The Cover Wars

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By her senior year of high school, Rianne has exhausted all the fun there is to have in small town Wereford, Minnesota. Volleyball season is winding down, the parties all feel tired, and now that she’s in a serious relationship with reformed player Luke Pinsky, her wild streak has ended. Not that she ever did anything more than the guys her age did…but she knows what everyone thinks of her.

Including her parents. Divorced but now inexplicably living together again, Rianne wonders why they’re so quick to point out every bad choice she’s making when they can’t even act like adults. With an uncomfortable home life and her once-solid group of friends now dissolving, the reasons for sticking around after high school are few. So why is Rianne in lockstep when it comes to figuring out her future?

That’s not the only question Rianne can’t answer. Lately she’s been wondering why, when she has a perfect-on-paper boyfriend, she wants anything but. Or how it is that Sergei, a broken-English-speaking Russian, understands her better than anyone who’s known her all her life? And why has Rianne gotten stuck with an “easy girl” reputation for doing the same exact things guys do without any judgment? Carrie Mesrobian, acclaimed author of Sex & Violence and Cut Both Ways, sets fire to the unfair stereotypes and contradictions that persist even in the twenty-first century.

Janet: The title is a NO. There are already enough books minimizing and deriding girls, girlhood, and women and womenhood. The story may argues against nasty pervasive patriarchal standards, but the title reinforces them. As does that cover. As does that cliched synopsis.

Nafiza: While I am sure there are people to whom both cover and the back copy will appeal, unfortunately, I remain unmoved by both. So it will be a pass from me. And I do so like Janet’s point about the reinforcement of the very ideals the book purports to be speaking out against.

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In order to save her family’s farm, Roshen, sixteen, must leave her rural home to work in a factory in the south of China. There she finds arduous and degrading conditions and contempt for her minority (Uyghur) background. Sustained by her bond with other Uyghur girls, Roshen is resolved to endure all to help her family and ultimately her people. A workplace survival story, this gritty, poignant account focuses on a courageous teen and illuminates the value—and cost—of freedom.

Janet: I don’t care for the cover – the model-type pose completely undercuts Rishen’s courage and endurance – but the synopsis is very appealing. There are very few books (in English, at least) featuring Uyghur characters. If only this was an #ownvoices story, I would be completely won over. As it is, I’ll wait for reviews.

Nafiza: I read and reviewed this author’s first book that was set in a Uyghur village and I found it respectful both of the culture being represented and the manner in which it was being represented. The cover model’s pose is exceedingly odd and I wonder that no one picked up on it. Also, *peers* is she wearing heels or is that just me? Still, if I see this one at the library, I will pick it up.

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Fight Club meets Black Swan—Rachel wakes up in a ditch to find she doesn’t remember the last year of her life, and that everything—including herself—is vastly different than she remembers.

Yesterday, Rachel went to sleep listening to Taylor Swift, curled up in her grammy’s quilt, worrying about geometry. Today, she woke up in a ditch, bloodied, bruised, and missing a year of her life.

She doesn’t recognize the person she’s become: she’s popular. She wears nothing but black.

Black to cover the blood.

And she can fight.

Tell no one.

She’s not the only girl to go missing within the last year…but she’s the only girl to come back. She desperately wants to unravel what happened to her, to try and recover the rest of the Lost Girls.

But the more she discovers, the more her memories return. And as much as her new life scares her, it calls to her. Seductively. The good girl gone bad, sex, drugs, and raves, and something darker…something she still craves—the rush of the fight, the thrill of the win—something she can’t resist, that might still get her killed…

The only rule is: There are no rules.

Janet: I sense a theme in this week’s Cover Wars. The cover is distinctly creepy with that hand, the photographic focus on the model’s curbed back and implicit vulnerability, and the model’s emphatic slenderness and limited, almost invisible, attire. Much as I love stories with female characters who fight, this is another nope. Good girl gone bad stories are rarely convincing.

Nafiza: Hmm. You know, the cover and book title doesn’t do much for me but the back copy has me intrigued. I want to know where Rachel went, how she has changed, why she has changed, what has happened to her. I will probably pick this one up after I read some reviews.

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Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now…

Janet: Oh no I am NOT reading this again. Margaret Atwood’s writing may be brilliant, or so everybody assures me, but it is as creepy as all get-out and I am not touching this book again with a nine-foot pole, thank you very much. Not sure what to make of this cover – it looks a lot more hopeful than the text is.

Nafiza: I picked this one to add to this week’s covers because this is a new edition with a new cover and plus, considering American politics, it seems like a scary relevant book. However, this was before the whole Steven Galloway debacle and the open letter business went down and now I’m all mrehwe.

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Mira and Francesca Cillo—beautiful, overprotected, odd—seemed untouchable. But Ben touched seven parts of Mira: her palm, hair, chest, cheek, lips, throat, and heart. After the sisters drown themselves in the quarry lake, a post-mortem letter from Mira sends Ben on a quest to find notes in the seven places where they touched. Note by note, Ben discovers the mystical secret at the heart of Mira and Francesca’s world, and that some things are better left untouched.

Janet: I may institute a new policy of completely ignoring any book with the words “girl” or “beautiful” in the title. No.

Nafiza: So a book which begins with two girls dead is already a no–no matter how eerie the cover.

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Quinn Littleton was a mean girl—a skinny blonde social terrorist in stilettos. She was everything Emma MacLaren hated. Until she died.

A proud geek girl, Emma loves her quiet life on the outskirts, playing video games and staying off the radar. When her nightmare of a new stepsister moves into the bedroom next door, her world is turned upside down. Quinn is a queen bee with a nasty streak who destroys anyone who gets in her way. Teachers, football players, her fellow cheerleaders—no one is safe.

Emma wants nothing more than to get this girl out of her life, but when Quinn dies suddenly, Emma realizes there was more to her stepsister than anyone ever realized.

Janet: The cover looks very familiar, due to the popularity of this art style. I’m just not drawn by cover or synopsis. The characters feel stereotyped, and getting to know someone after they’re dead is rather difficult.

Nafiza: Once again, while I don’t care much for the cover, I do find the back copy intriguing and would like to give the book a try.