The third week of every month, Justine and Scott attend "YA Drink Night," a downtown gathering where New York's amorphous cabal of published YA writers meet to socialize and talk shop. Stumble into the right Spring Street pub on the right night and you could find yourself hoisting a Belgian lager next to Naomi Novik of His Majesty's Dragonfame, or sharing cocktails with the brains behind Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List, a sort of high schoolmeetsWill & Grace riff written by Levithan and Rachel Cohn. Once a week, cabal stalwarts lug their laptops to a particular Village coffee shop where they can type together between the hours of brunch and high tea.
Riding the post-Potter wave: Scott Westerfield and Justine Larbalestier
"I'm crap at writing in cafés, though," laughs Justine. "So I usually just gossip and distract everyone else. They've all learned not to sit next to me if they intend to work!"
The nicest surprise amid all this careerist socializing is that the YA vanguard refuses to segregate themselves by subject matter. Authors of dark fantasy or science fiction mingle happily with those who chronicle private-school clique wars or gay romance. In contemporary young-adult lit, realism has no caste privilege over the fantastic. Teen consumers reject the thematic hierarchies that bedevil every other media market, unwittingly creating a utopia for iconoclasts like Scott and Justine, who write teen fiction because it frees their best ideas from the deadly limitations of any adult genre ghetto.