NaNoWriMo 2014: Actual Writing Advice from Actual Authors!

Hello everyone!

I am so so so so SO excited to be sharing in this post today.

I talk about writing and writing advice a lot when it comes to the blog and my aspiring career as a writer. I am lucky enough that I get to interact with authors on a daily basis, side effects whether over the internet or in person, buy more about and I’ve met SO many inspiring ones that have given me such amazing advice. The advice and guidance that I’ve received over the past two years as whatanerdgirlsays has been so helpful in my journey to becoming a better writer.

Now, I have a goal of 45K words for NaNoWriMo but my biggest goal is to really nail down my character and her development over the course of the story. Evie is my main character and Untitled (it will have a title one day, I promise…) is her story. Its her story in the past, when she’s 15 years old, and its her story in the present, at 19 years old. Both important, and it takes a lot of development. She’s going to develop in both stories and its a little overwhelming but I believe in her and my story.

So when I started planning my NaNoWriMo schedule on the blog, I knew that I wanted a post about writing and writing advice and I wanted to reach out to the authors that I’ve met over the past two years and ask for their assistance in creating and developing characters.

I hope you enjoy. Every single piece of advice of below is unique to this post. Each author was contacted individually and responded individually. There’s seriously awesome, quality advice down there, and I am so grateful for each and every single one of these authors for participating and helping out!

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Jessica Brody, author of The Unremembered Trilogy

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When first fleshing out a new main character, I like to start by asking myself one question: What motivates this person. Is it power? Ambition? Love? Idealism? Reason? This helps me begin to narrow down who this person is and how they think/respond to situations. Someone who is motivated by power is going to react very differently in a crisis than someone who is motivated by feeling loved. The second question I ask myself is “What does this character want?” And I don’t mean after the book has started. What do they want BEFORE the first page even begins. It always needs to be something tangible and concrete. Like to win a sports championship. To make it onto a team. To graduate valedictorian. This immediately focuses the story around a central goal. It gives the story direction and purpose before the plot has even begun. When your character’s goals are clear, the reader is more likely to come along for the ride.

Elana K. Arnold, author of the Sacred duology and Burning

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When I was a younger writer, I used to disbelieve it when I’d hear people talk about their characters surprising them, their characters heading off in directions they hadn’t planned. Impossible, I’d think. Your characters ARE YOU. They can’t disobey you… they aren’t REAL. For me, characters were like dolls that I bounced around from situation to situation.

I think that’s why I had a hard time completing a project, or even falling deeply in love with one. There was no RISK if I walked away from a story, no real LOSS. Honestly, I don’t know what changed. I think I got older. (Actually, I know I got older.) But over time, I started to become surprised when a plotted-out scene or chapter took a turn away from my outline. Pleasantly surprised.

With INFANDOUS, which will be published in March 2015, plot took a backseat to following around Sephora Golding, my main character, and seeing what she would do. Try this–give your character a secret, and then see where it takes you.

Livia Blackburne, author of Midnight Thief

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I’ve found it useful to have all my characters tell their life story and narrate the events of the novel itself in their own voice, with their own commentary.

Katherine Ewell, author of Dear Killer

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My main tip in character development is this: make your main character at least a little bit unlikeable. However, no matter how unlikeable said main character is, your reader has to root for them anyway. The easiest way to make a reader like an unlikeable character is to show said character’s weakness and humanity right off the bat: their fears, their likes, their dislikes, what makes them cry, what comforts them, etc. And you can go pretty far with how unlikeable they are at the surface level, take it from someone who knows! Some of the most vivid, fun characters out there are severely messed up. (Take a look at Game of Thrones for tons of great examples.) I feel as if the worst thing you could do in character creation is make a character that has no flaws, or has too few flaws: it is in their flaws that characters and their stories come alive.

Cora Carmack, author of the Losing It series and Rusk University series 

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When it comes to characterization, I rely pretty heavily on the idea that my main character’s desire should shape the plot, instead of the plot shaping my main character. I don’t want my MC to be just a cog in the bigger mechanism of the story. I want them being the one *making* the machine move, rather than just being a component of it. When I was studying theatre in college, we took a lot of time talking about our character’s objectives and motivations – asking “What does this character want? How will they get it?” and things like that – and that has continued to inform the way I shape my characters.

Tonya Kuper, author of Anomaly

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Every character, especially the main character, has to have a GMC – Goal, Motivation, & Conflict – in relation to the plot. I usually have a pretty good picture of my characters before I start plotting, but after the GMC is decided, I know what matters to them, which, in my mind, is the most important thing to know about her main character.

Victoria Scott, author of Fire and Flood and The Collector

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I often use friends and family members when creating characters. I note people’s real life quirks and incorporate them into my fictional world. For example, my husband points to what he wants on a menu when ordering. It doesn’t matter if it’s a difficult-to-pronounce dish, or french fires…that man is holding up the menu for the waitress to see, and pointing to his selection. As if she needs to see the item to understand. No matter how many times I call this to his attention, he still does it. That quirk will probably show up in one of my characters to make them more memorable. My advice is to watch the people around you, and keep notes on your phone.

Sara Benincasa, author of Great

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You have to love your main character. Even if you hate your main character sometimes, you have to love her. Because if you don’t love her, you won’t want to spend the time it takes to churn out 50,000 or more words centered around her. You don’t need to love her choices. You don’t need to love her attitude. But you do need to love her, somehow, in some corner of your soul

Catherine Linka, author of A Girl Called Fearless

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Getting a handle on a character can be pretty haphazard, because we might start out not really knowing them at all. One thing that helps me is finding an object that captures my character. I knew Yates wore tee shirts with quotes, but when I found Thoreau’s quote– “Let your life be the counter friction to stop the machine”–it hit me that was exactly what Yates believed and who he was at heart. In the sequel to A Girl Called Fearless, it was a scary religious tattoo that nailed the character of a new antagonist and suggested his unbalanced righteousness.

