The Cover Wars: The Mehndi Edition

Or, henna. Whatever floats your boat. 🙂 We’ve definitely seen some of these covers before, but I wanted to put all these South Asian covers together to create the context for a deeper discussion. — Y

Mili Rathod hasn’t seen her husband in twenty years—not since she was promised to him at the age of four. Yet marriage has allowed Mili a freedom rarely given to girls in her village. Her grandmother has even allowed her to leave India and study in America for eight months, all to make her the perfect modern wife. Which is exactly what Mili longs to be—if her husband would just come and claim her.

Bollywood’s favorite director, Samir Rathod, has come to Michigan to secure a divorce for his older brother. Persuading a naïve village girl to sign the papers should be easy for someone with Samir’s tabloid-famous charm. But Mili is neither a fool nor a gold-digger. Open-hearted yet complex, she’s trying to reconcile her independence with cherished traditions. And before he can stop himself, Samir is immersed in Mili’s life—cooking her dal and rotis, escorting her to her roommate’s elaborate Indian wedding, and wondering where his loyalties and happiness lie.

Heartfelt, witty, and thoroughly engaging, Sonali Dev’s debut is both a vivid exploration of modern India and a deeply honest story of love, in all its diversity. — [X]

Janet: The paisley swirls in the corners are perhaps a little cheesy, and I can’t say the title draws me at all. But! The back copy! This looks fascinating and complex. I like how it doesn’t come down on either side: there’s no obvious ending, no One True Path, but a wealth of small choices – which is precisely what the cover gets at, with those offering hands and all the wedding symbols.

Jane: This sounds perfect for fans of romance. I like the fact that Mili is portrayed as a complex character – intelligent, caring, and trying to figure out her own place in the world. I also appreciate that tradition isn’t demonized, and neither is modernity – both can have their benefits and their challenges, and navigating between them can be both challenging and rewarding. I find the cover quite attractive – the colours work together really nicely, though it would be nice to see Mili on the cover! This definitely sounds like it would make for a great TV drama series, too.

Despite the odds, Kalinda has survived it all: Marriage to a tyrant. Tournaments to the death. The forbidden power to rule fire. The icy touch of a demon.

That same demon now disguises itself as Rajah Tarek, Kalinda’s late husband and a man who has never stopped haunting her. Upon taking control of the palace and the army, the demon brands Kalinda and her companions as traitors to the empire. They flee across the sea, seeking haven in the Southern Isles.

In Lestari, Kalinda’s powers are not condemned, as they are in her land. Now free to use them to protect those she loves, Kalinda soon realizes that the demon has tainted her with a cold poison, rendering her fire uncontrollable. But the lack of control may be just what she needs to send the demon back to the darkest depths of the Void.

To take back the empire, Kalinda will ally with those she distrusts—and risk losing those most loyal to her—to defeat the demon and bring peace to a divided nation. — [X]

Janet: I can’t tell if I like the cover for its streamlined, stylized… uh… style, or whether it seems bland and mildly disproportionate. Also: we see almost nothing of Kalinda, just her clothing and a glimpse of hands doing magic. The back would be more interesting if I’d read the first book? I’m not generally interested by narratives involving demons, so unless Yash says yea, I’ll pass.

Jane: I like the colour scheme on this one, the blue and the gold work together well (I will fully admit to being biased here – my favourite colour is blue!). The back copy doesn’t really do anything for me, though, and I definitely agree with Janet that I’d like to see Kalinda’s face!

Life is quiet and ordinary in Amal’s Pakistani village, but she had no complaints, and besides, she’s busy pursuing her dream of becoming a teacher one day. Her dreams are temporarily dashed when—as the eldest daughter—she must stay home from school to take care of her siblings. Amal is upset, but she doesn’t lose hope and finds ways to continue learning. Then the unimaginable happens—after an accidental run-in with the son of her village’s corrupt landlord, Amal must work as his family’s servant to pay off her own family’s debt.

Life at the opulent Khan estate is full of heartbreak and struggle for Amal—especially when she inadvertently makes an enemy of a girl named Nabila. Most troubling, though, is Amal’s growing awareness of the Khans’ nefarious dealings. When it becomes clear just how far they will go to protect their interests, Amal realizes she will have to find a way to work with others if they are ever to exact change in a cruel status quo, and if Amal is ever to achieve her dreams. — [X]

Janet: We’ve covered this one before, and it looks as heartbreaking as ever. Definitely tbr. I find it interesting that the YA-marketed books have more traditional(-looking) mehndi, while this cover looks more MG and has thoroughly non-traditional looking art on Amal’s hands.

Jane: Beautiful cover, beautiful story (I was able to read an ARC of this a while back). I love the colours on this one, especially the use of the rose vine as both a symbol of control (the thorns) and of hope (the rose). Beautiful.

Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways. — [X]

Janet: This book was hilarious! Would reread for sure, will read more from this author. Back copy? Dead on accurate to the story and the narrative voice. The cover image brings to mind one particular scene, so thank you very much to whoever designed the cover, for reading the book and also for picking something that matches Dimple. And forever reminds people who have read the book of That Scene. The mehndi is also pretty dead on. It’s there, and in a sort of traditional-looking way (the tiny, artistic lines – this is not the birds and sunrays of Amal Ubound), but it also is very much Dimple and individual.

Jane: Such an awesome cover! Look how happy Dimple looks, so sassy and confident and like someone you’d want to hang out with and just be around – that smile is infectious! I love the blend of traditional (the mehndi) with the contemporary (iced drink in a takeout cup). Also – even though this is a story of two people, I kind of love that Dimple gets to be the star of the cover. So nice to see a face for a change!

Lulu Saad doesn’t need your advice, thank you very much. She’s got her three best friends and nothing can stop her from conquering the known world. Sure, for half a minute she thought she’d nearly drowned a cute guy at a party, but he was totally faking it. And fine, yes, she caused a scene during Ramadan. It’s all under control. Ish.

Except maybe this time she’s done a little more damage than she realizes. And if Lulu can’t find her way out of this mess soon, she’ll have to do more than repair friendships, family alliances, and wet clothing. She’ll have to go looking for herself. — [X]

Janet: Maybe it’s just me, but the position of Lulu’s hand combined with her lace-like mehndi and the placement of the rings in line with her jaw, looks very much like a play with concealment and seeming-revelation. Based on this cover, I’d head into the story looking for layers of knowing and not-knowing, and intricate webs of who knows what and who is hiding what, within tight social circles. I love that Lulu has three best friends and that she is bold, or at least putting on a brash front. (Also, is the title a reference to Star Wars?) Tbr.

Jane: YAY another smiling female taking center stage on the cover of her own book! Lulu sounds like a pretty cool character, and I like the emphasis on friendship. I also really appreciate that while there is a mention of a cute boy, this is  story about a young woman finding herself and her place in the world.  She is the star here, and this is her story. I also love her blue nails and jean jacket, rocked with the mehndi – young people like Lulu are forging their own cultural identities from both traditional and contemporary influences.