I was able to attend TLA (the Texas Library Association annual conference) for a day earlier in April and walk the exhibit hall for a bit. I always enjoy talking to the publicists and other staff there to see what their favorites are and what they think is going to be hot in the coming months. I grabbed several titles that looked interesting, and a staff person at the Penguin booth even convinced me to give a few contemporary titles a try. (Please contain your gasps of astonishment.)
I thought I’d take this opportunity to share a few observations – trends for the upcoming seasons, what titles are really being pushed, what’s not being pushed at all. Synopses are from Worldcat or Goodreads. My comments are in brackets.
What’s Hot With the Staff
The publicists and other staff there (I’m never quite sure what their titles are!) were really pushing the contemporary realistic titles. My first stop was at the Penguin booth, where I asked one staff person’s personal favorites and she talked up Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You the Sun, Meg Wolitzer’s Belzhar, and Katherine Howe’s Conversion. The staff at Harper were really pushing Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern (the fact they compare it to John Green and Rainbow Rowell means it’s one of their darlings). Also talked up big was Alex Mallory’s Wild.
At the Tor booth, one of the staff told me that Ben Tripp’s The Accidental Highwayman was her favorite of the fall list and compared it to the Princess Bride. A couple of horror titles being pushed were Michael Grant’s Messenger of Fear and Micol Ostow’s Amity.
What’s Not There
I asked a lot about fantasy, science fiction, and horror titles, and to be honest, there wasn’t a whole lot that the staff were eager to recommend. I think this may have to do with the fact that there are a bunch of sequels coming out now, rather than series starters or standalones. I did ask specifically about science fiction a couple of places and was met with regretful apologies – there’s just not much there. (I’m kind of surprised by this since I’ve read quite a few fascinating SF titles recently.) They seemed much more eager to talk about the contemporary realistic titles; those seemed to be what resonated with a lot of the staff.
There’s definitely been a significant decrease in the number of dystopian and post-apocalyptic titles as well. I noticed more high fantasy than hard sci fi, which is pretty exciting to me (I love both, but high fantasy is my original love). That said, I did pick up some interesting galleys in all genres, which I’ll talk more about below.
I tried to keep an eye out for books (particularly SFF books) featuring people of color, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ characters. There were a few, but I didn’t really notice them being singled out and hand-sold. One exception was Sarah Tregay’s Fan Art, which features a gay teenage boy. I’ll talk a bit about these books featuring more diverse characters in my list of trends and other observations below.
Re-tellings are alive and well in summer and fall of 2014. Fairy tales, legends, classics, myths – they’re all being re-worked in new and interesting ways.
Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine (August 2014)
There are whispers of a
ghost in the slaughterhouse where sixteen-year-old Wen assists her
father in his medical clinic—a ghost who grants wishes to those who need
them most. When one of the Noor, men hired as cheap factory labor,
humiliates Wen, she makes an impulsive wish of her own, and the Ghost
grants it. Brutally.
Guilt-ridden, Wen befriends the Noor,
including their outspoken leader, a young man named Melik. At the same
time, she is lured by the mystery of the Ghost and learns he has been
watching her … for a very long time. [This is a re-telling of the Phantom of the Opera; the main character is Asian.]
Of Monsters and Madness by Jessica Verday (September 2014)
In 1820s Philadelphia, a girl finds herself in the midst of a rash of
gruesome murders in which her father and his alluring assistant might be
implicated. [This is a reimagining, in some ways at least, of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as well as Edgar Allan Poe’s stories.]
Poisoned Apples by Christine Heppermann (September 2014)
Christine Heppermann’s powerful collection of free verse poems explore
how girls are taught to think about themselves, their bodies, their
friends–as consumers, as objects, as competitors. Based on classic
fairy tale characters and fairy tale tropes, the poems range from
contemporary retellings to first person accounts set within the original
stories. [We’re giving away a finished copy of this as part of our five year anniversary giveaway!]
Stitching Snow by R. C. Lewis (October 2014)
A futuristic retelling of Snow White in which seventeen-year-old Essie, a
master at repairing robots and drones on the frozen mining planet
Thanda, is pulled into a war by handsome and mysterious Dane after his
shuttle crash-lands near her home.
Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay (December 2014)
After ten years of exile among fairies who teach her to use her
magically-enhanced strength and courage, Sleeping Beauty’s daughter
Aurora enlists the help of Niklaas, eleventh son of King Eldorio, in the
fight to reclaim her throne.
I think a lot of these stories spring from the post-apocalyptic trend, but they’re set in present day and don’t always involve the usual culprits (technology run amok, global warming, etc.).
Nil by Lynne Matson (available now)
Transported through a “gate” to the mysterious island of Nil,
seventeen-year-old Charley has 365 days to escape–or she will die. [Like Lost but not as fun. I’m trying to read it now and finding it rough going.]
Wild by Alex Mallory (July 2014)
When Cade, a boy who has lived in the forest his whole life, saves a
regular teen from a bear attack, he is brought into modern civilization
for the first time. [Publicist described this as a modern Tarzan story.]