CJ Redwine, author of the Defiance trilogy

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If YOU aren’t connected to your characters, no one else will be connected either. Characters aren’t scenery to populate your world. This includes secondary characters. Characters aren’t pawns to use in playing out your conflict. Characters CREATE conflict. Connection takes time and effort, just like it does in real life. Take the time to get to know your characters on an intimate level. Find out what their deepest fear is, what they most regret, what they truly want more than anything, and the secret they hope no one discovers.

Lauren Oliver, author of the Delirium Trilogy, Before I Fall and Panic

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Do some work to understand what your character wants, and what your character needs, and how these might be different. Think about your character’s formative memories. How does he/she react under pressure? When frightened? What does she like to do for fun? What are her nervous habits? Where does she go to recharge? You have to know your character the way you know your best friend.

Gretchen McNeil, author of Ten, Possess, 3:59 and Get Even

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I start with the plot, actually, and the role of my main character in the story. What part does she need to play? What type of person does she need to be so that all of her choices are realistically motivated? Her personality is shaped by the plot, and once I know the core of that, I can begin to layer in the idiosyncracies of character: how she dresses, what she likes to eat, what songs on Pandora make her want to sing along or change the channel, and how she feels about everyone around her. Voila! Character!

Lindsay Cummings, author of The Murder Complex

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Characters are my favorite part of a book. Everyone is different…but I always start with a character, and build my world around him/her. For me, the best way to develop my characters and get to know them is to interview them–as if they were real people. I find that, even the silliest questions will give you a glimpse into who each character is, and what motivates them.

Bethany Hagen, author of Landry Park

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One of my favorite tricks for developing a character is to make a character sheet before I get started. I use these sheets to help me keep track of a character’s physical attributes (and I might even attach a picture of an actor or model to help me visualize the character.) And I also use these sheets to develop a character’s personality traits: their likes and dislikes, their hopes and dreams, their past mistakes. Not only is it a useful tool for conceiving of a character, but it makes a handy reference to come back to during the drafting process.

Beth Revis, author of the Across the Universe trilogy and The Body Electric

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When coming up with your main character, don’t be afraid to go into your own personality to find traits. He or she doesn’t need to be an exact replica of you, but if you have a strong emotion—a fear, a desire, a love or hate—build off that emotion to influence your characters. I was never stuck on a space ship alone, but I made Amy of Across the Universe feel alone the same way I felt alone when I had to go to college, 200 miles from home, with no one I knew near me. I never had my memories messed with like Ella in The Body Electric, but I have had relatives who were affected by Alzheimer’s Disease. Build on these real feelings you have to create realistic characters.

Mindy McGinnis, author of Not a Drop to Drink and In a Handful of Dust

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I just let my characters go, be real people within the world that I built and let them react naturally, however they want. To me, this is the most organic way of building a “real” fake person.

Marissa Meyer, author of The Lunar Chronicles

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After I’ve determined the basics of who my protagonist is (name, age, gender, job, etc.), I like to ask myself two important questions. 1: What does this character want? Giving them a goal from page one will immediately give your story somewhere to go. (Although it’s normal for that goal or desire to change over the course of the story.) And 2: What is this character afraid of? Whatever they’re most afraid of is something that they should have to face (possibly multiple times), and will therefore give them somewhere to grow.

Tamora Pierce, author of The Song of Lioness, The Immortals, and the Protector of the Small quartets and more

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The way I write a character is–usually–to start with a person I know or admire (actor, musician, professional wrestler, the character played by an actor). The look has to grab me for the vague outline of the character I need–teacher/mentor, law enforcement in a very loose era, street kid, Then I go through my baby name books till I find the right name. Once I have the right name and the right look, I generally know the character: intellectual, absent-minded, can be very sexy when he wants to be, but easily distractible, and very dangerous when crossed–that was one. Then I needed the slacker daughter of two famous over-achievers who ended up as a spy in a foreign country. I looked through my files of pictures of girls until I had three or four I thought interesting, then I waited for one to grow on me–the one with her head tipped to the side and the knowing smile. I knew she was a smart-alec, really good at flirting and dancing and being silly while taking in everything around her, a daddy’s girl who lived to make mom nuts, but underneath she needs something to fight for.

Sarah Skilton, author of High and Dry and Bruised

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In my latest book High & Dry, a Young Adult novel written in the style of a hardboiled detective mystery, Palm Valley high school students “traffic in labels.” As a result, it’s very difficult for my main character, Charlie, to break free from his perceived identity, that of a varsity soccer star with a reputation for playing rough. The problem is, Charlie’s identity is a front he projects to the world in order to survive. I needed to show both sides of his personality: that of a tough guy jock accepted by his peers, and that of a heart-broken sci-fi nerd–a trait he keeps hidden. For example, Charlie tries to win back his ex-girlfriend, Ellie, by suggesting they both take Ellie’s little brother to a sci-fi movie. In this way, he gets to show Ellie he’s a “nice guy” while also indulging his own secret hope of seeing the movie. When constructing a main character, ask yourself, “Who is this person really, and who does he/she pretend to be?” The answers may surprise you!

Cinda Williams Chima, author of The Heir Chronicles and the Seven Realms series

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After publishing nine books and writing several more, I still haven’t settled on the best way to develop character. Everything goes much more smoothly if I know the character very well from the beginning. And yet, that process of filling out a character questionnaire or deciding what he has in his pockets or dresser drawer doesn’t really work for me.

With the Seven Realms series, I knew the main characters, Han Alister, Raisa ana’Marrianna, and Micah sul’Bayar very well, because I had already written extensively about them as adults. So all I had to do was think about what they would have been like at sixteen and seventeen. Because I had their characters well in hand, story flowed more or less effortlessly.

But writing three hundred thousand words about a character before you get started on a novel isn’t really efficient, is it? So mostly, I get to know characters in the same way as we get to know people in real life–by spending time with them. In other words, I get to know them while writing my first draft. And once I decide who they are, in revision, I go back and strengthen those elements of character and make them more consistent all the way along.

That’s my process—but it may not be yours. There is more than one way to craft characters and craft story. One of the first jobs a writer must do is find out what works for them.

