News flash: teens like dystopian tales and publishers are bringing plenty of them to the Winter Institute this weekend in Kansas City. "As booksellers, we might get sick of certain topics well before the general population does," said Becky Quiroga Curtis, children's and YA buyer at Book & Books in Coral Gables, Fla.
About six months ago, Putnam sent our an excerpt of The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey (May) that left booksellers clamoring for more; now those attending the Winter Institute will have the chance to meet the author. Even if Yancey did not come from Florida, Quiroga Curtis said she would still be high on this YA novel. "I think about it almost every night," she said. Cassie, the main character, is trying to survive in a world after the fifth Armageddon--and save her brother, too. "It's aliens," said Heather Herbert from Children's Book World in Haverford, Pa. "But it's not Sigourney Weaver fighting aliens. I did not feel that this was like anything I have read before. The characters are really fleshed out." Kathleen Caldwell at A Great Good Place for Books in Oakland, Calif., called The 5th Wave "dystopia for the smarter set."
In this genre, Houghton is featuring The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau (June). "In the grueling and fatal contest to come out on top of this year's class of dystopian novels, The Testing has all the qualities which will make it a valedictorian," said Kenny Brechner of Devaney, Doak and Garrett Booksellers in Farmington, Maine. "What really makes it exceptional is the convincing environmental detail of its setting and the psychological intricacy of its plot."
Like many Winter Institute attendees, Caldwell said she was very excited about Algonquin's new Young Readers imprint, launched by Elise Howard as editor and Eileen Lawrence in marketing, who have impressive publishing track records. Algonquin is bringing two authors from its new imprint to meet and mingle with booksellers in Kansas City: Sara Farizan, whose If You Could Be Mine (August) is about two girls in Iran who are not only best friends but are in love with each other, and Amy Herrick, whose The Time Fetch (August) is about an eighth-grader who picks up a rock that turns out to be the source of change for all of time and space. Quiroga Curtis said she thinks children's books was what Algonquin had been missing on its list, adding, "They have chosen really, really great books to start with."
For some booksellers, the top YA title was Severed Head, Broken Hearts by Robyn Schneider (Katherine Tegan/Harper, June), about a high school star athlete who has a devastating accident and finds out he likes being among the smart nerds. Schneider is being compared with John Green, and Caldwell thinks she lives up to the comparison. "I will sell hundreds of copies of Severed Heads, Broken Hearts," said Caldwell, who is known for doing just that with books she and her staff adore. "I can't tell you the big plot twist, but the pacing pulls you through and then you are absolutely shocked because you don't see what's coming. And it's a story about having the courage to be who you are."
Tom McNeal will appear at the Winter Institute as a solo YA author for the first time; he usually writes books with his wife, Laura. His novel Far Far Away (Knopf, June) is filled with wordplay and is about a boy who hears the voice of the ghost of one of the Brothers Grimm. "I'm 25 pages into it, and I can't wait to get back to it," said Robert Macdonald, children's buyer at the Book Stall at Chestnut Court in Winnetka, Ill. Valerie Koehler from Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston, Texas, sees lots of adult crossover potential for McNeal's novel.
"Oh, my gosh," said Books & Books's Quiroga Curtis, about Jessica Brody's Unremembered, a March title, the first in a new trilogy from Farrar, Straus & Giroux. "I cannot put it down. I was walking into traffic this morning reading it on the way to work."
Other YA authors booksellers will be lining up to meet at the Winter Institute include Ally Carter, who writes the Gallagher Girls and Heist Society series; Margaret Stohl, co-creator of the Beautiful Creatures series (Little, Brown); Alaya Dawn Johnson, author of the dystopian The Summer Prince (Scholastic, Mar.); Shannon Messenger with Let the Sky Fall (Simon Pulse, Mar.); and Samantha Shannon, a student at the University of Oxford and author of The Bone Season (Bloomsbury, Aug.), the first in a seven-book series.
For younger readers, booksellers are buzzing about The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani (HarperCollins, May) and Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made by Stephen Pastis (Candlewick, Feb.). Both authors will be in Kansas City. Pastis is known for his "Pearls Before Swine" syndicated cartoon. Other cartoonist/authors scheduled to sign at the Winter Institute are: Michael Fry of "Over the Hedge," who has a new Odd Squad book, Bully Bait (Disney, Feb.) and Mark Tatulli of "Heart of the City," author of Lio: Making Friends (Andrews McMeel, May). Former NFL defensive end Trevor Pryce will sign copies of his first book (written with Sanford Greene), An Army of Frogs: A Kulipari Novel (Amulet, May).
Former Vroman's bookseller Linda Urban will be attending with her new novel, The Center of Everything (Harcourt, Mar.), starring 12-year-old Ruby Pepperdine. In picture books, Cory Silverberg, a sex expert who was raised by a librarian, will promote What Makes a Baby (Seven Stories), and Lidia Bastianich, the TV cook who owns several restaurants--including one in Kansas City--has Lidia's Family Kitchen: Nona's Birthday Surprise (Running Press). --Bridget Kinsella