The Cover Wars

Judging books by their covers and their back copies. Covers, because we all do it in libraries and bookstores, and back copy because we all know that this could be the most important writing for the book and here we get to get all critical on it. Chime in in the comments!


Rainbow Rowell continues to break boundaries with Carry On, an epic fantasy following the triumphs and heartaches of Simon and Baz from her beloved bestseller Fangirl.

Simon Snow just wants to relax and savor his last year at the Watford School of Magicks, but no one will let him. His girlfriend broke up with him, his best friend is a pest, and his mentor keeps trying to hide him away in the mountains where maybe he’ll be safe. Simon can’t even enjoy the fact that his roommate and longtime nemesis is missing, because he can’t stop worrying about the evil git. Plus there are ghosts. And vampires. And actual evil things trying to shut Simon down. When you’re the most powerful magician the world has ever known, you never get to relax and savor anything.

Carry On is a ghost story, a love story, a mystery and a melodrama. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story — but far, far more monsters.

Steph: I actually haven’t read any Rainbow Rowell but I have heard good things. Honestly, this cover seems to follow in the style of her adult novel Landline and it is very nice. I like the colours, the fun but clear font, I like the scene set at the bottom and I even don’t mind the silhouette profiles. Still, I think I’ll try Fangirl first as this one sounds like a bit of a sequel… it is on that to read pile… somewhere…

Yash: I, for once, like the silhouettes. (Though, I think it’s something of a step back from David Levithan’s Two Boys Kissing.) Rainbow has already confirmed that this will be an actual romance between Simon and Baz, so I’m down. I’ve been wanting their story since I read Fangirl. Honestly, at this point, cover doesn’t matter much.

Janet: I like the colours and the scribbly look of the silhouettes and the castle. It took me a second to realize the black at the bottom was a castle and not a crazy doodle of nothing. The blurb sounds upbeat and mildly interesting. I’ll wait for Yash’s review, though; I wasn’t impressed by Fangirl.

Nafiza: I am not feeling the cover. I like the colours but I just don’t like the style. As for whether I’ll read the book, I will read Fangirl and then make up my mind.


Newbery Honor–winning author Gennifer Choldenko deftly combines humor, tragedy, fascinating historical detail, and a medical mystery in this exuberant new novel.
San Francisco, 1900. The Gilded Age. A fantastic time to be alive for lots of people . . . but not thirteen-year-old Lizzie Kennedy, stuck at Miss Barstow’s snobby school for girls. Lizzie’s secret passion is science, an unsuitable subject for finishing-school girls. Lizzie lives to go on house calls with her physician father. On those visits to his patients, she discovers a hidden dark side of the city—a side that’s full of secrets, rats, and rumors of the plague.
The newspapers, her powerful uncle, and her beloved papa all deny that the plague has reached San Francisco. So why is the heart of the city under quarantine? Why are angry mobs trying to burn Chinatown to the ground? Why is Noah, the Chinese cook’s son, suddenly making Lizzie question everything she has known to be true? Ignoring the rules of race and class, Lizzie and Noah must put the pieces together in a heart-stopping race to save the people they love.

Steph: Teehee, I like the rhymed tagline, or secondary title? Whatever, it made me grin. I also really like how the title and the cover art work together and the pop of the red. I guess, this cover really works for me! The back copy also has my interest, though there are an awful lot of “girl interested in something ‘ungirlish'”/very obviously subverting gender roles stories (that’s not necessarily a bad thing, just sometimes a little tired – and hey! Isn’t it nice to think that subversiveness is getting tired? Perhaps it isn’t so subversive anymore which is why it is getting tired…oh dear, I need to meditate on this longer…) anyway… I’ll read it. Middle grade. Mystery. Spunky protagonist – subversive in many ways! – and set in an interesting time.