Crystal Perkins, author of The Griffin Brothers series

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I try to have a cover idea when I start writing. When I look at the girl and guy-I write in dual POV-I think of how they’ll speak and act. It’s nice to have something, even just a picture to look at. Then when I think of them in my head, they already have a distinct personality.

Ann Stampler, author of Where It Began and Afterparty

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You know all those cheesy drama-class moments in B movies where the teacher starts panting that the kids need to beeeeee the wind in the trees (or whatever)?  That actually has a lot in common with the way I develop main characters : method writing.  I try to see the story through the eyes of the character in a very literal way.  While I’m writing, I don’t observe the character from the outside, but I try to see what she sees.  I think this helps me to stay with the character’s feelings and emotional reactions, and to remain in her point of view.

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Tuesday Top Ten-Books I’d Give to Readers Who Don’t Read Contemporary YA

So there are two inspirations for today’s Tuesday Top Ten. One of them is that its the actual Top Ten Tuesday post over at The Broke and Bookish. So there’s that. Normally I stick to my own, sildenafil but because I’ve been running out of ideas, approved I’ve been borrowing from that meme lately.

But I also decided to use it because it reminded me of my friend Alena. We work together and we spend most of our time (when we’re not working hard, visit this of course), talking about books. We recommend books to each other, exchange books and basically fangirl every moment that we can. I lent her the Lunar Chronicles recently and she loved it. I love doing that.

Anyway, she mentioned recently that she tends to stick to fantasy-dystopian-science fiction, with a heavy hand in fantasy. Now while this is incredibly true of me as well, I also read a ton of contemporary YA. With authors like the ones in this list…it would be stupid to avoid contemporary.

But in reality, a lot of people are actually avoiding it. The supernatural, the science fiction, the fantasy is the most appealing right now and besides authors like John Green and Rainbow Rowell (who does appear on this list, haha), you don’t see much actual fandom for the contemporary YA. People stick to the “out of this world” sort of books.

So that’s why this week, I’m recommending 10 contemporary YA books to those of you who might be a bit hesitate to jump in. Trust me, if you read these five, you won’t regret it :)

Honorable Mention: The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot

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She’s just a New York City girl living with her artist mom…

News Flash: Dad is prince of Genovia. (So that’s why a limo meets her at the airport!)

Downer: Dad can’t have any more kids. (So no heir to the throne.)

Shock of the Century: Like it or not, Mia Thermopolis is prime princess material.

Mia must take princess lessons from her dreaded grandmére, the dowager princess of Genovia, who thinks Mia has a thing or two to learn before she steps up to the throne.

Well, her father can lecture her until he’s royal-blue in the face about her princessly duty–no way is she moving to Genovia and leaving Manhattan behind. But what’s a girl to do when her name is Princess Amelia Mignonette Grimaldi Thermopolis Renaldo?

See, this book would officially be on the list and much higher but for one reason: the topic is recommending books to those who are hesitant about reading contemporary novels. This is the first book in a ten book series so its not an easy one to recommend. But its easily one of my favorite books ever. If you’ve ever seen the movie (which I love), you’re going to love the book more. Told in literal diary form, you fall in love with Mia over and over because of her honesty, her awkwardness and her journey to figure out who she is in the sprawling mess of high school, as a princess. They’re funny and sweet, and easy reads and they meant a lot to me during my teen years and I will always love them. The fact that an adult book of this series is being released next year is so exciting to me, I can’t even handle it. 

10. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han 

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To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh. As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all.

I had never been massively impressed with Jenny Han until I read this book. Especially since I found out it was based partially on the truth that Jenny wrote letters like this to the boys she had loved before. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting in this book but I felt I got so much more. There was humor, I laughed so much. There was a romance story, but in the least expecting way. There was family, especially the bond between the three sisters. I zipped through this book easily because everything in the book felt so familiar and yet new and it all made me bubbly and happy inside.

9. 52 Reasons to Hate My Father by Jessica Brody 

Lexington Larrabee has never to work a day in her life. After all, she’s the heiress to the multi-billion-dollar Larrabee Media empire. And heiresses are not supposed to work. But then again, they’re not supposed to crash brand new Mercedes convertibles into convenience stores on Sunset Blvd either.

Which is why, on Lexi’s eighteen birthday, her ever-absent, tycoon father decides to take a more proactive approach to her wayward life. Every week for the next year, she will have to take on a different low-wage job if she ever wants to receive her beloved trust fund. But if there’s anything worse than working as a maid, a dishwasher, and a fast-food restaurant employee, it’s dealing with Luke, the arrogant, albeit moderately attractive, college intern her father has assigned to keep tabs on her.

In a hilarious “comedy of heiress” about family, forgiveness, good intentions, and best of all, second chances, Lexi learns that love can be unconditional, money can be immaterial, and, regardless of age, everyone needs a little saving. And although she might have 52 reasons to hate her father, she only needs one reason to love him.

I would have probably loved this book anyway because its Jessica Brody and I absolutely adore her but let’s back off the fact that I’m a huge JB fan, and just talk about the book itself. Its FUN. Its funny. Lexi is just a mess and you alternately want to hug her and strangle her at the same time. Its lighthearted, cute, and fun, and its a book that definitely makes you smile. That’s a huge thing about contemporary: I need a break from disease, and dying, and power hungry rulers and all of that. I want lighthearted and I want to laugh and this book will definitely make you laugh. And it’ll probably make you want to go hug your dad too.

8. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

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Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris–until she meets Étienne St. Clair. Smart, charming, beautiful, Étienne has it all…including a serious girlfriend. 

But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with their long-awaited French kiss?

Trust me, I know. I’m definitely guilty of judging a book by its title and cover. So I steered VERY clear away from this book for a VERY long time, and I’m so sad that I did this. I’m very slowly trying to avoid my judgements because they often times lead me astray. This book looks like it is too romantic, cheesy, probably not written very well. But then you open the pages and you realize: this novel is incredible. Sure, yes, it has the romance and it tells the story of first love but there is so much more to that. Its not your typical love story. It’s a story of finding yourself and making mistakes and growing up and getting things wrong again and again. There’s so much more to Anna’s story than just being kissed by a boy. She struggles with living in Paris and she struggles with her feelings for a boy that she can’t have. Its beautiful and its companion novel, Lola and the Boy Next Door is equally as great!

7. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

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For popular high school senior Samantha Kingston, February 12—”Cupid Day”—should be one big party, a day of valentines and roses and the privileges that come with being at the top of the social pyramid. And it is…until she dies in a terrible accident that night.

However, she still wakes up the next morning. In fact, Sam lives the last day of her life seven times, until she realizes that by making even the slightest changes, she may hold more power than she ever imagined.

What I think makes this a great novel is that its just an incredible story. I put it in the contemporary because that is what it is, despite its Groundhog Day sort of storyline. Sam is forced to relive the last day of her life seven times, and each day is a roller coaster of mistakes, getting things right, emotions, fixing things and breaking things and trying to figure out why she keeps living this day. What I think really gets you about this is that you start off absolutely hating her. Literally hating her. She’s a mean girl, and she’s definitely not a person that you can relate to. You kind of don’t hate too much that she died, to be honest. But as the book goes on, and she relives the day again and again and again, Sam learns more and more about herself and the mistakes she makes and you begin to like her, just in time to remember that she’s dead. Definitely Lauren Oliver’s best novel.

6. The Nature of Jade by Deb Caletti

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Jade DeLuna is too young to die. She knows this, and yet she can’t quite believe it, especially when the terrifying thoughts, loss of breath, and dizzy feelings come. Since being diagnosed with Panic Disorder, she’s trying her best to stay calm, and visiting the elephants at the nearby zoo seems to help. That’s why Jade keeps the live zoo webcam on in her room, and that’s where she first sees the boy in the red jacket. A boy who stops to watch the elephants. A boy carrying a baby.


His name is Sebastian, and he is raising his son alone. Jade is drawn into Sebastian’s cozy life with his son and his activist grandmother on their Seattle houseboat, and before she knows it, she’s in love. With this boy who has lived through harder times than anyone she knows. This boy with a past.

Jade knows the situation is beyond complicated, but she hasn’t felt this safe in a long time. She owes it all to Sebastian, her boy with the great heart. Her boy who is hiding a terrible secret. A secret that will force Jade to decide between what is right, and what feels right.

First off, I apologize for the abnormally long synopsis. For real. Why is it so long? Sigh. Moving on…Deb Caletti is one of the most amazing and inspiring authors that has come into my life. She’s got this way of completely capturing people, their lives, their emotions, their flaws and their strengths and her books feel so real, that you feel like every single character and situation has happened in real life. This one has always stuck to me because I feel like Jade is the character I’ve felt the closest too. She’s afraid, and she has these anxieties and fears that she just sometimes can’t control. This is all too real for me, and it’s also incredibly real in the story. When she begins to build a relationship with Sebastian and his son, and the elephants at the zoo, you just completely sucked into this story. Its a very human story, that has more than just a love story. Your emotions are tugged very hard in this one but in all the best ways.

5. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

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Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan…

But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words… And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?

Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

Okay, this is legit the longest synopsis ever. Sorry :( The reason this is five and not lower (because legit this is one of my favorite books ever) is because while this book connects to me in so many ways, it may not for everyone. Fangirl is a great book for fangirls and boys. This is why I put it on the list. Because Cath is obsessed with a fantasy book series, obsessed to the point that she writes fan fiction and has posters plastered on her wall. She reminds me of every fangirl on Tumblr and I think that’s what makes it so good. If you’re obsessed with reading fantasy books, then you’re probably going to identify with Cath so easily. Plus, I think its one of the best new adult books out there, though its technically considered YA. It explores all the uncertainties of moving out, growing up, going to college, figuring out what you want to do with your life. Its hilarious and so familiar. But if you’re not feeling this one, I recommend Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. Anything Rainbow is honestly the good way to go. 

4. Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

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Amy Curry is not looking forward to her summer. Her mother decided to move across the country and now it’s Amy’s responsibility to get their car from California to Connecticut. The only problem is, since her father died in a car accident, she isn’t ready to get behind the wheel. Enter Roger. An old family friend, he also has to make the cross-country trip – and has plenty of baggage of his own. The road home may be unfamiliar – especially with their friendship venturing into uncharted territory – but together, Amy and Roger will figure out how to map their way.

Morgan Matson is easily one of my favorite authors and it was this book, her debut novel, that remains my favorite, because of how much it captured me. Morgan Matson writes this perfect summer book, full of romance and the fun and spontaneity of a road trip but there’s more to it as well. Both of the characters are struggling to let go of something and it takes this road trip for them to open up about it and accept it and move on. Plus its just fun. Morgan Matson is such a great writer. I love that she has a travel diary in it, and includes pictures and receipts and things like that, to make it look like a road trip scrapbook. I love that there are playlists sprinkled through out the novel, because there is so much good music on it. This book makes you laugh and makes you cry and makes you want to pack up your car and take a road trip, if only to try all the delicious food they try in the book.

3. Just One Day by Gayle Forman

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Allyson Healey’s life is exactly like her suitcase—packed, planned, ordered. Then on the last day of her three-week post-graduation European tour, she meets Willem. A free-spirited, roving actor, Willem is everything she’s not, and when he invites her to abandon her plans and come to Paris with him, Allyson says yes. This uncharacteristic decision leads to a day of risk and romance, liberation and intimacy: 24 hours that will transform Allyson’s life.

What could potentially be a cliche and cheesy novel is actually one of the most thoughtful and beautiful novels that I’ve read. Allyson Healey was on a European tour, ready to finally experience something outside of the completely planned life she has, but its not what she expects. Its planned tours and an itinerary. When she meets Willem on her last day, and he promises her a day of adventure in Paris, she breaks her routine and says yes and it turns into the best day of her life. She experiences things she’s never experienced before. When something tears them apart, you get to see how this day changes Allyson and the path that it takes her on. Its a fun adventure but it reaches to every person who wishes they could just skip everything for a day, leave school and work and all of that behind and just be spontaneous for a day and have an adventure and I think that’s what can appeal to every person.

