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This Week in YA - Issue #2

This Week in YA
This Week in YA - Issue #2
By Voyage YA • Issue #2 • View online
It’s another week and the second installment of this newsletter for you, my fellow YA enthusiasts. Excitement is in the air, with school visits and even some book festivals—most of them understandably virtual, of course—happening again. On top of this, the awards season is ramping up, with the National Book Award longlist and Kirkus Prize finalists announced this past week.
–Kip Wilson, TWIYA Editor

News & Resources
This week’s list of goodies includes a few additional sites I frequent to find favorite books and authors—perfect places to find the next great read. In addition, you’ll find news on YA in translation, upcoming YA debuts, and those afore-mentioned award finalists.
The Brown Bookshelf covers Black voices for young readers, including a YA Bookshelf
One of my fabulous verse mentors, Padma Venkatraman, has launched the Diverse Verse blog to highlight diverse voices in poetry and verse. Loving all the perspectives here!
Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club has been selecting great picks (YA picks highlighted in blue), including the late summer pick, one of my favorite Stacey Lee books, The Downstairs Girl
Did you know it’s #WorldKidLitMonth? This celebration of kids’ books translated in English is a great opportunity to find books from around the world, including some recent YA in translation
It’s been a really rough time to be a debut. One great way to support debut YA novelists is to purchase, read, and shout about their new books as they launch them into the world. Find this year’s debuts on the website for the #21ders and next year’s on the recently-launched #22debuts site.
The National Book Award for Young People’s Literature longlist includes two of my favorite YA novels-in-verse this year—Me (Moth) by Amber McBride and Home Is Not a Country by Safia Elhillo, along with one of my favorite YA historicals—Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo. Definitely check these out if you haven’t already! The Kirkus Prize finalists have also been announced, including two YA titles—The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling by Wai Chim and The Life I’m In by Sharon G. Flake.
The 5 Questions Interview Series
Each week, this newsletter will include interviews with industry professionals sharing insight about the who, what, where, when, why in YA today.
Today our interview is with London Shah, YA author of the Light the Abyss science fiction duology. I first “met” London in 2016 when I was working at YARN (Young Adult Review Network) and she won our poetry contest that year. Her prose is just as beautiful as her poetry, so if you haven’t yet, now is the perfect time to read her first book, The Light at the Bottom of the World, before the second, Journey to the Heart of the Abyss, comes out. It’ll be hitting bookshelves near you on Oct 26, 2021. 
5 Questions Interview with London Shah, author of Light the Abyss series
Leyla McQueen has finally reunited with her father after breaking him out of Broadmoor, the illegal government prison—but his freedom comes at a terrible cost. As Leyla celebrates his return, she must grapple with the pain of losing Ari. Now separated from the boy who has her heart and labeled the nation’s number one enemy, Leyla must risk illegal travel through unchartered waters in her quest for the truth behind her father’s arrest.
Across Britain, the fallout from Leyla’s actions has escalated tensions between Anthropoid and non-Anthropoid communities, bringing them to an all-time high. And, as Leyla and her friends fight to uncover the startling truths about their world, she discovers her own shocking past—and the horrifying secrets behind her father’s abduction and arrest. But as these long-buried truths finally begin to surface, so, too, do the authorities’ terrible future plans. And if the ever-pervasive fear prevents the people from taking a stand now, the abyss could stay in the dark forever.
Journey to the Heart of the Abyss is the conclusion to the Light the Abyss series.
London Shah is a British Muslim of Pashtun ethnicity. She has lived in Britain’s capital for most of her life, via England’s beautiful North. On any given day she can be found daydreaming of a different past, an alternate present, or some surreal future. She enjoys drinking copious amounts of tea, eating all the sweets and cakes, strolling through Richmond Park or along the Thames, getting lost on an evening in the city’s older, darker alleyways—preferably just after it’s rained—listening to punk rock, and losing herself in a fab SFF book or film.
Her debut novel The Light at the Bottom of the World is out now from Little, Brown. It’s the first book in the Light the Abyss sci-fi duology. The sequel Journey to the Heart of the Abyss publishes on Oct 26, 2021.
1. Who: Who are your instabuy, go-to YA authors? And which new talent have you discovered recently?
Earlier this year I read Samantha Shannon’s novels for the first time. The Bone Season series moved firmly into my top three favourite series ever. Fantasy is my first and biggest love and makes up at least 90% of my reading material. I fell so hard for Shannon’s series. Urban fantasy is the sub-genre that excites me the most, and the fact The Bone Season series is largely based in London made it all the more relatable and thrilling. It also features my favourite romantic pairing of all time—Arcturus Mesarthim and Paige Mahoney <3 I barely took any breaks between the books, hardly breathed for fear of being rudely dragged out of that mesmerising world. The next instalment in the series is my most anticipated book. I was left feeling quite bereft when it was over and the only thing to do was to try Shannon’s epic fantasy, The Priory of the Orange Tree. Epic fantasy isn’t a sub-genre I normally read due to my poor memory (far too many people and places to remember!) and even among epic fantasies Priory stands out as a mammoth read. Except I enjoyed it very much, which bears testament to Shannon’s storytelling skills. After enjoying Priory so much, Shannon became an insta-buy. I don’t care what genre she writes, I’m hitting that preorder button. Hers is an immense talent—utterly original, remarkably imaginative, and beautifully considerate, and I’m so excited for whatever she creates.
Another new talent I’ve recently discovered is Ciannon Smart. Her debut novel, Witches Steeped in Gold, is a Jamaican-inspired fantasy published in April of this year, and I loved it. So much heart and imagery; it was just so rich, vivid, and original. Smart’s worldbuilding is to die for and you completely lose yourself in its ferocious heart. I’m really looking forward to catching up with Iraya and Jazmyne when the next instalment releases in ‘22! 
2. What: What was the most joyful moment in your publishing journey?
