Kimberly Jones and Vania Stoyanova met over books. Several years ago, they launched a book club for adult readers of young adult books. Now they are reaching out to a bigger audience with a “Jimmy Kimmel-esqe” live talk show featuring young adult (YA) authors called YATL.
“We thought, what can we do that is different from You Tube and regular events,” said Stoyanova, a writer and photographer. “How can readers enjoy getting to know authors in a different way?”
The inaugural show on Jan. 24 at Georgia Center for the Book will feature Jackson Pearce, “Cold Spell”; Lauren Morrill , “My Unscripted Life,” and New York Times bestselling author Nic Stone, “Dear Martin.”
“If you come, expect shenanigans, because that is what we deliver,” said Jones, an author and former bookseller at Little Shop of Stories in Decatur. Jones knows how tough it can be to grab the attention of young adult readers. The shenanigans at YATL may include Truth or Dare, Twister and other games as well as standard interviews with the authors, Jones said.
The beginnings of YATL came about several years ago when Jones and Stoyanova collaborated on a live game of ‘Truth or Dare’ with several YA authors at the AJC Decatur Book Festival. The event grew each year until one year, a video of an author dare went viral and they knew they were on to something.
“Teenagers want to know you as a person. If you have a great personality and they can relate to you as a person it doesn’t even matter what your book is about,” Stoyanova said.
Something about watching bestselling authors acting silly is a big draw for YA readers. “They come for the fun, but they see these personalities and walk away with a book,” said Jones.
Juvenile books are the only major category of books increased last year. The best-selling new book of 2017 was the latest installment in Jeff Kinney’s Wimpy Kid series, The Getaway. It sold more than 992,000 copies.
From 2016 to 2017, unit sales of juvenile fiction increased 7.8 percent, a bigger increase than any other major category including juvenile non-fiction, adult non-fiction and adult fiction. Adult fiction was the only category that saw a decrease in unit sales, according to data from NPD BookScan.
“Children’s literature is saving the literary world,” Jones said. But between school work, digital entertainment and other activities competing for their attention, young readers are not an easy get. Add to that young readers who feel as if they don’t see themselves represented in books and they may be even less likely to engage in reading as pleasure.
Diversity has been a big issue in the YA market in recent years and there has been a big push to make sure characters in and authors of young adult books represent a range of demographics. YA content itself has become more diverse in the last decade. Mental illness, eating disorders, sexual identity, racial injustice and police brutality are all topics that writers of young adult books have tackled.
An upcoming book signing at Barnes & Noble in Buckhead on Jan. 27 offers a glimpse into just how diverse the YA market has become. The panel includes four metro area authors including former clinical psychologist, Becky Albertalli, whose book “Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda,” features the not-openly gay Simon Spier who is afraid of he may be outed before he is ready.
In “A Taxonomy of Love,” Rachael Allen writes about Spencer who manages his Tourette syndrome along with young love. Lauren Karcz released her first book, “The Gallery of Unfinished Girls,” in July featuring artist Mercedes Moreno who has lost her creative inspiration because her abuela is in a coma and because she thinks she may be in love with her best friend.
Laura Silverman’s “Girl Out of Water” documents the life of Anise who should be enjoying senior year on the beach in Santa Cruz but is instead forced to move to Nebraska to care for three young cousins in the childhood home of the mother who abandoned her.
With YATL, Jones and Stoyanova said they approach diversity in an intentional way. Jones is African-American. Sotyanova is a Bulgarian immigrant and the show producer, Jessi Esparza is Mexican-American. Their events will feature not just diverse authors and topics, but diverse publishers as well, said Stoyanova.
Mostly they just want YATL attendees to relax and have fun.
“I feel like right now...everything is so serious and it is feeling like the end of the world,” Stoyanova said. “I want people to come in and forget about that and enjoy themselves and walk away with a new book or get to know an author in a different way.”
Wednesday, Jan. 24, 7:30 p.m., free
YATL, Georgia Center for the Book at DeKalb County Public Library
215 Sycamore Street, Decatur 404-370-3070 x2285, georgiacenterforthebook.org
Saturday, Jan 27, 2 p.m., free
Book signing featuring female YA authors from Atlanta
Barnes and Noble, 2900 Peachtree Road NE, Suite 310, Atlanta