2. The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

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A long, hot summer…

That’s what Macy has to look forward to while her boyfriend, Jason, is away at Brain Camp. Days will be spent at a boring job in the library, evenings will be filled with vocabulary drills for the SATs, and spare time will be passed with her mother, the two of them sharing a silent grief at the traumatic loss of Macy’s father.

But sometimes, unexpected things can happen—things such as the catering job at Wish, with its fun-loving, chaotic crew. Or her sister’s project of renovating the neglected beach house, awakening long-buried memories. Things such as meeting Wes, a boy with a past, a taste for Truth-telling, and an amazing artistic talent, the kind of boy who could turn any girl’s world upside down. As Macy ventures out of her shell, she begins to wonder, Is it really better to be safe than sorry?

Sarah Dessen is easily one of the best contemporary YA authors out there, and she’s been writing for quite some time. I honestly recommend any book written by her, but this one is definitely one. While its not my personal favorite, its definitely the fan favorite of the group. There’s something about this book that reaches out to everyone who reads it and I think its because of the characters. Every single one of the characters is so unique and well thought out and familiar. Everyone has a story, everyone is well developed and sometimes you can’t decide which one you like more. But the story of Macy and Wes is what gets you. Its a beautiful romance story that is subtle and perfect and takes time to develop and by the end, you’re in tears, both from happiness and heartbreak. Definitely definitely definitely read this book.

1. Winger by Andrew Smith

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Ryan Dean West is a fourteen-year-old junior at a boarding school for rich kids. He’s living in Opportunity Hall, the dorm for troublemakers, and rooming with the biggest bully on the rugby team. And he’s madly in love with his best friend Annie, who thinks of him as a little boy.

With the help of his sense of humor, rugby buddies, and his penchant for doodling comics, Ryan Dean manages to survive life’s complications and even find some happiness along the way. But when the unthinkable happens, he has to figure out how to hold on to what’s important, even when it feels like everything has fallen apart.

Easily one of my favorite books of all time, and easily one of the best contemporary novels out there. The reason that its number one is because I’ve talked to boys, girls, adults, teens, preteens, people from different walks of life, and everyone who reads this book absolutely enjoys it. Its written so well, and the story is so good. Its SO funny. I’ve never read a book that captures the voice of a teenage boy as well as this one does. Andrew Smith gives his character the intelligence, the voice and the opinions of a real teenager, and gives them the credit they deserve but he also doesn’t forget that they’re teenagers and they’re stupid and they think about sex a lot. Its one of the funniest books I’ve read but it’s also one of the truest books I’ve read. Andrew captures high school, puberty, growing up, uncertainties and insecurities, family, friends, first love, loss and so much more in one book, and I honestly think that anyone and everyone will love this book.

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Thoughts on the Delirium Pilot

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About a year ago, hospital the pilot for a TV show called Delirium, cheapest based on the best selling trilogy by Lauren Oliver, hit the desks of someone important somewhere and that important someone took a pass.

And I was fairly disappointed. Let me be clear on this: I’m not a massive fan of the Delirium trilogy. I think it has a great concept but it was not played out well over three books. I was very disappointed in the finale book and I thought that a TV show could perhaps take the concept that Lauren created and turn it into a better story. But alas, that was not to happen.

That being said: Delirium has a great concept. Its a world not unlike our own, but for one thing: love has been labeled an actual disease and everyone must receive the cure at the age of 18. Lena Haloway can’t wait to get the cure, especially since her mother committed suicide from being much too in love with Lena’s father, who had long since passed. However, Lena meets Alex, who shows her a world outside the one she’s known and she starts questioning whether love really is a disease.

I really thought this could make a great TV show.

Just in the last week, however, there was an announcement that the pilot episode would be available for a limited time to be viewed on Hulu. It was released yesterday and, of course, I had to sit down and watch the pilot. Here are my thoughts:

I warn you: if you haven’t read any books of the Delirium trilogy, I would refrain from reading this post. It will have book spoilers in it.

delirium-pilot1

What I Liked:

None of the actors, except perhaps Gregg Sulkin, were at all even close to what I pictured for the characters. However, I really thought that all of them captured what each character was feeling and how they felt. One that particularly jumped out to me was Daren Kagasoff as Alex. He was SO not what I pictured as Alex but I thought he captured the essence of him and that was really important to me.

I liked that they brought in Julian earlier. Julian makes his first appearance in the second novel, Pandemonium, and he certainly does not live next door to Hana. I liked that they kept up the curiosity of his character, and that he still had the sickness that kept him from getting the cure but I loved that they sort of seemed to be changing the direction he was headed in, from the book. In the book, he becomes a love interest of Lena and that annoyed me to no end. In the show, it showed more of a connection between him and Hana and I was kind of okay with that.

It stayed kind of close to the first book, and that’s the only book I really like in the trilogy. I thought that Delirium was a strong start but Pandemonium and Requiem just didn’t stick the landing. So when the pilot took a lot of familiar scenes from Delirium, I was fairly happy with that.

What I Didn’t Like: 

Yeah, it stayed close to the book…it did the entire first book in the entire first episode! I know there are two more books, and writers can do whatever they want once a book becomes a television show (look at The Vampire Diaries) but it just was so weird to me. It went from Lena’s failed evaluation all the way to when she escapes over the fence and Alex is shot.

And that being said, everything felt so rushed. In my opinion, the first season could have been the entire book of Delirium but they rushed it and I’m not really sure why. I can’t see the purpose behind it because it just seemed to be rushed character and story development. The pilot opens with Lena explaining about deliria, and the cure, and how she can’t wait for it, and by the end of the episode, she’s avoiding the cure, and running from the police, to the “safety” outside the fence. That literally takes an entire book of story and character development for her to get to that point and they accomplished that in one episode…but not in a good way. It felt incredibly rushed, like an incredibly rushed movie version of the first book and that disappointed me.