Yash: I do not know which kid is on the cover, but I have to admit it doesn’t matter. I very rarely pause at books with boys on the covers. If it’s the boy, I have to say I’m tired of POC faces being hidden in shadows. And if it’s the girl, then her “disguise” was much too convincing. I will say, though, that I agree with Steph that the title is nice and I like that the subtitle is rhyme-y. I do like the colours too. Especially the greenish sky. The summary is a little worrying to me. I need someone to assure me that this isn’t going to do the whole White Saviour thing. And before someone says, “well, he’s probably playing the hero and helping her break gender norms, so …” No. It’s not the same thing and it doesn’t level things out. Race and gender issues can intersect, of course, but they are separate struggles. Each issue has its own history and nuances. In this case especially, they should be treated as the unequal things they are. I hope the novel gets that right– even if this book isn’t something I would pick.

Janet: I like the waves in the sky and the brick-red buildings. Like Steph, I’m very tired of girl liking “ungirly” things as a plot – for one, because reading them feels like I’m/we’re fighting that battle all over again only without any satisfying resolution, for another thing, because why on earth is there still a market for these stories? Is there no way to imagine actual equality, despite total revisionist history stories? and for three, because girls and women have been interested in “ungirly” things for all of recorded history AND DOING THEM ANYWAY. At this point in my life, I’d much rather have a biography of some of these fantastic women who were generally ignored and/or deliberately shoved under the carpet and/or outright lied about.

Nafiza: The reason these stories continue to exist is because gender equality remains mythical at a deeper level. I feel like the kids these books are aimed at often have their peers both male and female try to assert the gender lines/limitations they have been taught or assimilated from books they have read. Sadly not all parents teach their kids about gender fluidity both in expression and action. I do think that as tired as the trope may feel, the market for them will remain until true equality is achieved and my cynical self says that might never happen. I do think your idea, Janet, of having accessible biographies of real women who defied society’s expectations and limitations is a brilliant one. I hope these biographies exist. As for the book, I actually like the cover and I like the idea of Lizzie actively ignoring the “rules of race and class” to pursue a friendship. I’d definitely give this a read.


Ayla Nightshade never wanted to rule Darkhaven. But her half-brother Myrren – true heir to the throne – hasn’t inherited their family gift, forcing her to take his place.

When this gift leads to Ayla being accused of killing her father, Myrren is the only one to believe her innocent. Does something more sinister than the power to shapeshift lie at the heart of the Nightshade family line?

Now on the run, Ayla must fight to clear her name if she is ever to wear the crown she never wanted and be allowed to return to the home she has always loved.

Steph: The cover is cool. I would pick this up in a bookstore and look at it for sure. I love the smoke, the horned pegasus, the font and the burned look of the cover. The back copy however… well, it’s a bit of a let down? Why wait to tell us that the “family gift” is shapeshifting until the second paragraph? If you are going to tell us on the back cover then don’t waste words, just get out with it! This has me worried for the style of the book… will it be one of those ‘if only she/he’d just said something…’ books and – wait a second the first paragraph names her the inheritor of this throne but then the second one has her accused of murdering the previous ruler and on the run (a common plot?). I don’t know. The cover rocks, but the back copy does not. I’m on the fence.

Yash: The cover has a smoky, golden pegasus on it … I … kinda love it? It’s a simple cover but easily eye-catching. The summary is pretty interesting too. And I LOVE shapeshifter stories. And oooh, family mystery! And *blinks* no … romance … ? I’m curious to see how this one goes.

Janet: The horse – a unicorn, a pegasus, a horse – catches my eye immediately. I wonder if the whiter background immediately around the beastie is an intentional glow, or if it is merely a background effect intended to provide texture in the edges without detracting from the centre feature. I like that the disinherited brother believes his younger sister. However, why does she have to go on the run? Does her future realm have no organized justice system? Why is shapeshifting a requirement for leadership? (*cough* Legend of Korra flashbacks to season 1). The name of the realm is suggestive. Again, I’ll wait for Yash’s review. Unless I find it in the library first. Then I’ll look inside.

Nafiza: A Pegicorn? Pegacorn? I like the cover but I have the same questions Janet does. If Ayla killed the king or sorry, was accused of killing the king, doesn’t it make her Queen? And as the Queen, does the law still apply to her? I have a feeling the brother is more dastardly than one would think. I’d read this.


