Growing up and fitting in, balancing online and in-person personas, romance, family expectations, fighting back against injustice — it’s all part of being a teenager.
Fortunately, teens can dive into all of those topics and more at the 11th annual Texas Teen Book Festival, a daylong gathering Oct. 12 of 35 authors that both celebrates literature for young people and connects teen readers with the authors they love.
“I have had the privilege to witness the growth of the Texas Teen Book Festival from its first days as the little-festival-that-could at Westlake High School to what is now a celebration of teens and the books they love that takes over a huge swath of Southwestern University,” fest director Shawn Mauser says. “The festival has become a fixture in the reading lives of Central Texas teens, and I'm proud to have the opportunity to be a part of the team that creates that magic.
"Everyone involved in planning is passionate about connecting teens to great books in which they can see themselves and that represent the diversity of experience and culture that make up our Central Texas family.”
National Book Award nominee Erika L. Sánchez and essayist/comedian/YouTuber Akilah Hughes keynote this year’s fest, which moves to Georgetown’s Southwestern University for the first time.
“I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter,” Sánchez’s first book for young adults, was a New York Times bestseller. “Daughter” follows Chicago teen Julia as she grieves her sister’s accidental death and discovers that Olga’s “perfect” veneer hid plenty of secrets, all while both detailing and exploding cultural expectations. (Opening keynote, 10 a.m., Alma Thomas Theater)
Multihyphenate Hughes, a veteran of “Pod Save America,” shares her life story in a collection of funny, incisive essays, “Obviously: Stories From My Timeline.” Her closing keynote will include presentation of the three winners of the fest’s “Fresh Ink Fiction” contest for teenage writers, judged by Austin Bat Cave. (Afternoon keynote, 3:30 p.m., Thomas theater)
Sánchez and Hughes will also speak on author panels throughout the day. Sánchez joins the “This is Us” panel, centering on books that explore the theme of family. Other panelists include Sandhya Menon, author of the body-positive romance “There’s Something About Sweetie,” and Thanhha Lai, whose “Butterfly Yellow” follows a Vietnamese girl who sends her brother to America so he can escape the horrors of war. Six years later, she too makes her way to America, and is reunited with her brother in Texas only to discover he has forgotten about their homeland. (4:45 p.m., McCombs Center Ballroom)
Hughes teams with Mary H.K. Choi and Lauren Shippen on the “What’s Your Platform?” panel devoted to authors who write for multiple outlets in addition to their books. Choi — whose “Permanent Record” weaves the distorting lens of social media into her story of celebrity romance and failure to launch — is a podcaster, comics writer and culture correspondent at HBO’s “Vice News Tonight” in addition to a novelist. Shippen’s YA debut “The Infinite Noise” sprang from her celebrated fiction podcast “The Bright Sessions.” (11:15 a.m., Thomas theater)
Technology also links the novels of the “Reality Bytes” panel, which includes Arvin Ahmadi’s “Girl Gone Viral,” about a teenage coder determined to win a VR contest to help discover the truth about her father’s disappearance. Panelist Brittney Morris’ debut is “Slay,” billed as “Ready Player One” meets “The Hate U Give,” about a teen game creator who battles backlash against her game after a real-life murder springs from online events. (1:30 p.m., Thomas theater)
Driving change connects the books that make up “It’s Our World. Now What?” Akwaeke Emezi will showcase “Pet,” already longlisted for this year’s National Book Award; it’s a story of monsters both real and cultural. Brandy Colbert’s newest, “The Revolution of Birdie Randolph,” plumbs addiction and racial discrimination as it traces the love story between good girl Birdie and former bad boy Booker. Joelle Charbonneau’s “Verify” imagines a world in which lies don’t exist (until they do), and e.E. Charlton Trujillo brings back her award-winning “Fat Angie” in a new road-trip adventure, “Fat Angie: Rebel Girl Revolution.” (2:30 p.m., Thomas theater)
The festival also features a variety of literary-themed activities. There will be a retrospective of selected “90-Second Newbery” films, a yearly video contest in which young people create movies of Newbery-winning books in — naturally — 90 seconds. 90-Second Newbery founder James Kennedy and “Butterfly Yellow” author Lai, a Newbery honoree, host. (12:15 p.m., Thomas theater)
Returning is the iTent, which rotates interactive programs throughout the day, from making your own ’zine with Barrio Writers and Red Salmon Arts to the fourth annual Epic Reads literary costume contest to Penguin Teen Game Night. We Need Diverse Books founding member Lamar Giles, “Slay” author Morris and Caldecott honoree and Coretta Scott King award winner Christopher Myers team for an “Ask Me Anything” panel.
All authors will sign their books throughout the day at tents on the Academic Mall.