Now, perhaps if they had continued with episodes, I could see the direction they were going with and maybe it would have made more sense to me. But it just didn’t, and I could see why it wasn’t picked up for a full show. I was annoyed at how fast everything happened. No one, even those who haven’t read the books, could honestly believe that Lena goes through that change so quickly. It was just very rushed and sloppily done.

I also felt like they could have emphasized more how the cure changes you, makes you sort of robotic and without real feeling. We kind of got that with Lena’s sister but not enough to really know what the cure does to you. Why would Lena scream and kick at the idea of getting it if we don’t *really* know what it does to you?

In The End: 

I just didn’t like it. The more I thought about it, the more I was disappointed in how it went. It had the concept and it had the potential. The actors really embodied their characters, even though they’re not what I pictured and the world seemed really well built. I liked what they had started.

However, I felt, just like with the books, that they just didn’t execute it as well as they could have. The more I think about it, the more I realize that I just wasn’t happy with it. It was entirely too rushed, and you didn’t really have time to connect with the characters before they were thrown in a tailspin. Hana betrays Lena and tells her sister about Lena’s feelings. How am I supposed to care? We’ve only had an hour-ish to really love their friendship so what is it to me that there was this betrayal. Alex gets shot. Who cares? You’ve only watched one episode with him, how can you be attached to him? You can’t, honestly, and I feel like they needed to stretch out the storylines, give us a chance to get to know each character and watch them develop and change. Watch Alex and Lena fall in love, watch Lena change her mind, watch Hana change her mind, and it honestly would have been a much better pilot.

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L.A. Times Festival of Books 2014: Day One and Day Two Recap Vlogs!

Guys, doctor I just had SUCH an amazing weekend. This weekend was the annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books at U.S.C., where the entire weekend is dedicated to the amazing culture of reading. It’s one of my favorite weekends of this year, and this year was no disappointment.

There was a team of five us: me, Sylvia from Fangirl Feeels, our friends Cassandra and Alexandra and my sister, Jessica. We had our game plans, and despite minor hiccups along the way, we managed to do everything that we wanted to do.

I met (and met again, for some) amazing authors this weekend: John Green (OHMYGOD), Rainbow Rowell, Lauren Oliver, Marissa Meyer, Sarah J Maas, Robin Benway, Veronica Roth, Lauren Myracle, Leigh Bardugo, Deb Caletti, Kiersten White, Andrew Smith and Stephanie Perkins.

But I won’t keep you from seeing my awesome vlogs. I vlogged while at the Fest so you get some pretty awkward and hilarious moments from me, a short video of my conversation with John Green and…lots of awkwardness haha.

Check it out!

Day One!

Day Two!

Yay! I hope you enjoyed seeing the awesomeness that was my weekend!

I managed to grab extra copies of Cinder, Anna and the French Kiss and Fangirl for a giveaway. There will NOT be a giveaway for the month of April (as of now), but there is a HUGE giveaway coming for my Blog Birthday in May so keep an eye out to see how you can get your hands on these books!

Oh! And don’t forget you can check out ALL the pictures on the What A Nerd Girl Says Facebook page here!

Happy Reading Everyone!

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Los Angeles Times Festival of Books Young Adult Author Schedule

The official schedule for the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books has been posted, visit this site and you can check that out here!

I’ve taken the liberty and fun job of compiling a list of the YA authors in attendance and what time they will be on panels. Keep in mind that most autograph sessions take place directly after the panel, try and will usually be about an hour after the panel.

Quite a few of these authors are also moderating other panels as well, and usually they’ll sign books at that time too. You’ll have to double check on those because I didn’t include which panels they were moderating below.

Also! Occasionally there will be booths, like indie bookstores and such, that will have other signings as well. The best for that is to keep up with certain authors you’d wish to see and check out their booths, because they’ll post schedules!

Lastly, check the authors’ websites! Sometimes they’ll do signings at local bookstores after the Festival is over for the day, or on the days before or after, because they are already in town. So if you can’t hit them at the Festival, you’ll still be able to see them!

Good luck! Hopefully I’ll see you all there!

Katie Alender

YA Stage: Young Adult Fiction: Putting the Story in History at 12:00 pm on Saturday

Laurie Halse Anderson

Norris Theater: In Conversation with Susan Carpenter at 3:00 pm on Sunday 

Carrie Arcos

Norris Theater: YA Fic: Outside Looking In at 1:30 pm on Sunday

Kelley Armstrong

YA Stage: Fantasy Worlds Beyond Imagination at 1:30 pm on Saturday

Leigh Bardugo

YA Stage: YA Sci-Fi: Fantastical Tales at 1:30 pm on Sunday

Robin Benway

YA Stage: YA Fic: A Little Help from My Friends at 12:00 pm on Sunday

Francesca Lia Block

Ya Stage: Young Adult Fiction: Haunted at 10:30 AM on Saturday 

Ann Brashares

Norris Theater: YA Fic: Somewhere in Time at 10:30 am on Sunday

Deb Caletti

Norris Theater: YA Fic: Outside Looking In at 1:30 pm on Sunday

Cecil Castellucci

 YA Stage: YA Sci-Fi: Fantastical Tales at 1:30 pm on Sunday

Stephen Chbosky 

Norris Theater: In Conversation with Stephen Chbosky at 12:00 pm on Sunday

Heather Cocks

YA Stage: YA Fic: A Little Help from My Friends at 12:00 pm on Sunday

Eoin Colfer

Norris Theater: YA Fic: Somewhere in Time at 10:30 am on Sunday 

Andrea Cremer

YA Stage: Young Adult Fiction: Putting the Story in HISTORY at 12:00 pm on Saturday 

Melissa de la Cruz

I’ve looked a million times. It says she’s there but I can’t find her panel. I’ll post with more details if I can find them. 

