Sometimes you read a book you weren’t expecting to be anything other than a book, and then it turns into a small piece of your rib cage. I am very pleased for this to have happened with an author I had only vaguely heard of, because now I can devour the rest of his books at breakneck speed and if they are as good as this one, I may need to add a rib or two.
They Both Die at the End, Adam Silvera (2017)
Read, if you like…
Death (the title is not a metaphor, and that is not a spoiler; I’m mentioning this first because I am aware not everyone has come to terms with their own mortality and if you haven’t you should this book is possibly not the one for you, although you will probably get the most out of it)
New York, but not the touristy bits
Diverse novels in less of a stock character way and more of a ‘oh, I guess this ticks several diversity boxes but I didn’t notice because the characters were too busy being REAL LIFE PEOPLE THAT I COULD PRACTICALLY SMELL’ way
Fiction that is futuristic insofar as it is more like a story about facts we haven’t invented yet
Being arty on Instagram
That feeling you get when you finish a novel that’s a bit like missing a step
That feeling you get when you’re in a crowd at a concert singing along with several hundred other people you’ll never see again
You can get They Both Die at the End from all good libraries and bookshops.
So I might have mentioned I went to the Young Adult Literature Convention. Here is a brief summary of my day.
The Working Toilet Search
I came into town on the Liverpool Street line, which is a) shittier than the Fenchurch Street line and b) obliged on Sundays to stop at every station in east London between Shenfield and Stratford. I necked a coffee somewhere around Rayleigh and by Billericay was thinking ‘yeah this carriage could really use a toilet’. By Stratford I was actually going to die so I hopped off in search of one. The only facilities in the entirety of Stratford station, as far as I could see, were out of order – so I made a quick detour to Westfield. Pro tip: Westfield is a ghost mall at 8:30am on a Sunday. Go then.
Why is Everyone So Quiet?
I clocked in just after ten – too late to muscle in on the first event I’d bookmarked, too early to spend all my money – so I got another coffee and sussed out where the fire exits were.
Which was easy to do
Because it was almost deathly quiet
Because everyone who wasn’t a vendor and probably some of the vendors
Was reading The Cursed Child
Which I had forgotten about
Because I am broke and try not to dwell on the things I can’t buy yet. Spoiler: it turned out I wasn’t too broke to buy an illustrated Philosopher’s Stone that was on sale. So I don’t know what past me was thinking, but she was a plonker not to reserve a copy. Pro tip: make sure you have money for Potter-related purchases. Another pro tip: cons are supposed to be buzzing. People in a group reading is wonderfully quiet and stupefying. YALC might be the only con in the world where stupefying is better. Go to it.
Agent Arena Publishing 102: God Exists
There’s quite a large part of my soul that belongs to the book industry, and the Agent Arena talk on publishing filled that part of my soul with hope that I might be able to work in it one day. Could I work in publicity? Maybe. Could I work in editorial? Maybe. Could I work in foreign rights? Probably not, because my grasp of foreign languages is shite. Pro tip: sit up the front because whoever designed Kensington Olympia forgot that sometimes small groups convene and like to hear one another.
Why the Fuck is there No Food Here
See Stories from the Bathroom Floor for why a packet of crisps and a pot of melon three hours apart does not constitute an acceptable meal. In the end I found the food court at the main London Film and Comic Con (which looks way more chill than MCM, for the record) and scarfed a baked potato. Pro tip: bring more snacks than you think you’ll ever need. Especially if there’s a chance you’ll join a queue.
The Queue for Maggie in Conversation
Around about the time I was exploring the fire exits, people turned up. I turned a corner and oh, shit, there’s a fucking large queue to see Maggie Stiefvater in conversation. I should mention at this point that I went to YALC by myself, not expecting to see anyone I knew. I met a lot of people at various points, from bloggers and readers to agents. I completely forgot to ask names and swap Instas. So if you met someone wearing Blue Sargent dungarees and hair that vaguely resembled the bisexual pride flag, leave a comment. Pro tip: if I looked like I wanted to kill someone, that’s my normal face.
Maggie in Conversation
Some of you may yet see Maggie on tour, so I’ll let her tell you the story of the broken sunglasses. And the story of setting John Green on fire. And the story of her child vomiting on a long haul flight. Pro tip: there are no Raven King spoilers.
The Queue for the Queue for Maggie’s Signing
Only in Britain would you be made to queue for tickets that determine your place in another queue. Pro tip: get in there before number 238 of 250 if you want more than one book signed.
Queuing is really just like waiting for a gate to open in an airport, ie after a while you forget why you’re there
‘Come back in an hour.’ I did another round of exploring. I sourced a pot of melon. Then I sourced a baked potato. Numbers zero to 20 had become numbers zero to 40. ‘Come back in another hour.’ I made two phone calls. I took a photograph.
I discovered that my bag made a great pillow. I wrote some notes. I reflected that the last time I queued sitting down was the last time I saw Mindless. I missed seeing Mindless. Pro tip: bring friends to talk to for this bit, or learn to chat.
Actually Meeting Maggie
It was 5:55pm. The con was closing. The queue was urgently shuffled forward. My number was called. I met a girl named Lizzie who had brought a notebook for autographs. I gave a lady my phone to take photographs. I gave another lady my book with my name on a Post It. A girl in front said ‘please pronounce the name of the boys’ school.’
‘Aglionby,’ Maggie said. Pro tip: she pronounces the G.
The other lady gave Maggie my book, plus Post It.
Once upon a time an interviewer asked Gerard Way what fans usually said when they met him. ‘They usually just say thank you,’ he said.
‘Thank you,’ I said.
Then I said, ‘my dad told me to offer you his car.’ Then I said, ‘it doesn’t have a clutch.’
IT’S AN AUTOMATIC. I MEANT THAT IT’S AN AUTOMATIC. Also it is a Mustang and was either born in Texas or assembled there.
‘What colour is it?’ she asked.
‘Red.’ Officially I think it’s called something like “Midlife Crisis Ruby Metallic”.
‘Tell him to paint it black, lower it an inch and a half, and then we’ll talk.’
I have told him, but it’s probably a good thing that she has a no-driving-readers’ cars policy. Southend Borough Council dislikes paying out for road maintenance when the cause is drag racing down the seafront. Pro tip: they usually catch you drag racing down the seafront and moan about you in the paper. (No, that’s not a confession. I don’t think my Micra could drag race. I will wait until the Mustang is unattended.)
Then I hobbled back to the Liverpool Street line (my blisters actually have blisters), did a lil bit of Instagram bragging and thought that I might, like, go to Venezuela.