Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Judging A Book By It's Cover

Just after I blogged about the cover for Justine Larbalestier's upcoming Liar, the author posted on her own blog, responding to the many posts about Liar's cover that had sprung up in the previous days. In her post, she explains the story behind the cover, expresses her personal disappointment in the publisher's choice to use the cover and goes a bit into the whole "black books don't sell" conundrum/self-fulfilling prophecy.

But I'm not here today to talk about that. I'm here to unveil to you the cover of my debut YA novel, Sip, which apparently - if one does judge a book by it's cover - centers around a fun and funky teen, Naomi, who works and/or hangs out a lot at a coffee shop...and maybe something about how she's never been one to jump into things, but now there's a turning point in her life, and she can't just "sip" life up slowly, but chug it down.

It's not exactly the cover or title (um, or synopsis?) I would've chosen for my novel if I could've chosen on my own, but isn't that just how it goes in the real world anyway? You write what sells, your title might be chosen for you, and the cover is almost definitely out of your hands.

But it's still pretty cool! So, go ahead and make your own debut YA novel cover, following these easy instructions from 100 Scope Notes. Here's how:

  1. Go to http://www.fakenamegenerator.com/ to find out your pen name.

  2. Go to www.websitestyle.com/parser/randomword.shtml. The word listed under "random verb" is your title.

  3. Go to www.flickrcc.com/bluemountains.net/index.php. Type in your title. The first image that appears that features a person is your cover.

  4. Using Photoshop, Picnik, or similar software, put it all together.

  5. Post and share!

Oh! and since I thought it might be fun, I went ahead and looked to see what Liar's cover might have looked like if it had been randomly generated this way, and...

So, I guess that the cover they went with probably wasn't so bad at all.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

Micah is a liar.

But she's promised to tell the truth.

Her (secret) boyfriend was brutally murdered, and everyone is looking at her like she had something to do with it.

She didn't.

You can trust her.

Liar by Justine Larbarlestier
Coming in October 2009
Recommended For: High School


Um...WOWzers. This book was amazing! I picked up an ARC of Justine Larbalestier's Liar from the Bloomsbury booth at BEA back in May, after reading Carlie's review over at Librarilly Blonde, and I'm sure glad I did.

When I think of Justine Larbalestier, I think fairies, not psychological thrillers. Liar is so cleverly written that you don't realize what you're reading until you're halfway into the book, and then your mind is pounding and spinning you can't put the book down because if you do then you risk losing your total absorption and disbelief.

I don't want to say any more about the story though. I want you to read it for yourself. What I don't mind starting a conversation about is the cover. As you may have seen elsewhere on the interwebs, there's a bit of a controversy over the American cover* of Liar (shown at the top of this post). The cover itself is really eye catching. The dark, blunt bangs against the pale skin, wide eyes and covered mouth of the model definitely pique the reader's interest. So what's the problem?

Micah's character is black. Within the first few pages she describes herself as being of mixed race, but looking and having more the skin tone of her black father than her white mother. And she keeps her hair really short, cropped close to her head. She passes for being a boy.

So what's up with the cover? Is it racism? Did the publishers not want to put a black girl on the cover for fear of not selling enough books to their white customers? Or is the cover supposed to be what Micah really looks like, and her description in the book is just another of her lies? Or is it just that the cover was so awesome, the publisher decided they just had to go with it, content of the novel be damned.

What do you think?
* I personally like the Australian cover better.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Twilight Zone: Bella and Edward Get Graphic

Get your filthy mind out of the gutter!

You know that those pan-camera-away-from-the-action-and-hard-cut-to-the-next-scene-just-as-it-was-getting-good sex scenes of newlyweds Bella and Edward are just about as graphic as Stephenie Meyer is willing to get.

Just when you thought you could escape Twilight Mania (they STILL have those huge displays at the bookstore, but thankfully MJ and Jon & Kate have taken over the covers of US Weekly, OK!, etc.), Stephenie Meyer announces on her blog that Twilight will now be a graphic novel!

