The Cover Wars

Can the right kind of boy get away with killing the wrong kind of girl?

Fin and Betty’s close friendship survived Fin’s ninth-grade move from their coastal Maine town to Manhattan. Calls, letters, and summer visits continued to bind them together, and in the fall of their senior year, they both applied to NYU, planning to reunite for good as roommates.

Then Betty disappears. Her ex-boyfriend Calder admits to drowning her, but his confession is thrown out, and soon the entire town believes he was coerced and Betty has simply run away. Fin knows the truth, and she returns to Williston for one final summer, determined to get justice for her friend, even if it means putting her loved ones—and herself—at risk.

But Williston is a town full of secrets, where a delicate framework holds everything together, and Fin is not the only one with an agenda. How much is she willing to damage to get her revenge and learn the truth about Betty’s disappearance, which is more complicated than she ever imagined—and infinitely more devastating?

Janet: The cover is pretty but doesn’t grab me, although I’m reminded of the assassination of Marat. I want to like the back copy. Certain phrases are kinda standard, but I might just be picky because I’m really tired. I’d look through the first few pages.

Wait. I just realized I read the first line of the synopsis all backwards: I thought it said Could the right kind of girl get away with killing the wrong kind of boy? Which was intriguing, even if it still means murder. As-is, the answer is yes. Whether or not he did it is up in the air; irl, we know it is possible.

Jane: Meh. The cover is kind of creepy, I guess? Not sure why there’s an abandoned bathtub in the middle of the forest, unless perhaps Betty was said to have been drowned in a bathtub? But meh, doesn’t interest me all that much, I’m afraid.

Nafiza: I actually like the cover. I find covers which place unexpected things in unexpected places to be intriguing. And I’m also interested in the back copy. I’d have to see how much diversity this offers before I make a decision though.

When Nico Walker’s older sister mysteriously disappears, her parents, family, and friends are devastated. But Nico can never admit what she herself feels: relief at finally being free of Sarah’s daily cruelties.

Then the best and worst thing happens: four years later, after dozens of false leads, Sarah is found.

But this girl is much changed from the one Nico knew. She’s thin and drawn, where Sarah had been golden and athletic; timid and unsure, instead of brash and competitive; and strangest of all, sweet and kind, when she had once been mean and abusive. Sarah’s retrograde amnesia has caused her to forget almost everything about her life, from small things like the plots of her favorite books and her tennis game to the more critical—where she’s been the last four years and what happened at the park on the fateful day she vanished. Despite the happy ending, the dark details of that day continue to haunt Nico, and it becomes clear that more than one person knows the true story of what happened to Sarah. . . .

Janet: The cover doesn’t catch my attention. The back is done. I’m slightly concerned that the situation will posit, however implicitly, that cruel girls like Sarah deserve what they get and/or can be improved by suffering. I’d take a wary glance inside.

Jane: Another story that just doesn’t interest me. Call me crazy, but I just don’t get too excited about stories that involve the potential abduction and mistreatment of young women. The cover doesn’t excite or intrigue me, and none of the characters sound particularly likeable. Meh.

Nafiza: Once again, I like the cover because it reminds me of home and afternoons in the river. But the back copy tells of a book that has been done a million times over. Still, it could be interesting. I’d read some reviews.

Every night, tiny stars appear out of the darkness in little Sandy’s bedroom. She catches them and creates wonderful creatures to play with until she falls asleep, and in the morning brings them back to life in the whimsical drawings that cover her room.

One day, Morfie, a mysterious pale girl, appears at school. And she knows all about Sandy’s drawings…Nightlights is a beautiful story about fear, insecurity, and creativity, from the enchanting imagination of Lorena Alvarez.

Janet: The cover is cute, the back copy is cute, there’s drawing involved! I’ve got an eyebrow raised at the “mysterious pale girl” (Morfie as in Morpheus?) but this looks like a nice gentle read.

Jane: Ahh, now this is better. Cute cover! Cute back copy! Is the mysterious pale girl a ghost perhaps? Not sure, but the cover alone is enough to make me want to pick this one up. So cute, and I love the jewel tones. Those eyes in the background have a faint “cheshire cat / studio ghibli” feel to them – a little bit cute, and a just little bit creepy.

Nafiza: Oh yes. Give this to me, please.

At the highest level of a giant forest, thirteen kingdoms fit seamlessly together to form the great city of Canopy. Thirteen goddesses and gods rule this realm and are continuously reincarnated into human bodies. Canopy’s position in the sun, however, is not without its dark side. The nation’s opulence comes from the labor of slaves, and below its fruitful boughs are two other realms: Understorey and Floor, whose deprived citizens yearn for Canopy’s splendor.

Unar, a determined but destitute young woman, escapes her parents’ plot to sell her into slavery by being selected to serve in the Garden under the goddess Audblayin, ruler of growth and fertility. As a Gardener, she yearns to become Audblayin’s next Bodyguard while also growing sympathetic towards Canopy’s slaves.