Once a lost and confused princess, Serafina is now a confident leader of the Black Fin Resistance (BFR). While she works on sabotaging her enemy and enlisting allies for battle, her friends face challenges of their own. Ling is in the hold of Rafe Mfeme’s giant trawler, on her way to a prison camp. Becca meets up with Astrid and learns why the Ondalinian mermaid is always so angry: she is hiding a shameful secret. Ava can’t return home, because death riders await her arrival. And it is getting more and more difficult for Mahdi, Serafina’s betrothed, to keep up the ruse that he is in love with Lucia Volerno. If Lucia’s parents become suspicious, his life–and all of Sera’s hopes–will be extinguished. Political intrigue, dangerous liaisons, and spine-tingling suspense swirl like a maelstrom in this penultimate book in the WaterFire saga

Steph: The cover has intrigue – a mermaid (POC at that!), a shiny bauble and a scary fish! The back copy has me realizing that this is not the first in the series. I might take a look at the first book to get more a grasp on this WaterFire saga, which, despite the name, sounds like it could be quite intriguing.

Yash: NAFIZA! Did you find this for me? After all that complaining I did about the last mermaid book! I am so glad to see a POC mermaid! On an actual book cover! However, this is book three in a series and I am a little concerned about how she’s written. I’m kind of on the fence about this one. Guess I’ll try to find it at the library!

Janet: A POC mermaid – awesome. I like that her tail is red-gold instead of the assumed blue/green, and that her attire is slightly more practical (despite the long swirling strips – not a good idea) than what mermaids are usually drawn in. I also like that there are quite a number of characters with significant roles in the story. Not so impressed with the princess and betrothal elements, both of which are overdone of late, or so it seems to me. “Death riders” is hardly subtle, also. However, it is a very pleasant surprise to find a book with main characters drawn from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, judging by their names. I would take a look inside the first of this series.

Nafiza: I’ve heard good stuff about this author though I haven’t read any reviews of the first one in this series. I do like this cover though. It convinces me to give the first one a try.


Michelle and her little siblings Cass and Denny are African-American and living on the poverty line in urban Baltimore, struggling to keep it together with their mom in jail and only Michelle’s part-time job at the Taco Bell to sustain them.

Leah and her stepbrother Tim are white and middle class from suburban Maryland, with few worries beyond winning lacrosse games and getting college applications in on time.

Michelle and Leah only have one thing in common: Buck Devereaux, the biological father who abandoned them when they were little.

After news trickles back to them that Buck is dying, they make the uneasy decision to drive across country to his hospice in California. Leah hopes for closure; Michelle just wants to give him a piece of her mind.

Five people in a failing, old station wagon, living off free samples at food courts across America, and the most pressing question on Michelle’s mind is: Who will break down first–herself or the car? All the signs tell her they won’t make it. But Michelle has heard that her whole life, and it’s never stopped her before….

Steph: Have we done this cover before? I’m not sure, haha, but now it makes me wonder if my reactions will be the same. I like the cover and the back copy promises a solid story about coming of age, family, friendship and overcoming hardship. I may give it a read.

Yash: We totally did this book before! But it had a different cover, I’m certain! I love this, though. I love that she isn’t hidden in shadows or has her face cropped off at the chin! And she’s not staring off blankly or sadly! I’ve never seen such a grin grace the cover of a YA book before. *sigh* I’m so happy about this cover. I hope the reviews are good. I’m pretty sure I’d pick this up.

Janet: We’ve done this before; the other cover had silhouettes. I really like the cover for all the reasons Yash mentions. The cover and the back copy giver very different ideas of the story, though. The cover looks almost like a summer romance or Keeping the Moon-type novel, whereas the back cover suggests a grittier (in a good way) story. Still. I’m interested.

Nafiza: See, the other cover didn’t do anything much for me but this one makes me one to read it very much and I usually am not attracted by contemporary books. Or realistic fiction.

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