Ava Dellaira 

Norris Theater: In Conversation with Stephen Chbosky at 12:00 pm on Sunday

Maurene Goo

Norris Theater: YA Fic: Writing Culture and Identity at 3:00 pm on Saturday  

John Green

Bovard Auditorium: In Conversation with David L. Ulin at 12:30 pm on Saturday

Aaron Hartzler

YA Stage: Where the Truth Lies at 3:00 pm on Saturday 

Bill Konigsberg

YA Stage: Young Adult Fiction: Square Peg, Round Role at 10:30 am on Sunday

E. Lockhart 

Norris Theater: YA Fic: Testing the Boundaries at 12:30 pm on Saturday 

Sarah J. Maas

YA Stage: YA Sci-Fi: Fantastical Tales at 1:30 pm on Sunday

DJ MacHale

Salvatori Computer Science Center: Middle Grade Fiction: Stories in Series at 12:00 pm on Saturday

Tahereh Mafi

Salvatori Computer Science Center: YA Fic: It’s the End of the World as We Know It at 4:30 pm on Saturday 

Abby McDonald

YA Stage: Adrenaline Rush at 4:30 pm on Saturday

Marissa Meyer

YA Stage: YA Sci-Fi: Fantastical Tales at 1:30 pm on Sunday

Jessica Morgan

YA Stage: YA Fic: A Little Help from My Friends at 12:00 pm on Sunday

Lauren Myracle

YA Stage: YA Fic: A Little Help from My Friends at 12:00 pm on Sunday

Lauren Oliver

YA Stage: Adrenaline Rush at 4:30 pm on Saturday 

Ridley Pearson

Salvatori Computer Science Center: Middle Grade Fic: Stories in Series at 12:00 pm on Saturday

Stephanie Perkins

YA Stage: YA Fic: Told from the Heart at 3:00 pm on Sunday

Joanna Philbin 

YA Stage: YA Fic: Told from the Heart at 3:00 pm on Sunday

Ransom Riggs

YA Stage: Young Adult Fiction: Haunted at 10:30 am on Saturday 

Veronica Roth

Bovard Auditorium: In Conversation with Leigh Bardugo at 11:00 am on Sunday

Rainbow Rowell

Norris Theater: YA Fic: Testing the Boundaries at 12:30 pm on Saturday 

Rachel Shukert 

YA Stage: Putting the Story in History at 12:00 pm on Saturday

Neal Shusterman

YA Stage: Young Adult Fantasy Worlds Beyond Imagination at 1:30 pm on Saturday

Sarah Skilton

YA Stage: Adrenaline Rush at 4:30 pm on Saturday 

Andrew Smith

Norris Theater: YA Fic: Testing the Boundaries at 12:30 pm on Saturday 

Amy Spalding 

YA Stage: Young Adult Fiction: Square Peg, Round Hole at 10:30 am on Sunday

Ann Stampler

Norris Theater: YA Fic: Outside Looking In at 1:30 pm on Sunday 

Margaret Stohl

Norris Theater: YA Fic: Fantasy: The Real and the Unreal at 4:30 pm on Saturday 

Tamara Ireland Stone

Norris Theater: YA Fic: Somewhere in Time at 10:30 am on Sunday

Jonathan Stroud

Salvatori Computer Science Center: Middle Grade Fiction: Stories in Series at 12:00 pm on Saturday

Laini Taylor

Norris Theater: YA Fic: Fantasy: The Real and the Unreal at 4:30 pm on Saturday 

John Corey Whaley

Norris Theater: YA Fic: Testing the Boundaries at 12:30 pm on Saturday 

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Who are you most excited to see? Share in the comments!

Book of the Week-Panic by Lauren Oliver

I am very very happy to bring you this week’s Book of the Week. It released this past Tuesday and I’m so excited to be finally reviewing it. I read it back in…like September or October so I’m glad to finally be sharing my thoughts on it!

Panic by Lauren Oliver  

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GoodReads / Barnes and Noble Amazon / Book Depository

This review is based on an advanced reader’s copy given to me in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my review in the slightest, view and everything said here is my honest opinion. Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins for the ARC. 

Genre:

Young Adult, ambulance Contemporary

Part of a Series?:

Standalone Novel

You May Like if You Liked:

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Age Recommendation:

13+

Plot Summary:

From GoodReads:

Panic began as so many things do in Carp, a dead-end town of 12,000 people in the middle of nowhere: because it was summer, and there was nothing else to do.

Heather never thought she would compete in Panic, a legendary game played by graduating seniors, where the stakes are high and the payoff is even higher. She’d never thought of herself as fearless, the kind of person who would fight to stand out. But when she finds something, and someone, to fight for, she will discover that she is braver than she ever thought.

Dodge has never been afraid of Panic. His secret will fuel him, and get him all the way through the game, he’s sure of it. But what he doesn’t know is that he’s not the only one with a secret. Everyone has something to play for.

For Heather and Dodge, the game will bring new alliances, unexpected revelations, and the possibility of first love for each of them—and the knowledge that sometimes the very things we fear are those we need the most.

My Review: 

I am so glad this book is finally releasing this week! I got this ARC way back in the fall and I’ve been sitting on this review to post it closer to the actual release date of the book. Now, with it coming out in a few days, I’m excited to finally review it, and share it with you guys.

The thing that I’ve always loved about Lauren Oliver is that she has amazing ideas. She has a very creative and imaginative mind and I think that continues in this novel. In Before I Fall, you have a teenage girl reliving the last day of her life, seven times, trying to get it right. In the Delirium trilogy, you have our society, but twisted, convinced that love is a disease that needs to be cured. Now, in Panic, we have a small town and a game called Panic, where a bunch of graduated high school seniors compete in random, and often dangerous, tasks in order to get their hands on a very large amount of money.

Its an incredible idea and I remember when I met her last March, right after Requiem had been released, I was excited about this idea.

And I think she pulled it off. It wasn’t quite what I expected but I love the idea of it. I think maybe sometimes Lauren Oliver has these amazing ideas but has a hard time really getting them on paper. While I looked forward to the actual story, and the different tasks that were part of Panic, I had a hard time connecting to the characters. I just didn’t FEEL for them, if you know what I mean. Not the way I felt for Samantha in Before I Fall. I thought the game, and what it entailed and the drama that unfolded around it was much more exciting than the characters involved in the game.

