Warning- includes sarcasm.
For those of you who don’t know, YALC is the Young Adult literature convention which takes place annually in London, on the floor above London Film and Comic Con.
It’s a fun place where you can go to meet your favourite Young Adult authors, do writers workshops, meet your favourite bloggers and get lots and lots of cut-price books, SWAG and sometimes (if you are lucky) free ARCs. (Advance Reader Copies of books)
I have been every year since it’s inception in 2014 and each year it gets bigger and better, yet simultaneously more stressful and less successful.
Firstly, this year my experience was not positive. It was the hottest weekend on record in the UK and I have issues with extreme heat in that I. CAN. NOT. COPE. Like Dobby dying unable to cope. Like Joss Whedon killing spree unable to cope. Like waiting for the next instalment of a trilogy unable to cope.
Basic I wither like a flower.
Travelling down from Leicester meant switching between trains, going on the underground (which is just like being in Hell) and walking for miles dragging a suitcase.
My back ached, my legs and knees were screaming and I had sweat in places a lady shouldn’t mention. Coupled with this I somehow got sunburned. (I’m almost vampiric in my avoidance of the sun so the ridiculously brief time between platform and hotel was enough to turn me crispy.)
I understand that, due to the heat, metal buckled and got trains caught in the overhead wires causing many trains to stop working and the entire English rail system came to a halt. Some people were waiting for hours for trains that never appeared, some were forced to go on buses where the temperature soared in excess of 40 degrees and some just had to go home.
We were only delayed by 30 minutes and our train had some semblance of air conditioning. In reality, it felt like a very lacklustre ghost blew at you every ten minutes rather than a blissful wave of chilled air but, apparently, we were the lucky ones.
Our hotel room had no such spectre. Eventually, I borrowed a trick from my East African neighbours in order to get some sleep; I soaked a towel in the coldest water I could get and lay it over myself like a blanket. The damp towel cooled me enough to drift off while the outside heat eventually dried the towel out. Once the heat rose I woke up and I soaked the towel again; getting sleep in hourly increments. (A massive thank you to my neighbours for this life hack, it quite literally saved my life.)
So bright and early Friday I joined the queue of avid, frothy and somewhat sweaty readers, bloggers and bibliophiles eager to swarm into YALC and get their book-on.
It was raining, I needed a jacket but it was hot so I had no jacket. There was no shade, no shelter and no shortage of sweat. I was getting rained on but that rain was turning to steam on my skin. At 9.30 the street was already so hot and the sun was beaming directly onto the queue to get in.
I had already drunk my weight in water that morning and was eager to refill my water bottle.
By the time they finally let us in I was feeling a little sick and dizzy. I joined the heaving mass of bodies who raced into YALC like Captain America was handing out free hugs.
The second I stepped out I could see queues for Illumicrate, fairyloot and Quirk books. Considering I had been about 50, maybe 60 people deep in the outside queue I was startled at how quickly these queues had sprung up. Or maybe I should have realised that Fairy magic happens in the book world and these queues had sprung fully formed from the souls of bookworms.
Whatever the reason there was no way I was joining another queue just yet. I’m British but even I have limits.
So I wandered around, picking up samplers, postcards, bookmarks and freebie swag. I even bought some books. Then I got some free and bought even more. I was having fun and even got a couple of raffle tickets to win ARCs.
I had two main aims in mind for this year.
Get a copy of Into the Crooked Place even if I had to sacrifice my firstborn to get it. (I loved Alexandra Christo’s To Kill a Kingdom so much I ordered a copy for every single one of my 16 major libraries. I plug it relentlessly to every teen that comes in.) @alliechristo
My secondary goal for this year was to find a copy of Dhonielle Clayton’s Everlasting Rose; The First Belle book was another of my favourites from last year and couldn’t wait to read the sequel. @brownbookworm
I managed to grab a copy of Everlasting Rose from Waterstones and then felt an odd wave of dizziness so I went to the ‘reading area’ to sit down.
There were no chairs, no tables. Just endless rather uncomfortable looking carpet. Last year I seem to recall there being tables with bookish crafts to do, colouring pencils and the like. I also remember areas where there were foam books you could create with envelopes full of crafty bits.
This year there weren’t even boards with pens to doodle. Just a mass of nothing and nowhere to sit, especially if you have back pain and aching knees.
In addition, if you wanted to eat or refill your water you had to traipse downstairs and tackle the crowds of LFCC. No air conditioning, no seating and no relief.
I needed to eat something or drink something desperately, was feeling dizzy and sick and knew that there was no way I could make it onto the lifts in this condition. I slumped against a pillar in the middle of the YALC area and slowly crumpled to the floor.
