The Cover Wars


Middlesex meets Mean Girls in this one-of-a-kind YA debut.

What if everything you knew about yourself changed in an instant?

When Kristin Lattimer is voted homecoming queen, it seems like another piece of her ideal life has fallen into place. She’s a champion hurdler with a full scholarship to college and she’s madly in love with her boyfriend. In fact, she’s decided that she’s ready to take things to the next level with him.

But Kristin’s first time isn’t the perfect moment she’s planned—something is very wrong. A visit to the doctor reveals the truth: Kristin is intersex, which means that though she outwardly looks like a girl, she has male chromosomes, not to mention boy “parts.”

Dealing with her body is difficult enough, but when her diagnosis is leaked to the whole school, Kristin’s world completely unravels. With everything she thought she knew thrown into question, can she come to terms with her new self?

Janet: Setting aside from my intense distaste for the term “the next level,” and the rather obvious question of how Kristin has never noticed that she has “boy ‘parts'” (seriously, how?), the summary is appealing. There is an abundance of conflict without obvious villains as Kristin faces inner turmoil, boyfriend problems, and school-wide gossip (okay, there are probably obvious villains at school, except that there are also going to be a lot of people who don’t mean her ill, but want to know what’s going on because they just plain don’t understand, and there are probably also people who mean well but cause pain, and people who just can’t reconcile the knowledge of Kristin’s biology with their memories or grasp on how the world works). The cover does very well at suggesting the story without intruding. (Thank goodness there are no human figures!) I’d read the first few pages.

Yash: I love the cover. I think that the blue for boy and pink for girl works very well for this story since it’s all about rigid gender rolls and sexuality. I love that they picked purple to represent “both” or an “intersection”.  I love that we have an intersex character. I think this is going to be an intense read, but I am pretty sure I’m going to read this one anyway.


Gillian Seagret doesn’t listen to people who say her father’s a crackpot. His conspiracy theories about the lost technology of Cold War-era rocket scientist Dr. Aloysius Underberg may have cost him his job and forced the family to move to a cottage in the sticks, but Gillian knows he’s right, and plans to prove it.

When she discovers a missing page from Dr. Underberg’s diary in her father’s mess of an office, she thinks she’s found a big piece of the puzzle–a space-themed riddle promising to lead to Dr. Underberg’s greatest invention. Enlisting the help of her skeptical younger brother, Eric, her best friend, Savannah, and Howard, their NASA-obsessed schoolmate, Gillian sets off into the ruins of a vast doomsday bunker, deep within the earth.

But they aren’t alone inside its dark and flooded halls. Now Gillian and her friends must race to explore OMEGA CITY and find the answers they need. For while Gillian wants to save her dad’s reputation by bringing Dr. Underberg’s secrets to light, there are others who will stop at nothing to make sure they stay buried…forever.

Janet: The cover hints at a slightly eerie expedition underground (I can’t tell on my computer whether those figures on the broken train tracks have glowing eyes or not). There’s something appealing about the girl pausing to reach down from the ladder to her friend, and he reaching up to her. I like that everyone on the cover is doing something. I can’t imagine why the two most central figures are positioned the way they are, though. She can’t possibly be planning to pull him up, and he doesn’t seem about to hand her the flashlight, so why? Another puzzle: the synopsis mentions four child characters (nice change from two boys and one girl), yet the cover depicts five, the background two of which appear slightly ominous (so the cover does have the more usual two boys and one girl), so what happened to Savannah? Unfortunately, I can only take conspiracy theories in very small doses (or else in Uncle John’s Bathroom Digests, where they’re more quirky facts of history, and less groundless conspiracy), so I will have to wait for another Book Warrior to recommend this book.

Yash: I like the art style for the cover. I really, really like the girl’s intense expression as she turns around to help the boys who seem to look a little lost. But then, the summary was not all that intriguing. Maybe I’d pick it up some other time. Or at the recommendation of someone else. There’s nothing wrong with the cover, per se. I think.


Louise and Erica have been best friends since forever. They’re closer than sisters and depend on each other for almost everything. Just one problem: Erica has superpowers.

When Erica isn’t doing loop-the-loops in the sky or burning things with her heat pulse powers, she needs Louise to hold her non-super life together. After all, the girls still have homework, parents and boys to figure out. But being a superhero’s BFF is not easy, especially as trouble has a way of seeking them out. Soon Louise discovers that Erica might be able to survive explosions and fly faster than a speeding bullet, but she can’t win every fight by herself.

Life isn’t a comic book – it’s even crazier than that.

Janet: Louise’s expression, alas, is not enough to make this cover appealing. Partly it’s the too-big title (also, the title itself), but mostly it’s Erica. (Sorry, Erica.) A black spandex-tight, curve-hugging bodysuit, oh, with red heels? Sigh. Could there be anything less practical for flying? Kinda pre-Hawkeye Initiative. (Although, to be fair, Erica’s pose is nowhere near as dreadfully supposed-male-sex-fantasy-ified as what the Hawkeye Initiative takes a jab at.) The synopsis is slightly bland: what is Erica fighting? are her powers a secret? who else knows? is she involved somehow in fighting crime, or is she trying to be (mostly) normal? is Erica alone in her abilities? I’m curious about the relationship between Louise and Erica and how the story will play out, but I’m not running to the store for this (yet).