I think my biggest beef with the novel is that Panic starts so fast, but the novel doesn’t seem to pick up its quickness with it. Everything in the story was already in motion but I didn’t feel like I was really into the story until about a third of the way in. It took some time for my brain to catch up with the story.

That being said, its a very fast paced book with a wonderful concept and I loved the idea of Panic. What a crazy idea. I don’t live in a small town, I live in the suburbs outside of Anaheim and Los Angeles so there’s really always stuff to do here (even if it can get expensive) and I can’t imagine anyone here coming up with this crazy, insane game. But I can imagine someone in a small town where there’s nothing to do coming up with it, and so that part seems real. Crazy but real. I do think that Lauren Oliver captured reality well, and even though it was a weird concept, she made it real. Sometimes I feel authors try to write something a bit out of the ordinary and it doesn’t feel authentic or that it could be real. This book definitely did.

The Last Word

 I would say, definitely read it. From what I’ve seen of other reviews, its sort of a hit or miss. I liked it but I didn’t love it. I thought it was a great idea, a very creative and imaginative concept. In my opinion, the characters fell a little flat and maybe needed a little bit more OOMF to make them more real to me, though there were moments when I did feel for them. All in all, I enjoyed it, and it was easy to get through but its not a re-read anytime soon.

*****

Have you read Panic? What did you think? Share in the comments!

Los Angeles Times Festival of Books Authors Announced!

I can hardly contain my excitement and the list went up HOURS ago.

HOURS.

I love this event, clinic I have a blast every single year that I go and as I dive deeper into this world, the more I fall in love with this event, because of all the authors I get to meet!

And they’ve finally put up the list of authors that are going to be there. If your’e in the Los Angeles area, you HAVE to be there. Pssh, even if you’re not in the area, you should find a way to GET to the area because its going to be amazing.

Here’s the list of YA authors that will be at the fest. Plus some commentary by me, of course ;)

Katie Alender

She’s going to be at Ontario Teen Book Fest. Not sure of her yet, but I gotta try her books, of course!

Laurie Halse Anderson

I’ve only ever read Speak (I know, I know) but that book is amazing so I hope that I meet her soon. 

Carrie Arcos

She’ll be at Pasadena Teen Book Fest and I’m excited to see her because she’s awesome.

Kelley Armstrong

Leigh Bardugo

Always beautiful to meet. I’ll worry about her once Ruin and Rising comes out haha. 

Robin Benway

I’ll see her at Ontario TBF. And I just saw her at Disneyland in January. That was awesome. 

Francesca Lia Block

She is so sweet! I met her at Los Angeles TBF

Ann Brashares

I hope that I can meet her. The Traveling Pants books were huge to me in high school. 

Deb Caletti

Words cannot explain how excited I am about her coming. I can’t handle it. 

Cecil Castellucci

I’ve met her so many times, I’ve lost count haha. 

Stephen Chbosky 

Lovely lovely man. I’ve met him already but I don’t have a signed copy of Perks so that would be awesome. 

Heather Cocks

Eoin Colfer

Lovely man, and I’m so glad I was able to meet him and interview him. I know my sister will be happy to see him again. 

Andrea Cremer

Melissa de la Cruz

I hope to actually see her this year haha. I missed her last year because I hadn’t read any of her books. 

Ava Dellaira 

I will be seeing her at Ontario TBF

Huntley Fitzpatrick 

I LOVE her book, My Life Next Door, so I’m SO excited to meet her. This is a MUST. 

Maurene Goo

I met her at LA TBF and she was a doll, and she had an awesome dry sense of humor. 

John Green

I literally cannot handle this. I was shaking when I saw this. I need to tell him how amazing Abundance of Katherines is and I need to just love on him forever. Is that awkward? I don’t even care. Its like a fangirl’s dream come true to meet him. 

Daniel Handler

Bill Konigsberg

I met him at LA TBF but I have no books signed by him so hopefully I can do that here. 

E. Lockhart 

Sarah J. Maas

Always a blast to see her :) I’d love to see her again! 

DJ MacHale

I keep seeing his books all over the place so I gotta give him a try. If I can squeeze him, that’d be cool. 

Tahereh Mafi

Oh I’ve seen her so much haha. And I’m sure I can see her again, easily. 

Marissa Meyer

No words can describe. I MUST see her. I cannot go the weekend without meeting her. 

Jessica Morgan

Lauren Myracle

Lauren Oliver

If I can squeeze her in, that’d be great. I’ve met her before but getting Panic signed would be a full and complete collection. 

Ridley Pearson

Joanna Philbin 

Mimi Pond

Ransom Riggs

Have already met him, of course

Veronica Roth

YES! I was so hoping she would be back so I can get Allegiant signed! Which means I’ll have the WHOLE collection and I’ll be excited. 

Rainbow Rowell

Ohmygod I have to meet her. Even though Cassandra got me Fangirl signed, I need Eleanor and Park and Attachments and Landline if its out by then. And I need to write her a letter and tell her how amazing Fangirl was and how it changed my life, seriously. 

Rachel Shukert 

Neal Shusterman

I’ve met him! Yay!

Sarah Skilton

She’ll be at Ontario TBF

Holly Goldberg Sloan

Andrew Smith

He’ll be at Pasadena TBF so I’m going to try and get his books signed then. But I want to say hi to him at FoB because I adore him and I want to say hi, of course. 

Sonya Sones

Amy Spalding 

Ann Stampler

I think…Pasadena TBF? I think so. I’ve met her before though. Such a sweetheart. 

Margaret Stohl

I will meet her at Pasadena TBF. I am excited because I haven’t met her yet. 

Tamara Ireland Stone

I won both of her books signed, but it’d be cool to get them personalized, or even just to say hi because I like her books. 

Jonathan Stroud

Laini Taylor

I really need to read The Daughter of Smoke and Bone. And then I can meet her, without feeling like a fool. 

Maya Van Wagenen

John Corey Whaley

He’ll be at Ontario TBF. WOO! 

******

For the complete list of authors, and for other information, visit their website here.