Book Expo America took place May 29-31 followed by BookCon, June 1-2, this year at the Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan. Book Expo is the publishing industry’s leading trade event, where booksellers, librarians, specialty retailers and national chains, publishers, and tastemakers gather to discover the latest titles, authors, distribution channels, technology, and trends. BookCon is the more fan-centric event where storytelling and pop culture collide. Among the many authors participating in BookCon was Greek-American Angelo Surmelis.
The author of The Dangerous Art of Blending In, a solid debut effort in the young adult romance genre, Surmelis signed autographs for fans and participated in a fascinating and timely panel discussion on June 2 at BookCon. The panelists, including Surmelis and fellow authors Abdi Nazemian, Tehlor Kay Mejia, and Kacen Callendar, discussed the fact that young adult books are still overwhelmingly heteronormative – about heterosexuals. The discussion was moderated by American actor and singer Anthony Rapp, best known for originating the role of Mark Cohen in the Broadway production of Rent.
In previous years, many BookCon panels have focused on fun book tie-ins with television and film featuring well-known authors while others also tackled issues like the need for diversity in the publishing industry. Though some may find the issues discussed uncomfortable, the fact that we are hearing from these talented and unheard voices in literature is important and even life-saving for young people struggling to ‘fit in’.
According to the book description for Surmelis’ The Dangerous Art of Blending In, seventeen-year-old Evan Panos doesn’t know where he fits in. His strict immigrant Greek mother refuses to see him as anything but a disappointment. His quiet, workaholic father is a staunch believer in avoiding any kind of conflict. And his best friend, Henry, has somehow become distractingly attractive over the summer.
Tired, isolated, scared, Evan finds that his only escape is to draw in an abandoned monastery that feels as lonely as he is. And yes, he kissed one guy over the summer. But it’s Henry who’s now proving to be irresistible – Henry, who suddenly seems interested in being more than friends. And it’s Henry who makes him believe that he deserves more than his mother’s harsh words and terrifying abuse.
But as things with Henry heat up, and his mother’s abuse escalates, Evan has to decide how to find his voice in a world where he has survived so long by being silent.
This is a powerful and revelatory coming-of-age novel based on the author’s own childhood, about a boy who learns to step into his light.
Surmelis was raised in Greece until he immigrated to Illinois at the age of five. He currently lives in Los Angeles. An award-winning designer, Surmelis has been featured on over fifty television shows, including the Today show and Extra, as well as in magazines such as InStyle, TV Guide, and Entertainment Weekly. He has worked as a host on networks like HGTV and TLC. He can be found online at www.angelohome.com.
Published by Harper Collins, The Dangerous Art of Blending In by Angelo Surmelis is available online and in bookstores.