YALLFest, Charleston’s epic young adult book festival, has concluded its fourth year. An innocent passerby may have been surprised to see enormous lines on King Street this weekend, as hundreds of avid fans flocked to Downtown Charleston to meet their favorite writers and get their cherished books signed. So, what is it that makes YALLFest so special? Why is it that people come from all over the country specifically for this event?

I’ve been going to YALLFest every year since its conception. I’ve watched it grow into the amazing celebration of intelligence and literature that it is today. YALLFest has become an event where fans of the young adult genre, of all ages, can meet like-minded people to talk about writing, reading, or whatever is on their mind.

Wait in one of the signing lines, and you’re sure to strike up a conversation by complimenting fandom garb or mentioning the name John Green. When you go to the panels, it isn’t just an opportunity for writers to convince everyone in the room to go and immediately buy every book that they have ever written. YALLFest is about the readers. It’s about people who dedicate themselves to reading these books, investing in the characters, engulfing themselves in the plot. It’s a chance for readers to ask questions and hear what their idols have to say.

People that come to YALLFest have the unique opportunity to watch the thoughtful discussions that come from the events’ panels. Aspiring writers can learn about the process of publication or the difficult film industry. Feminists can hear writers discuss the idea of a “strong” female character. Not to mention, the panels are usually pretty entertaining.

To be honest, however, the entire aura of this affair is summed up in the grand finale: the Smackdown. This menagerie of frivolity is the perfect end to a perfect day. Consisting of childhood stories, amusing games, and excellent music, the Smackdown is nerdy and hilarious. Every comment involves some sort of literary reference and there are always opportunities for audience participation.

It makes sense that YALLFest is the largest young adult book festival in the country. When this many interesting writers and this many excited fans come together, magic is created. I don’t mean the kind of magic featured in Beautiful Creatures or Witches of East End — I mean the spreading of ideas and knowledge that occurs every year at this event and through every novel the writers create. In essence, I mean the collaboration that is formed by authors and readers coming together in a raw celebration of literacy. Honestly, that’s the best kind of magic there is.

Olive Gardner is a tenth-grade student at Academic Magnet.

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