Image via Barnes and Noble.
Image via Barnes and Noble

B-Fest took place on June 10–12 and was Barnes and Noble’s first teenage book event nationwide. This book festival included writing workshops, author appearances, giveaways, contests, and everything that booklovers could have dreamed of — and more. Teens and adults alike had the opportunity to sit in on panels with bestselling YA authors with topics varying from diversity in teen fiction to the use of social media in the literary world. For those who enjoy reading and who want to pursue a writing career, B-Fest was an event not to miss.

IMG_9750On June 11th, I had the opportunity to join authors Cindy Pon (Serpentine) and Dana Elmendorf (South of Sunshine) as well as librarian Lalitha Nataraj and moderator Kathleen Meengs on a panel discussing the well-needed diversity in teen fiction. Both Cindy and Dana expressed their passion for unique and diverse characters that need to be seen in upcoming teen fiction, such as a larger appearance of teens of color as well as teens realistically struggling with depression, their sexual identities, and many other authentic issues. We also discussed how books such as Everything, Everything, All the Bright Places, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower have all played a significant role in making the YA genre much more diverse. But, we all agreed that writers still have important work to do in the future in regards to creating relatable yet non-stereotypical characters for teens of all races and sexual orientations to be able to identify with.  

Getting the chance to meet and take part in this discussion with Dana, Cindy, Lalitha, and Kathleen was absolutely amazing. It was truly inspiring to talk about the books that have formed YA fiction and also what is still needed for all teens to feel included in books today. As a future writer, I was able to learn so much as to what I can do to help teens feel understood and accurately represented in the literary world. Overall, B-Fest was an event that was informative, entertaining, hilarious, and thought-provoking.

If one thing can be taken away from this event, it is that books help teens (and adults too) to feel understood, and when someone is not represented in fiction, they can feel alone in the struggle they are facing. Diversity is something that writers and readers cherish and need to address. Whether it be the struggle of coming out, the challenges that come with being a different race, or the burden of depression, all teens need diverse tales that show that others are going through similar situations.

B-Fest was an incredible experience that I will always cherish, and I will never forget the importance of diversity and how significant it is that those of us who are looking to write in the future create characters that everyone can be proud of and resonate with.

Interested in supporting diverse books that are currently saving teens from feeling alone? Check out We Need Diverse Books | Official site of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks … and help support books that are spreading diversity, acceptance, and love.

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