When Audblayin dies, Unar sees her opportunity for glory – at the risk of descending into the unknown dangers of Understorey to look for a newborn god. In its depths, she discovers new forms of magic, lost family connections, and murmurs of a revolution that could cost Unar her chance…or grant it by destroying the home she loves.

Janet: That’s a very intricate cover, and reminiscent of the art on certain Magic cards. I’d want to see reviews from trusted resources before I look at a book with fantasy slavery and revolution. The last sentence of the synopsis is well turned.

Jane: Well, Tamora Pierce liked it, which would definitely have me picking it up and thumbing through. The world-building sounds intriguing, and the cover is lush and beautiful, recalling Elvish forest dwellings (or Ewok tree villages, but I prefer to go with the Elves).

Nafiza: Hmm. I like the cover but the back copy gives me pause. But I’d read read a few reviews to see what I’d be getting into. I might give it a try.

By the end of our time together, someone in this house will be rich. Someone will be the World’s Greatest Detective. And someone, well, someone might be dead.
Detectives’ Row is full of talented investigators, but Toby Montrose isn’t one of them. He’s only an assistant at his uncle’s crime-solving business, and he’s not sure he’s even very good at that. But he sees his chance to prove he could be by entering Hugh Abernathy’s crime-solving contest in his uncle’s place.

Toby’s friend Ivy is the best detective around—or at least she thinks so. But she can’t show off her sleuthing skills and take the title because she’s not allowed to join the investigators’ ranks. Even though the competition is being held at her house.

Then a detective is found murdered before the games begin and his death becomes the World’s Greatest Mystery. And Toby and Ivy may be the only two who can crack the case.

In Caroline Carlson’s newest novel, hilarity and hijinks abound as the greatest detectives around try to solve the greatest mystery they’ve ever come across.

Janet: I don’t love the cover but it has an appealing element of the ridiculous and that is only a good thing. Who doesn’t like middle grade (murder) mysteries? As long as Ivy isn’t prohibited from being a detective on account of being a girl, I’d look at this. That opening paragraph is nearly irresistible. Also, it reminds me of Talis from The Scorpion Rules.

Jane: Ooooh, I like! I am a sucker for mysteries, and Ivy makes me think of a very young Phryne Fisher from the Australian “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries” series – a smart, brave young sleuth who will put those dudes in their place. I’m pretty sure Ivy’s been prohibited from being a sleuth because she’s a girl, but seeing as this looks like a period piece that kind of sexism feels pretty accurate, so I don’t mind. The cover is cute, and I like the combination of “hilarity and hijinks” – sounds like a lot of fun!

Nafiza: I do like the cover but for some reason, I am not so intrigued by the back copy. Maybe because I’ve read so many of these before that I’m rather fatigued by the idea of reading them again. However, I could very well change my mind. I will keep an eye out for it.

In shepherd boy Elric’s tiny village, people think children like his younger sister, Wynn, are changelings-left by fairies and doomed to curse all around them. As a baby, Wynn was born with developmental delays, and according to the rules, she was supposed to be abandoned in the woods.

Instead Elric’s mother saved his sister and hid her away for eleven years. They live in secret and fear of being discovered, yet their home is full of love, laughter, and singing. Wynn and Elric’s favorite song is about the Silver Gate, a beautiful fairy realm where all children are welcome.

But when their long-absent father returns to sell Wynn to the Lord’s castle as a maid, Elric realizes that folk songs and fantasies can’t protect them from the outside world. They have to run away. Still Wynn believes there’s only one place they’ll ever be safe, and it lies beyond the Silver Gate.

The road to freedom is long and treacherous. If they have any hope for survival, Elric and Wynn must learn to depend on each other above everything else-and discover the magic that always reveals itself when it seems like all is lost.

Janet: My only complaint about this is beautiful cover is that the children do not have eyes. WHY. As for the back copy, I’m cautiously optimistic. I’ll wait for reviews from people who know, in the hope *fingers crossed* that this is a story that values people with developmental delays as people and not as victims or inspiration porn.

Jane: Ooooh, very, very pretty cover! I like stories about loving siblings – all too often siblings are depicted as being rivals or in conflict, and it’s nice to see a loving, positive sibling pair for a change! I’ve always been a sucker for magical quests and epic journeys, so this one does sound like something I would’ve been interested in as a child. But…you know that famous quote from Chekhov (no, not the “nuclear wessels Chekhov, the Russian author Chekhov) that says “One must never place a loaded rifle on the stage if it isn’t going to go off. It’s wrong to make promises you don’t mean to keep”? That chicken on the cover had better have a starring role in this story. It had better be a talking chicken, or a magic chicken, or something. Otherwise I’m going to be very disappointed.

Nafiza: The cover is beautiful but the figures look odd. The back copy is intriguing. I will read some reviews and decide whether I want to take the plunge.