If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that last year I attended the inaugural YALLWest, the exclusively YA California book festival that takes place in Santa Monica every spring (affectionately deemed “Bookchella” least year since it was the same weekend as Coachella). It was my first big “bookish” event with other bloggers, authors, and publishers and I had one of the best weekends of my life. Needless to say, I knew I would be attending the sophomore year of the festival, and found it to be just as amazing, with even more structure, organization, and additions than last year. This year the festival was even expanded to three days, with a Friday preview event that was exclusively sponsored by Fierce Reads.
Yet perhaps my favorite part though is that it’s SO quintessentially California, from the location in a beach community to the plethora of food trucks to the laid back vibe where authors were accessible to attendees and are more than willing to stop and chat with you as they head to get their In ‘n Out lunch (full disclosure…I don’t like hamburgers, so I was hanging out near all of the organic farm fresh food trucks!). If you ever have the opportunity to come out to California and attend I really encourage you to, as there’s truly nothing like it!
A new addition this year, YALLWest kicked off with a Friday evening ticketed preview event at the Santa Monica Library. Exclusively sponsored by Fierce Reads, it was an amazing opportunity to get to meet authors in a more intimate and low key setting. When I found out about the ticketed event I knew I immediately would be going and taking the chance to meet Rainbow Rowell, one of my favorite YA authors of all time (Fangirl really resonated with me while I was in college). So Max and I hopped in the car and drove the 400+ miles to Santa Monica on Friday morning, arriving at the library shortly before 2pm and finding ourselves fourth in line for the 6pm event (fair warning: if you attend YALLWest, be prepared to wait in a LOT of lines).
We encountered a slight bookish emergency while waiting in line…I realized I had forgotten all of my Rainbow Rowell books at home with the exception of Carry On. Max, being the amazing bookish boyfriend he is, ventured out to find a Barnes & Noble and managed to snag special editions of both Fangirl and Eleanor & Park so I could still have copies for Rainbow to sign. Once the event started we checked in and were funneled into the lines for our first priority authors, with me in Rainbow’s line and Max at the front of Leigh Bardugo’s line (he was literally the first person…he’s a big Six of Crows fan). I was SO nervous to meet Rainbow (which generally never happens to me) but her writing is so…beyond anything else I’ve experienced in contemporary. She was literally the SWEETEST person. She actually had a conversation to every person who went up to her, didn’t impose a limit on how many books you could have signed, and signed until the very last person who wanted to meet her had the chance.
Next up was Marie Rutkoski- and I WAS first in line for her! I am still in the middle of The Winner’s Kiss, so it was sort of surreal meeting the author who still held all of these characters’ fates in her hands for me! After getting to meet our top priority authors so early on in the weekend, Max and I checked out the author karaoke and the photo booth, and then headed out to prepare for the next two days of festivities.
Saturday is always the busiest, and most exciting day of the festival. It was rumored that 20,000 people showed up to Santa Monica High School on Saturday! Max and I had our tentative schedule of events planned out…and of course those plans got largely changed by all of the amazing activities, meet and greets, and galley drops the publishers surprised us with! One of the first things I found out about is that the Fierce Reads tent would be giving out 50 ARCs of Heartless by Marissa Meyer, which I never thought I’d have the ability to get my hands on this spring. Coupled with a ARC signing of The Crown’s Game at the epic reads booth, Saturday morning set the tone for a FANTASTIC rest of the weekend. I also got to meet up with several other bloggers, such as Jackie from The Lyrical Reader (we bonded in the Heartless line!) and 24 Hour YA Book Blog!
The publishers were also SO generous this year, especially Epic Reads and First in Line. I always have to give a shout out to the Epic Reads team for being so professional, organized, and kind in the face of what can be craziness during the weekend, and I was so glad to see so many familiar faces from their team return this weekend (especially Elizabeth, Margo, and Alana! They were amazing, as usual)!
In the afternoon Penguin Teen had the genius idea of offering popsicles to help everyone cool off from a long day in the sun, along with ARCs of Kids of Appetite by David Arnold (and if the book is half as good as those popsicles were it’s going to be amazing). We also tried out hand at the Owl Crate Spin-and-Win, and I came SO CLOSE to winning a free Owl Create Box!
Sunday is always the calmest day of the festival, and allowed for a lot more walking around and taking everything in. I was able to meet Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, and Brodi Ashton at their signing of My Lady Jane, and snagged a copy of This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab (again, the Epic Reads team is SO amazing). We tried a really tasty dessert from The Pudding Truck and checked out all of the incredible YALLWest swag that was for sale (they had everything- hats, sweats, shirts, waterbottles…it’s so cool to really see the YALLWest brand expand!) Perhaps the coolest YALLWest exclusive of the weekend was the YALLWest special edition paperback of The Young Elites by Marie Lu, who herself was one of the main organizers for the festival this year.
Knowing we had a long drive home the next day, Max and I headed out on Sunday around 3pm, heading to Downtown Disney to meet some friends for dinner and bask in the post-festival glow and indulge in our Disney obsession. We also upheld other “traditions” that we’ve created for YALLWest weekend, such as getting Sprinkles Ice Cream after the long, busy Saturday and meeting up for late night dinners in other parts of SoCal with friends.
Overall, I was extremely impressed by YALLWest’s second year in operation, and though there is always room for improvement, felt that it’s growing rapidly and in a very positive direction. I love the opportunity to network with other bloggers and readers, and to have the summery, festival atmosphere while getting to indulge books and a mini-vacation at the same time. I know YALLWest is an event that I will be returning to for many years to come, and I’m confident that’s it’s a West Coast tradition that’s here to stay.
Did you attend YALLWest this year? If not, is it something that you’d like to attend? If you’ve been to YALLFest, does it seem different? What’s your favorite yearly book convention or event to attend? Let me know in the comments…I’m looking for more to attend! Also, if you’re interested in attending YALLWest in the future, check out my tips & tricks guide!