Real Life is Messy: Varian Johnson Tackles the Real World at the Austin Teen Book Festival

The Austin Teen Book Festival, taking place on October 1st, 2011 10am – 5pm at the Palmer Events Center, is a FREE festival with the mission of connecting teens with authors of books for teens. Panels of authors will discuss a wide variety of topics, sign their books, and celebrate all things teen fiction.

To give you a taste of what to expect at the ATBF, we’ve invited some of the panelists to write about their panel here on the BP blog. This week’s guest blogger is Varian Johnson, who will moderate the Real Life is Messy panel at ATBF.


By Varian Johnson

Real life is messy. Friends pass away, hearts are broken, dreams are deferred and the ones that should protect use are often the ones that let us down. But, as seen in the latest works by authors Coe Booth, David Levithan, Geoff Herbach, Melissa Walker, and John Corey Whaley, it’s not the bad things in life that define us—rather it’s how we handle these pitfalls that determine who we are.

In Coe Booth’s latest novel, Bronxwood, sixteen-year-old Tyrell grapples with his anger toward his father—fresh out of jail—and his own guilt in letting his younger brother get placed in foster care.

In Every You, Every Me, David Levithan gives us a psychological thriller about a teen drowned in guilt and paranoia after the disappearance of his best friend.

Stupid Fast, by Geoff Herbach, gives us Felton Reinstein, a one-time outsider now transformed into a jock. But as Felton struggles with girls and family problems, he quickly realizes that there’s more to growing up than getting a deep voice and a growth spurt.

In Melissa Walker’s Small Town Sinners, as good-girl Lacey Anne Byer begins to question her beliefs, she begins to discover the differences between the girl she is and the woman she wants to become.

John Corey Whaley’s Where Things Come Back explores the loss of faith, family, and love in a way both funny and moving.

So come out to the Austin Teen Book Festival on October 1 and listen to these authors talk about how they tackle real world problems in their novels. Real life may be messy—but it’s also beautiful and funny; full of courage and kindness and love.

~Varian Johnson is the author of three novels, including My Life as a Rhombus, which was named to the Texas Library Association Tayshas High School Reading List, the New York Public Library “Stuff for the Teen Age” list, and was a finalist for a Texas Institute of Letters award. His latest novel, Saving Maddie, was recently named a Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Book of 2011.

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