As I allowed waves of nausea and faintness to wash over me, I wondered if passing out was an option. I drifted a for a while until I could make out a blonde girl sitting not far away sorting out her suitcase of books.
Like a desperate, if very polite, victim, I whispered: “Excuse me, can you help me?”
Immediately she came over, like my knight in shining slipcovers. “Are you okay?”
“Nope. I’m either going to pass out or throw up. Possibly both.”
“Would you like me to get first aid?”
Anything I was going to say was lost as I grabbed the nearest bin and proved that breakfast had not been the best idea.
She skittered away leaving me to rehash my hash browns.
Just as quickly as she vanished, my angel reappeared with a person with a lanyard and clipboard. I never realised the calming effect these two items could have on your psyche. It was like my inner self realised that anyone who can carry these two items is a person with AUTHORITY and right now I needed someone responsible, reliable, dependable and other things that end with ‘able.
They asked if I were alone.
My response was; “No, you’re here.” Which just goes to show that my sarcasm is ingrained deeper than my health.
After she reiterated that she meant ‘did I have any friends here’ (which my tortured brain thought was kind of rude) I realised that she meant someone who would look after me.
Ahh. My husband was in London with me but he was currently looking at trains or architecture or whatever nerds did on their days off. (I’m a geek, he’s a nerd. I love Comic books and Marvel, he’s into computer games where you build factories. Weirdo.)
I gestured to my bag and my blonde heroine unlocked it and tried calling my husband. Typically he didn’t answer so she sent a quick message (even whilst throwing up I was impressed by her rapid textual technique).
I then recalled that one of my friends (hah, clipboard lady I do have them!) was trading down in LFCC. I asked her to call him and when he answered he said he was on his way.
Now, I do believe that, at this point, I was a little worse for wear. All I can vaguely remember is the lady with the clipboard telling me not to sleep and some very tall man in green asking me to stand up. I replied something unfriendly and the next thing I know I was being offered a wheelchair.
My friend duly arrived, apologizing to everyone for my attitude, letting them know that I was generally much better at hiding my true self. (Thanks dude.)
I was taken down to first aid where I waited for my husband to come and find me. I was given water and was able to lie down comfortably. Apparently, I wasn’t the first, or the last, to get heat exhaustion but I was uncomfortably close to heatstroke so I was ordered to rest there until the universe stopped spinning.
After about an hour I started to feel a bit more human and less like a Dementor and my husband took me back to the hotel to recover.
It took me the rest of Friday and all of Saturday to regain my strength. So I missed ARC raffles and all of the workshops and talks I had wanted to go to.
After much badgering and campaigning and, yes, complaining, my husband finally agreed to let me go to YALC on Sunday as long as I didn’t stay too long, I sat down every half hour and other various caveats.
Sunday I managed to get around the rest of the booths slowly and was able to pick up a few books. The lovely guy at @PenguinUKbooks even saved me an ARC I’d picked a winning raffle ticket for on Friday. (#notallheroeswearcapes)
But, and this a big but, rather than do a raffle the company who were promoting and giving away Into the Crooked Place had this system where you had to race all over the YALC to find tiny bats in order to ‘win’ an ARC.
Cue swarms of teenage girls rabidly running all over the place trying to find bats, elbowing others and screeching like banshees at finding one.
I would have paid, taken a raffle ticket, stolen a raffle ticket, cheated, lied, sold my firstborn or sacrificed a child to get that ARC. However, I had promised my husband to take it easy and running was out of the question unless I wanted to end up in A&E with his disappointed puppy face staring balefully down at me. (Seriously it should be considered a weapon, that face of his. I always cave.)
I noted a girl on crutches also looking put out that she wasn’t able to do this task to get the book and, for the first time, it occurred to me how access-unfriendly this years’ YALC was. No chairs, nowhere to sit other than the floor, no air conditioning, queues that seemed to birth their own mini queues, little access to food and drink and some of the ‘challenges’ to win ARCs were ridiculous. (For more on this please read @jenniely’s post on YALC and accessibility)
So I didn’t get my ARC. To console myself I did buy more books than was healthy and had to call my husband to come to pick me up and help me carry them, but that’s pretty much par for the course.
So here is my haul for YALC 2019. 31 books. 6 ARCs, 9 free and the rest discounted. It was a very good haul and I’m looking forward to starting them as soon as I’ve finished the Netgalley Reviewathon for this month.
So I hope you enjoyed my little story. Please feel free to subscribe to my blog to get emails when I update which, I hope will be more regularly and probably more full of stories since I enjoyed writing this one so much.
As a P.S. I found out that the name of my blonde angel was Bethany but haven’t managed to track her down to give her a proper thank you. So to Blonde Bethany- Thank you!!!!