The Islands at the End of the World by Austin Aslan (August 2014)
In this fast-paced
survival story set in Hawaii, electronics fail worldwide, the islands
become completely isolated, and a strange starscape fills the sky.
Leilani and her father embark on a nightmare odyssey from Oahu to their
home on the Big Island. Leilani’s epilepsy holds a clue to the disaster,
if only they can survive as the islands revert to earlier ways. [Features a half-white, half-native Hawaiian protagonist.]
Plagues and Epidemics
This is a trend that’s been going strong for a while (think Morris finalist In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters and The Program by Suzanne Young). Authors seem particularly entranced by the Spanish flu epidemic.
A Death-Struck Year by Makiia Lucier (available now)
When the Spanish influenza epidemic reaches Portland, Oregon, in 1918,
17-year-old Cleo leaves behind the comfort of her boarding school to
work for the Red Cross.
Conversion by Katherine Howe (July 2014)
When girls start experiencing strange tics and other mysterious symptoms
at Colleen’s high school, her small town of Danvers, Massachusetts,
falls victim to rumors that lead to full-blown panic, and only Colleen
connects their fate to the ill-fated Salem Village, where another group
of girls suffered from a similarly bizarre epidemic three centuries ago.
Love is the Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson (September 2014)
Emily Bird is an African American high school senior in Washington D.C.,
member of a privileged medical family, on the verge of college and the
edge of the drug culture, and not really sure which way she will
go–then one day she wakes up in the hospital with no memory of what
happened. [This synopsis doesn’t mention that the book heavily features a widespread flu virus.]
High Fantasy Picks
There were some intriguing high fantasy offerings that didn’t fit into any of the above categories.
Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis (June 2014)
A seventeen-year-old boy finds that every time he closes his eyes, he is
drawn into the body of a mute servant girl from another world–a world
that is growing increasingly more dangerous, and where many things are
not as they seem. [Characters in this book are disabled, LGBTQ, and people of color.]
The Perilous Sea by Sherry Thomas (August 2014)
After returning to Eton College, Titus makes a shocking discovery in his
mother’s diary that causes him to question everything he believed about
his and Iolanthe’s mission. [Sequel to the Burning Sky]
Lark Rising by Sandra Waugh (September 2014)
Sixteen-year-old Lark sets out on a journey to help her village fight
off monsters called Troths and learns she is the Guardian of Life, fated
to recover a powerful amulet from the Breeders of Chaos.
The Fire Artist by Daisy Whitney (October 2014)
As an elemental artist, Aria can create fire from her hands, stealing
her power from lightning–which is dangerous and illegal in her
world–but as her power begins to fade faster than she can steal it she
must turn to a modern-day genie, a Granter, who offers one wish with an
extremely high price. [Features a protagonist of Greek ancestry.]
Snow Like Ashes by Sarah Raasch (October 2014)
Orphaned Meira, a fierce chakram-wielding warrior from the Kingdom of
Winter, must struggle to free her people from the tyranny of an opposing
kingdom while also protecting her own destiny.
Other Good Stuff
Below are a few other titles that I’m excited to read and share with patrons and readers.
Curses and Smoke by Vicky Alvear Shecter (May 2014)
Tagus is a medical slave who wants be a gladiator, Lucia is the daughter
of Tag’s owner and betrothed to an older man, and the two teenagers are
in love with each other–but it is the year 79 and soon Vesuvius will
alter their lives forever. [I’m such a sucker for historical fiction like this. I loved reading about doomed places as a teen – Atlantis, Pompeii, Troy, anything.]
V is for Villain by Peter Moore (May 2014)
Brad Baron is used to
looking lame compared to his older brother, Blake. Though Brad’s
basically a genius, Blake is a superhero in the elite Justice Force. And
Brad doesn’t measure up at his high school, either, where powers like
super-strength and flying are the norm. So when Brad makes friends who
are more into political action than weight lifting, he’s happy to join a
new crew-especially since it means spending more time with Layla, a
girl who may or may not have a totally illegal, totally secret
super-power. And with her help, Brad begins to hone a dangerous new
power of his own.
The Bodies We Wear by Jeyn Robers (September 2014)
After a powerful new drug causes havoc and deadly addiction,
seventeen-year-old Faye trains to take revenge on those who took her
future and murdered the boy she loved. [I think this is a super intriguing title. I’m less sold on the synopsis, but I’ll give it a shot.]
Loop by Karen Akins (October 2014)
A time traveler
accidentally brings a boy from the past into the 23rd century, only to
discover he’s already in love with her future self and is keeping his
own set of secrets. [I will never tire of time travel in my fiction. Always fascinating!]
Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers (November 2014)
Annith’s worst fears are realized when she discovers that, despite her
lifelong training to be an assassin, she is being groomed by the abbess
as a Seeress, to be forever shut up in the convent of Saint Mortain. [This was quite possibly the title I was most excited to snag.]