Yash: I like the art style, the bright comic-y colours, and the tagline. I am not sure about that costume Erica is wearing, but I guess every superhero goes through a phase where their costumes are not, er, great? *shrug* I think I’ll enjoy this one- I do like when sidekicks become the protagonists. It’s a nice change and, if done well, it questions our definitions of heroism. I’d pick this one up in the store for sure. Maybe read a few pages before making my decision.


Seventeen-year-old Violet’s entire life has revolved around one thing: becoming Erica Silverman, an heiress kidnapped at age five and never seen again. Violet’s father, the best con man in Las Vegas, has a plan, chilling in its very specific precision. Violet shares a blood type with Erica; soon, thanks to surgery and blackmail, she has the same face, body, and DNA. She knows every detail of the Silvermans’ lives, as well as the PTSD she will have to fake around them. And then, when the time is right, she “reappears”—Erica Silverman, brought home by some kind of miracle. But she is also Violet, and she has a job: Stay long enough to steal the Silverman Painting, an Old Master legendary in the Vegas crime world. Walking a razor’s edge, calculating every decision, not sure sometimes who she is or what she is doing it for, Violet is an unforgettable heroine, and Pretending to be Erica is a killer debut.

Janet: The cover just does not appeal. It has a decent crime-novel feel, thanks to the dots on the white background, the irregular yellow, the typrewriter font, and the sketchy silhouette. But I have to wonder why, exactly, the central image of the cover is a female child or teenager’s legs and lower torso depicted from a camera-lens-type perspective angled upwards to emphasize the legs bared by a pseudo-childlike short skirt. (I say pseudo-childlike because the skirt or dress doesn’t seem meant to look and make its wearer look really childlike any more than the stereotypical halloween nurse or French maid costumes are meant to make their wearers look like a real nurse or French maid.) The synopsis is chilling, in large part to Violet’s dad (and her own) willingness to surgically alter Violet’s face and body for a con *shudder* and also because of the probably-dead five year old real Erica. Definitely an interesting premise, but not one that I would pick up. A very picky side note on the synopsis: “not sure sometimes who she is or what she is doing it for” is a bit too heavy handed. The reader can guess that without being told, and Violet’s internal struggle should unfold during the tale, not be declared beforehand. Leave us some mystery!

Yash: I think, as a rule, if you use yellow you have successfully captured my attention. The overall effect of the cover, though, is kind of confusing. The paint and the black silhouette says gritty crime novel and the cutesy dress and posturing says … something else? It’s a bit Lolita? I am not sure why the cover is creeping me out. The summary is pretty good- very compelling. The thing is, I am not sure of I would have stayed long enough to read the back or not? I hope I do because I think I want to read it. At least a chapter.


Janet: I like Lane Smith’s stories (mostly), but the illustrative style does not appeal to me. If this is a picturebook I’d probably flip through it, but that’s about it.

Yash: I’ve never encountered Lane Smith’s stories before but I love this cover! The kid’s expression is absolutely priceless. I am not why the broom is present, but I’ll go with it! Can I also point out that the wolf almost looks like a goof compared to the totally creepy smiling mushrooms in the background?! Yes. I think I like it.


History has a way of repeating itself. In the Sunken City that was once Paris, all who oppose the new revolution are being put to the blade. Except for those who disappear from their prison cells, a red-tipped rook feather left in their place. Is the mysterious Red Rook a savior of the innocent or a criminal?

Meanwhile, across the sea in the Commonwealth, Sophia Bellamy’s arranged marriage to the wealthy René Hasard is the last chance to save her family from ruin. But when the search for the Red Rook comes straight to her doorstep, Sophia discovers that her fiancé is not all he seems. Which is only fair, because neither is she.

As the Red Rook grows bolder and the stakes grow higher, Sophia and René find themselves locked in a tantalizing game of cat and mouse.

Janet: Ha! Scarlet Pimpernel much? The synopsis gives the set-up without much hook. It seems that at some point in the story’s past (our future), Paris sank (into the catacombs beneath the city streets? That would be interesting) and society reverted back to what it was during the Georgian/Napoleonic Era, what with beheadings and arranged marriages. I’m not grabbed, mostly because I can tell how this is going to end. The question about the mysterious Red Rook is pointless. The one spark in the synopsis is the last sentence in the second paragraph. Even so, since I have read The Scarlet Pimpernel, I probably don’t need to read this. Despite the pretty old-buildings cityscape balanced with the natural surroundings and a decapitated Eiffel Tower on the cover.

Yash: I am getting tired of Euro-centric stories, but I have to say I may be interested in this one. I like the bright red feather set against the drab weather, I like the title and the (okay, somewhat dramatic) tagline, and I love corvids. So, yes, I’d definitely pick it up to read the summary- and oh, look, the summary sounds kind of fun. I appreciate that it is Sophia and René who are playing against each other as it hints (to me) that Sophia is a somewhat skilled strategist. I’d probably read a bit at the store to decide.