Your brief and biased guide to YALLFest 

Young at Heart

These crowds don't lie: YA lit fandom shows no signs of slowing down, which is good news for the nationally known Yallfest


These crowds don't lie: YA lit fandom shows no signs of slowing down, which is good news for the nationally known Yallfest

It's that time of year again — the sea breeze gets a little brisker, the evenings are darker, and the crowds overrunning Upper King are about 10 years younger than usual. In other words, it's YALLFest time.

The young adult literature fest founded by Blue Bicycle Books owner Jonathan Sanchez is going into its fourth year with widely expanded programming, a more diverse group of authors, and a greater presence in local schools — not to mention hours upon hours of panels and book signings with 60 YA authors, which is, of course, the whole point of YALLFest in the first place.

Now, since we can't take you through all 23 activities, we've highlighted a few of the panels and events that we think are can't-miss. And since the Opening Keynote, Closing Keynote, and YA Smackdown! are all sold out, we've left them off the list. For the full schedule, check out YALLFest's brand-new website at

And take note: this year, organizers have coded the panels by track, so you won't make a mistake like we did once and bring a nine-year-old to an event where the authors make a passing reference to sex toys. Whoops.

Anyway, MG stands for Middle Grade, which is defined by publishers and libraries as suitable for ages nine-11 or grades three-six. YA stands for Young Adult, which is generally defined as ages 13 and up, and IND stands for publishing industry, meaning the panels are about the nuts and bolts of being an author. YA books that deal with heavier stuff, like drug abuse, sex, etc., are generally marked as "16 and up," says Beautiful Creatures author and YALLFest co-organizer Margaret Stohl.

All events listed are on Sat. Nov. 8, except for the YALLCrawl, which is on Fri. Nov. 7. All events are also free unless otherwise noted.

YALLCrawl — the Penguin March
3-5 p.m.
Upper King Street

Some of the fest's biggest authors, including The Maze Runner author and one of the opening keynote speakers James Dashner, will sign books at different spots on Upper King. Start out at Blue Bicycle Books to get a map and purchase books. Other authors signing on Friday will include Sarah Dessen, Melissa de la Cruz, Scott Westerfeld, and Kiera Cass. See our Q&A with Dashner here.

Assassins, Secrets, and Spies
11 a.m.
American Theater Ballroom, 446 King St.

We love stories with a little espionage, so this should be a fun panel. Writers include Scott Westerfeld, author of the Uglies trilogy, Alexandra Bracken, author of the Darkest Minds series, and Libba Bray, author of the historical fiction Gemma Doyle trilogy.

Middle Grade Storyball
12 p.m.
Charleston Music Hall, 37 John St.

Young aspiring authors should make sure to catch this fun event, as they'll be able to write their own stories alongside famous middle-grade authors Pseudonymous Bosch, Jim DiBartolo, Adam Gidwitz, Carrie Ryan, and several others. It's sort of like the YA Smackdown! for younger readers — silly, fast-paced, and full of audience participation.

Boys vs. Girls: On and Behind the Page
2 p.m.
Charleston Music Hall, 37 John St.

We're always interested in hearing about the ins and outs of writing for girls and writing for boys, especially since there's markedly less literature out there aimed at young and teenage dudes. Scott Westerfeld, author of Afterworlds, moderates.

She's Kicking It
3 p.m.
American Theater Ballroom, 446 King St.

Writers Leigh Bardugo, Alexandra Bracken, Sarah Fine, Ryan Graudin, Marie Lu, and Sarah Mylnowski will discuss heroines of all types in all kinds of genres — because you don't have to have archery skills like Katniss Everdeen to be a badass hero.

The Dangers of the Single Story
4 p.m.
American Theater Ballroom, 446 King St.

The subheading for this panel is "Who does the bookshelf tell us we are?" and that intriguing line, plus the fact that it features three of the authors we interviewed — Maya Van Wagenen, Rita Williams-Garcia, and Matt de la Peña — makes this our final can't-miss. Expect them to discuss stories from points of view other than white.



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