I think it was when I shared the new paperback cover for The Light at the Bottom of the World on social media. That’s when it sunk in that I’d accomplished something very special: There was now (finally!) a British Muslim girl on the cover of a science-fiction/fantasy novel. And for the first time, there was a Pashtun girl on the cover of a SFF novel…It hit me suddenly on that day and I felt quite emotional about it. I kept imagining what it would’ve meant to teen me had I seen someone like myself on the cover of a book—a work of science-fiction/fantasy no less—and especially what it would mean for today’s Pashtun and/or British Muslim teens, and teens of Afghan heritage. I felt like I had definitely achieved something noteworthy. In this industry it’s so very easy to overlook what you’ve accomplished because the challenges are plentiful and relentless. Paperback cover reveal day was truly a very special day for me, and I’m so grateful to the talented artist, Shane Rebenshcied, for creating such a heartening, powerful, and beautiful cover to go with my story.
3. Where: Where do you get your ideas/inspiration from?
My imagination has always, from as far back as I can remember, worked overtime, and now that I’ve started writing it’s proving especially beneficial. I draw on what I love, on the situations and details that have always excited me. To that end I have a lifetime of ideas floating around inside my head, so I already have all the inspiration I’ll ever need.
4. When: When did you first realize you wanted to write the Light the Abyss duology?
Since my early teens, I’ve fantasised about our world existing deep underwater. I always wanted it to be visibly instantly recognisable as the world we live in now, but for the planet to be completely submerged. For me, the underwater landscape is infinitely more surreal and fantastical when it’s as if the waters are here, in our present world. I avoided anything too hard sci-fi and was also disinterested in a fantasy world with mermaids. I dreamt only of a submerged world we could imagine ourselves in. I carried this fantasy with me for years and years. It was only in 2011, once I’d graduated, that I started entertaining the idea of bringing this long-held vision to life. Studying for a degree had for so long seemed like an unattainable dream, and graduating gave me a huge and much-needed confidence boost. I thought if I can do this, then I can do anything I put my mind to. That’s when the idea to try and bring this underwater dream to life started to bloom.
5. Why: Why YA? What draws you to writing for this age group?
It’s the endless wonder young adults experience … I have never forgotten or lost it. Those curiosities, followed by the inevitable realisations—sometimes in a drip-drip effect and other times like a gut punch or lightning bolt—that see us drifting further and further away from childhood. And then all too soon we find ourselves hurtling toward adulthood. The many aspects of life now that our protagonist almost never had to fully factor in as a child: love and loss, home and the wider world, friends and enemies, the strange versus the familiar, peace and violence, freedom and control, all the infinite unknowns—those that soon make themselves known, and also the ones that evade understanding for now. The mysteries that draw us in and never let go.
While childhood is, to me, a time when the fortunate among us are largely cocooned from the more negative aspects of reality, young adults teeter on the precipice of discovering how things are in this world we find ourselves in. Theirs is a unique state of being; the wonder of childhood is not yet lost, but the—often harsh—realities of the world are now also within sight and understanding. What they lack in experience they make up for in buckets of ingenuity, sincere concern, fresh hope, and clear thinking. The world has not yet worn them out; they are passionate problem solvers, and their earnestness is backed up with action. For me, the mystery of not knowing and setting off on a journey—whether physically or metaphorically—to find out, is immeasurably thrilling. For no other age-range is this journey so deeply and permanently transforming as it is for young adults. The way they must now question their place beyond family and friends to discover and determine where they feature in the larger world. The constant pondering over the big questions, and the ceaseless revelations. 
Unfortunately, that wonder and curiosity is so often greatly diminished by the time adulthood has revealed more and more truths about how we do things here. But for a brief time, circling that precipice, and even with all that life throws their way, it can be the most mysterious, magical, and moving journey for teens. Writing for young adults is thrilling, and an absolute honour.
Writing Inspiration with Kip
As a YA author, one of my greatest inspirations is my target audience—teenagers. And now that fall’s in the air where I live in Boston, I’m looking forward to connecting with classrooms and students again. Both of the visits I have on my calendar this month are virtual—like they are for most fellow authors at the moment—but just the fact that I get to do this still amazes me. When I was growing up, we didn’t really have authors coming in to visit schools at all, so it’s a real privilege to be able to talk about what it’s like to be a writer to groups that might include even one kid harboring authorly dreams. 
My favorite part of school visits is always the Q&A at the end. Teenagers are smart and passionate and they have the best questions. They remind me not only that what we write as YA authors matters, but also that by talking with them, we might in turn inspire one of them to tell their own stories—basically a gift to our future selves, who might be able to read a book by one of those teens down the road.
As always, thank you for joining me on this voyage! 
Did you enjoy this issue?
Voyage YA

with Kip Wilson

I’m so excited to kick off this series of weekly newsletters for you, my fellow YA enthusiasts. As a YA author and associate editor at Voyage myself, I’m looking forward to sharing exciting news from the YA world, interviews with authors and the occasional agent, editor, and professor, and last but hopefully not least, my own bit of YA inspiration each week.

About me: Kip Wilson is the author of White Rose (2019, Versify), a critically-acclaimed YA novel-in-verse about anti-Nazi political activist Sophie Scholl, and The Most Dazzling Girl in Berlin (2022, Versify), a YA novel-in-verse about an aspiring singer in a queer club in 1932 Berlin. Kip holds a Ph.D. in German Literature and was the Poetry Editor at Young Adult Review Network (YARN) for five years before joining Voyage as an Associate Editor in 2020. Her next YA novel-in-verse, One Last Shot, is forthcoming from Versify in 2023.

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