This is the story of a Rwandan boy whose goal is to win an Olympic medal for track. But the genocide gets in his way. The editor emphasized the beauty of the country and its culture.

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach (Little Brown, September). Two college kids in the Midwest and their love of playing baseball. I admit to little interest in baseball, but the description had me dying to read this book. I’ll let you know!

Birds of Paradise by Diana Abu-Jabar (Norton, September). Set in Miami, and described as both deep and frivolous, this is the story of a girl who ran away from home at 13, then returns at 18 and the issues that ensue.

We the Animals by Justin Torres (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, August). This slim book is about three young brothers, coming out, and violence in the home. Guaranteed to make the reader “see the world in a new way.” I also saw the author interviewed on Tuesday, but will save that for a later post. We will be reviewing this one here.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (Doubleday, September). No doubt this will be a huge hit with teens. In fact, the presenter was quite right to say that this is for everyone, for all ages. You will be hearing a lot more about it; movie rights have already been sold.

Tuesday started off with a Random House Book & Author breakfast. Such a starry line-up! Each author was introduced by their editor, and then spoke for 10-15 minutes.

First up was Craig Thompson, who spoke about his upcoming graphic novel, Habibi (Pantheon, September). He began by talking about how sick he was of drawing himself in Blankets, so he was looking for something completely different. He found it. Habibi is an Arabian Nights fairy tale that manages to be timely, broaching issues such as the water crisis and the intersection of Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

Vanessa Diffenbaugh, author of The Language of Flowers (Ballantine, August), could not have been more engaging. Her novel centers on a young woman aging out of the foster care system. Vanessa has been fostering children and teens since she was 23. She has established a nonprofit in conjunction with the book, the Camellia Network. Its mission is to “combat the tragic outcomes of the foster care system by providing a safe, simple, personal way for individuals to contribute material and emotional support to young people transitioning from foster care to independent adulthood.”

Ready Player One (Crown, August) follows an orphan caught up in a gaming universe called The Oasis. It is described as a quest novel, inspired by Willy Wonka. Author Ernest Cline spoke about his years as a screenwriter, how soul-crushing it is to write a story only to have it changed until it is nearly unrecognizable. He decided to write a book because there is nothing between author and audience. Of course, the day after he sold the book, he sold the film rights. Back to writing a screenplay!

Erin Morgenstern, the author of The Night Circus (Doubleday, September), read from one of my favorite parts of her book – a boy discovers a circus tent full of bottles and pots. Opening each container unleashes a full sensory experience.

And finally, Esmeralda Santiago (author of When I was Puerto Rican, a memoir which I’m sure most of us have in our library collections) spoke about her upcoming historical fiction novel, Conquistadora (Knopf, July). She presented it as her recreation of the ancestors she has never been able to track down entirely.

After breakfast it was time to hit the exhibits. The first ARC I came across was a book I have been looking forward to for months – When She Woke by Hillary Jordan (Algonquin, October). Jordan’s debut novel, Mudbound, won an Alex Award. This novel’s subject matter is completely different – a woman wakes up in prison and her skin is bright red. That is her punishment – it indicates to the world that she is a murderer.  I am about 60 pages in, and it is fascinating.

The other ARC that I was thrilled to find was The Magician King by Lev Grossman (Viking, August), the sequel to last year’s Alex-Award-winning The Magicians. I started it on my way home that evening. Love!

The AAP Librarian’s Lunch boasted another all-star lineup:
Chuck Palahniuk, author of Damned (Doubleday)
Spencer Quinn, author of To Fetch A Thief (Atria)
Diana Abu-Jaber, author of Birds of Paradise: A Novel (W.W. Norton)
Julie Kagawa, author of The Iron Queen (Harlequin Teen)
Tom Perrotta, author of The Leftovers (St. Martin’s Press)
David Baldacci, author of One Summer (Grand Central Publishing)

I am especially interested to read Damned — about  a 13-year-old girl in hell who is trying to work out how to damn her entire family. She misses them.

The lunch was followed immediately by the AAP Librarian’s Book Buzz. Too many books to go into detail, but a few stood out for teen appeal:
The Little Bride by Anna Solomon (Riverhead, September)
The Kid by Sapphire (Penguin, July)
If Jack’s in Love by Stephen Wetta (Putnam, September)

The remainder of Tuesday and all of Wednesday I spent on the exhibits floor, talking with librarians, authors and publishers. It was great fun. A few more books to highlight:

Tayari Jones, author of Silver Sparrow (Algonquin, May) was signing and I was thrilled to meet her. I posted about her novel last week.

Christie Watson, author of Tiny Sunbirds, Far Away (Other Press, May), was also signing her novel about a girl growing up in rural Nigeria.

Pure by Julianna Baggott (Grand Central, February 2012)  The first in a postapocalyptic trilogy, which the publisher blurb compares to The Passage, The Road and 1984. Big shoes to fill. Being one of my favorite genres, I’m willing to give it a try.

The Maid by Kimberly Cutter (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, October) — a novel about Joan of Arc.

Child Wonder by Roy Jacobsen (Graywolf, September) — a coming of age novel set in Norway.

Hopefully, you will be seeing reviews of most of these titles here over the coming months. A huge thank you to all of the authors, editors, marketers, fellow librarians and reading enthusiasts who made this year’s event one to remember.

Angela Carstensen About Angela Carstensen

Angela Carstensen is Head Librarian and an Upper School Librarian at Convent of the Sacred Heart in New York City. Angela served on the Alex Awards committee for four years, chairing the 2008 committee, and chaired the first YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adult committee in 2009. Recently, she edited Outstanding Books for the College Bound: Titles and Programs for a New Generation (ALA Editions, 2011). Contact her via Twitter @AngeReads.


  1. Priscille Dando says:

    Excellent wrap-up! Looking forward to reading many of these.

  2. Diane Colson says:

    What a treat! It’s like seeing all your wrapped presents spread out under the tree, waiting to be opened. I’m especially looking forward to Tony Horowitz’s and Hillary Jordan’s new books.

  3. Great wrap-up. It does look a great year for good books with teen appeal.