NoVa Teen Book Festival 2014

Where: Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia.
When: Saturday, March 8th from 9:30am to 4pm
Book Event Website: NoVa Teen Book Festival

This was the first book festival organized by NoVa Teen, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.  But I can say I was highly impressed!  The venue was bright and comfortable with great acoustics.  The program of authors was varied and entertaining.  Lots of volunteers in bright red shirts helped answer questions and keep the day running smoothly.  And there were loads of tables with books and food for sale.  I am certainly adding NoVa Teen Book Fest to my list of annual events!

What I loved most about this event was how they organized the day.  In the main auditorium, they had 45 minute author panels, and then in classrooms they had smaller breakout sessions.  I didn’t attend any of the breakout sessions, and instead opted for the main panels in the auditorium.  Main Author Panels are listed below:

  • “Who Are You” A discussion about identity, destiny, and the roles that shape characters.
  • “The Scientist” The morality of science and the consequences of defying nature.
  • “Survivor” How dire circumstances and high-stakes situations unite and shape characters to defeat the odds.
  • “Bad Boys” An exploration into the appeal of bad boys and the girls who love them.

I loved that each panel had a theme that went beyond just book genre.  I caught the end of the panel about identity, and then listened to both “The Scientist” and “Survivor.”

The Scientist
This panel was my favorite of the day.  I love science fiction and this panel was FASCINATING.  The topic of science and morality is so timely and relevant.  Each author on the panel had a different perspective because each of their books had a different futuristic/science premise.

Jenna Black’s book Replica is based on the scientific premise of being able to create a back-up copy of yourself–complete with memories, physical traits, the whole deal.  Essentially cloning, but with that added twist of creating a duplicate copy of not just your body but your brain.  Ethics and idenity issues abound with this idea, and it is a fascinating concept.  (I bought the book.)

Jennifer Rush’s Altered is a book I’d already purchased as a Kobo ebook, and I started it… but have yet to finish.  In part I haven’t finished purely because I only have the Kobo app on my iPad and my iPad isn’t ideal to read on, in my opinion.  I need a Kobo ereader.  This book is essentially about genetic modifications, and some boys who have been experiments in a lab.

Cristin Terrill wrote All Our Yesterdays, which is about the catastrophic consequences of time travel.  The main character’s dilemma is whether she should go back in time and kill the inventor of time travel–even if that inventor was someone she loved and cared about…  Sounds a bit like the movie Looper.  I loveeee time travel stories, thanks to Ray Bradbury’s “Sound of Thunder.”  The consequences of time travel in fiction seems to have infinite possibilities and conflict galore.

And the final member of the panel (also the moderator) was Jon Skovron whose new novel Man Made Boy is about the son of Frankenstein.  The son of Frankenstein is a gifted hacker and creates a sentient computer virus.  Supposedly, this computer virus lacks empathy for human beings, and Boy Frankenstein must take responsibility for his creation.  I thought this was a super interesting premise, and this was one of my book purchases of the day.  Plus, Jon Skovron was a great moderator–knowledgeable in the field of YA and asked interesting questions.

Pictures from “The Scientists” Panel

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Author Jenna Black

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Jennifer Rush and Jenna Black

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From Left to Right: Cristin Terrill, Jennifer Rush, Jenna Black, Jon Skovron

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Author and Moderator Jon Skovron

This is probably one of my all-time favorite topics.  I love throwing my characters into high-stakes situations and seeing them fight their way out.  And all my favorite books involve authors pummeling their characters with dire circumstances.  And while I enjoyed the discussion, it wasn’t quite as mind-blowing as “The Scientist” panel was.

I’ve heard the whole “discuss how your character is a strong female” question before.  Yes.  Strong, kick-butt females are hot right now.  And I doubt that’s gonna change anytime soon… Because the alternative is… weak females?  Yeah.  Pretty much every author will argue their female lead is strong.

What I did find interesting was the idea that when a female character is too perfect… She’s a Mary Sue.  But go to the other end of the spectrum and she’s unlikable.  Arrogant?  She’s the B-word.  However, what several of the panelists argued, is that male characters can be these things.  Too perfect is hero figure (Bruce Wayne aka Batman was their example).  Arrogant is a beloved bad boy.  Female characters seem to have to hit this sweet spot of being just a bit flawed and relatable.  Very interesting and something you could delve deeper into if given longer than a 45 minute discussion.

The two authors I was most impressed by during this panel were Kristen Simmons and Meagan Spooner.

Kristen Simmons is the author of Article 5, which at least a dozen people on my Goodreads listed as “Want to Read” but only one actually read (the one person gave it a favorable 4 star review).  Perhaps Article 5 hit the dystopian trend a little too late, but from what I heard from Kristen Simmons, I’d still like to give this book a shot.  It sounds like a high stakes, exciting read!

These Broken Stars by Meagan Spooner and Amie Kaufman keeps popping up on my blogger radar with rave reviews.  The author described it as “Rose and Jack from Titanic in a spaceship where they crash in the first five minutes and land on the island from LOST.”  I paraphrased that.  Anyhow, it’s a love story in space from dual perspectives (I totally looove books with two POV characters).  And I pretty much had to buy this book based on both that crazy description and to see what all the blogosphere hype is about.

Pictures from Survivor Panel

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From Left to Right: Jessica Spotswood, Meagan Spooner, Kristen Simmons, Claudia Gray, Lisa Maxwell

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Kristen Simmons and Claudia Gray

Overall, this was a fantastic book event that I would highly recommend attending if you live in the Washington DC metro area.  Well-organized and a fun bookish day!

One comment on “NoVa Teen Book Festival 2014

  1. fakesteph says:

    This sounds amazing! I wish I had heard about it. I’ve been MIA from real life for a while because of student teaching, but it has been an amazing experience, so no regrets. I’ll make sure I get to this event next year!

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