By: Emery R.

The Decatur Book Festival is the biggest book festival in the world and one of my favorite events of the year. It takes place on Labor Day weekend and is a two-day affair filled with amazing authors and incredible books. Between it and Dragoncon, the MARTA is very busy. During the event there are multiple stages sponsored by different organizations and companies. My favorite stages are naturally the Teen and Middle Grade stages. These stages have brought me the wonderful worlds and commentaries of so many books and authors over the years. 

This year was no different. On Saturday, September 5, 2015 my mother and I took the MARTA to the festival and listened to a Young Adult or YA panel consisting of authors Becky Albertalli (Simon V.S. The Homo Sapiens Agenda), David Arnold (Mosquitoland), Adam Silvera (More Happy Than Not), and Andrew Smith (The Alex Crow), who will always bring a little weird into YA literature. Some panels crash and burn because the authors aren't compatible; some give you a huge case of the  chuckles. This was the latter. When listening to four talented authors talk about high school, and argue over Oreos, the only thing I could do was laugh, and laugh I did. 

The next event I went to was at the Children’s stage. The authors being featured there
were Jeanne Birdsall (The Penderwicks), Jacqueline Kelly (The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate), and Ingrid Law (Switch). They were discussing family, and of course this topic takes on a completely different tone on the Children’s stage than on the Teen stage. I listened as the family elements of some of my favorite Middle Grade books are examined, and once again found myself desperately wishing to be an honorary Penderwick or to have grown up with seven brothers, or even to have had a special power, preferably flight, when I turned 13 (I'm still waiting). An interview with Becky Albertalli (more on that later), and a dinner at the Brick Store was the end to a perfect day. 
While we are riding home on MARTA, I told my mother that I must go on a book-buying binge in order to restock my room with everything I've heard about that I don't have yet. Yet is the key word here is; long list, and I am afraid my bookshelf won't recover from so much weight.

Saturday Reading List:
More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
The Alex Crow by Andrew Smith
Switch by Ingrid Law
The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

On Sunday, my mom and I are up and about once again to explore the Wonderland that is the DBF. Our first stop is the Teen stage with Vicky Alvear Shecter (Curses and Smoke: A Novel of Pompeii) and interviewing Libba Bray (The Diviners series). When I laughed uproariously upon hearing about 1920s slang and speakeasies, I instantly know that Libba Bray is someone who does her research. It was the cat's pajamas, or alternately the bees knees, if you get what I'm saying. 

The next event we visited was a YA author panel consisting of Renee Andieh (The
Wrath and the Dawn), Aisha Saeed (Written in the Stars), and Sabaa Tahir (An Ember in the Ashes). Their topic was faraway lands, and the rapport that they had established with their interviewer was 
hilarious. I absolutely loved hearing about how they created their the characters and the cultures of the lands in their books. 
The final event that I went to was my crowning moment for the day. It was YA Truth or Dare. The event featured Becky Albertalli, David Arnold, Gwenda Bond, Libba Bray, Terra Elan McVoy, and Andrew Smith. I did not stop laughing. There were dares like making Becky Albertalli eat a mouthful of Oreos and read the acknowledgements from her book at the same time or truths like having Andrew Smith talk about his first kiss. It was so fun. The YA Truth or Dare panel has made me evermore cautious about playing truth or dare, especially when there is a larger audience. 

When my mom and I finally left the festival, once again committing ourselves to another 363 days of waiting, I commented that it as one of the best years yet. I understood a lot more of what happened on the Teen stage but I still enjoyed the Children’s stage. The authors this year were fabulous, and I got to interview Becky Albertalli, the author of one of my favorite books of the summer. For me, the Decatur Book Festival is one of the best weekends of the year. I love being able to spend the time with my mother in a way that involves something we both love; books. 

I believe literature connects people. Authors are sharing works that come from very personal places, and we, the readers, are absorbing those thoughts and stories, and sort of making them our own. Authors, especially YA and Middle Grade authors, can really relate to pre-teens and teenagers. That is the brilliance of coming-of-age novels. I love it when I find a character that I can identify with, and I know that other people do too. 

The Decatur Book Festival allows readers the chance to see and connect in person with the writers who create those characters, and not just through email or Twitter. That is why the Decatur Book Festival is one of the best events for any young bibliophile; you can find the people who were like you at your current age, and can still really relate to you. For me, it has been one of the greatest events of each year. I will always remain thankful for the spectacular ideas and thinking that went into it.

Note: My interview with Becky Albertalli is featured in the February 2016 issue of the Lime Green Giraffe.

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