The Cover Wars

Sebastian Alvarez is just trying to keep it all together: he doesn’t want to flunk out of high school, he doesn’t want his best friend, Kyle, to get into even more trouble, and he doesn’t want to lose his Ma to cancer. Then he meets Birdie Paxton, a Valedictorian in a science pun t-shirt, and the spark is instant and undeniable. Suddenly, he’s not so worried anymore. But before they can exchange phone numbers, they’re pulled apart.

What they don’t realize is a horrifying tragedy links them — a tragedy that will unfold in unimaginable ways.

When they reunite, they fall hard for each other — but how will the tragedy affect their lives and their love story? Told in alternating perspectives, The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash is a story of love, loss, and hope.

Jane: I don’t really know what to say about this one. The cover doesn’t tell you a lot – the roller skates seem to suggest a retro setting – does anyone use roller skates anymore? The cover illustration doesn’t seem to match the dark intensity of the back copy – pink striped socks and roller skates versus terminally ill mother and horrifying tragedy. I’m really not a huge fan of insta-love, and I’m not all that fond of romantic storylines, so this one doesn’t sound up my alley, but we’ll have to see!

Janet: I’m not super fond of the cover but it seems to fit the back copy. Insta-love is really not my thing, but the first sentence of the synopsis is pretty neat. I’d glance inside.

For fans of Rainbow Rowell and Stephanie Perkins

Lexi Angelo is a Convention Kid – she’s got a clipboard and a walkie talkie to prove it.

Aidan Green is a messy-haired, annoyingly arrogant author and he’s disrupting her perfect planning.

In a flurry of awkward encounters, lost schedules and late-night conversations, Lexi discovers that some things can’t be planned… Things like falling in love.

Jane: Oh, ugh….ugh, ugh, ugh. “Annoyingly arrogant author” disrupting the control-freak girl’s plans and turning her life upside down with his messy-haired charms? Don’t tell me, let me guess. Boy and girl couldn’t be more dissimilar. They meet and immediately dislike each other. But over time, sparks fly, secrets are revealed, tortured backstories are uncovered, arrogant boy turns out to have a deep and sensitive side hidden beneath the tough exterior, and true love is discovered. Not my vibe. I could be pleasantly surprised, but despite the title, this just sounds too conventional for my tastes.

Janet: Haha, Jane nailed it. If I want a convention story I’ll stick with Deep Secret by Diana Wynne Jones.

Frank doesn’t know how to feel when Nick Underbridge rescues her from bullies one afternoon. No one likes Nick. He’s big, he’s weird and he smells – or so everyone in Frank’s class thinks.

And yet, there’s something nice about Nick’s house. There’s strange music playing there, and it feels light and good and makes Frank feel happy for the first time in forever.

But there’s more to Nick, and to his house, than meets the eye, and soon Frank realises she isn’t the only one keeping secrets. Or the only one who needs help …

Jane: Oh, poor Nick. He rescues Frank, and all she can comment on is that he has a nice house? I mean, Nick is big, and weird and smells, but at least he has a nice house that makes Frank feel happy? What about Nick himself? On the surface this sounds like it’s going to be another one of those stories in which a bullied weirdo helps an outcast-yet-really quite normal kid learn a valuable lesson. Which is a bit of a shame, since A.F. Harrold is really quite a phenomenal writer. This is probably going to be a beautiful, heartfelt, elegant story, but the uninspiring cover art and minimal back copy don’t really do it justice.

Janet: That is a very pretty title font. I like the light bursts on the cover, but the real attraction is definitely the white space and that font. (And the title.) The synopsis gives the set up without giving too much away. I am intrigued.

Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl’s struggle for justice. Movie rights have been sold to Fox, with Amandla Stenberg (The Hunger Games) to star.

Jane:I always find it a bit amusing when books highlight the fact that they’ve been optioned for film adaptations. Should that influence whether or not I want to read this? Does being adapted into a film mean that a book is more exciting or interesting? Anyway, Jason Reynolds likes this book, and that’s pretty much all the recommendation I need. I wish Starr’s face wasn’t partially obscured by her placard, but the steely determination in her eyes is perfect. Side note – I traveled by bus for over an hour each way every day to get from my affordable housing co-op to the “posh” high school I attended. The juxtaposition between my two worlds was jarring, even without the issue of race or the fear of being killed.

Janet: The concealment of Starr’s body works with the back copy – Starr is hiding, and hidden, and surrounded by so much white space (pun intended). Still, I wish she wasn’t hidden by that sign.  And as Jane said, Starr’s level gaze, almost a glare, is perfect. Definitely a book I’ll look for.


Sibling rivalry reaches new heights in this delightfully tongue-in-cheek picture book that’s perfect for fans of Lauren Castillo’s The Troublemaker.

Being a bad guy can be lots of fun. You can trap all of the superheroes in a cage with hungry lions or sail the ocean and keep all the treasure for yourself. You can even eat your little sister’s brain…

But this little bad guy is about to learn a valuable lesson from an unlikely culprit.

Hannah Barnaby’s humor and spare text are brought to life by Mike Yamada’s bold illustrations in this charming picture book about the special bond between brothers and sisters.

Jane: I’m always getting requests for sibling rivalry books, especially ones with a sense of humour, so I’ll have to take a look at this one when it comes in. The “you can even eat your little sister’s brain” line is a wee bit creepy, I have to say, but kids do always appreciate a good bad guy! Being an only child I’ve never experienced this whole sibling business, so I can’t relate personally, but given the demand for books on the subject it seems like a subject that will always be popular.

Janet: I’m a wee bit tired of being asked to sympathize with the bad guys, on the other hand a story about siblings is hard to resist. I’ll wait for Jane’s review.


Grace wants out. Out of her house, where her stepfather wields fear like a weapon and her mother makes her scrub imaginary dirt off the floors. Out of her California town, too small to contain her big city dreams. Out of her life, and into the role of Parisian artist, New York director—anything but scared and alone.

Enter Gavin: charming, talented, adored. Controlling. Dangerous. When Grace and Gavin fall in love, Grace is sure it’s too good to be true. She has no idea their relationship will become a prison she’s unable to escape.

Deeply affecting and unflinchingly honest, this is a story about spiraling into darkness—and emerging into the light again.

Janet: The flower arrangement on the cover is striking, although the title font looks flat and out of place next to the texture of the dying flowers. So. Very important to have stories about abusive relationships! I might have to pass at the moment, but I hope this portrayal is as honest – and as ultimately hopeful – as the back copy claims.