I echo Tina Jordan's happy observation that the characters in the graphic novel aren't just drawings of Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, both of whom I thought were mis-cast. Instead, they are a just a 'lil bit closer to what you might have been picturing while reading the book.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Speaking of Acne and Angst, Where Has All the Acne Gone?

In a startling feat of originality, the Denver Post has published this gem on the darkness of teen literature. His basic premise, much like the Wall Street Journal article published not too long ago, is that young adult fiction is a booming market and the biggest sellers are dystopias and novels about severely troubled - anorexic, depressed, self-hating, world-hating, violent - teen protagonists. I give the author props for the admirable work he has done in interviewing some key people: a young adult librarian, a bookseller, David Levithan and book hungry teens! It is a truth now universally acknowledged: many of the latest bestselling teen novels contain darker fare. The fact that this is nothing new is never mentioned. That's fine. I'm over that part. And yet, I still can't help but feel he's missed the boat.

Teen fiction is not a genre.

Just like adults and children, teens have varied reading tastes. There are teens who love fantasy. There are teens who love realistic fiction - be it of the bubbly gummy, angsty or truly troubling variety. There are teens who love horror. There are teens who love Manga. There are teens who love science fiction. There are teens who love all sorts of different kinds of literature, and there are teens who like to stick to just one or two of the above listed genres. Much like adults, teens can go from reading a chic-litty romance novel (Twilight) to a dystopian science fiction (The Hunger Games) to a classic (The Outsiders).

One thing that I think is true is that teens are more open to reading a wider variety of books than adults. Most adults have their genre - be it romance or western - and most every bookstore or library has worked to subdivide the fiction collection to cater to their reading interests and separate out "their books" so that they know exactly where to go to look for books to fit their reading interests. With teens, more often than not, all books - except maybe for Manga - all of the books are listed alphabetically by author. Teens hunt and peck for authors they know, covers that look cool, specific recommendations from friends or the librarian and eventually stumble out of the stacks with something to take home. For some teens, it's all Manga or all fantasy, but most like to hop around and try different things. It's Gossip Girl one week, and Thirteen Reasons Why the next.

I love that teens can be so open to new reading experiences and don't put false limits on what they think they want to read, just because a spine label tells them what genre a given book is.

But what was my point? When I started this post it was because one particular line of the article jumped out at me:
And it's not all Harry Potter or the "Twilight" series (think "Dracula" with acne and angst.)

In all of my reading of young adult fiction there's angst galore, for certain. I mean, the characters are teens, and teens do angst best. But where has all the acne gone? Seriously. As a teenager, acne (along with parents who just don't understand what it's like to be a teenage) was one of the largest sources of my angst. But nobody seems to have acne anymore. Twilight certainly was NOT Dracula with acne and angst. This is true for many reasons, not the least of which is that the two books have nothing in common aside from a vampire protagonist. But there was no acne to be found! The only recent book I've read in which I even recall the mention of acne was the ARC for Justine Larbalestier's Liar. What is up with that? Why aren't there articles written about the demise of teen acne lit? Am I the only person who has noticed this shocking trend?

Better get the Wall Street Journal on the phone. This article is going to be big.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

What Do Middle Schoolers Read?

As previously mentioned, I'm embarking on a new career as a middle school librarian this fall. I'm very excited about this, but I'm also very nervous because, while I have read and do read books that are targeted to the middle school audience, my reading tastes generally tend toward the older end of the YA spectrum, and as I reflect on the books that I personally read when I was in middle school, the list contains mostly V.C. Andrews, R.L. Stine's Fear Street series, Stephen King's The Stand, Treasure Island (assigned), Animal Farm (assigned), 1984 (assigned), a few Agatha Christie mysteries and an assorted array of books that causes me to wonder "What on earth was I doing reading those books?". I mean, a book is a book, and it's great that I was reading, but couldn't I find something more appropriate for my stage in life?

My doubts about my own reading choices have left me anxious about building a collection others. The former librarian was awesome, so I believe that the existing collection should be well-stocked, but I'm not sure whether I know what "classic" titles are "must-haves" for middle schoolers, and most teen lists don't separate out this group. So I'm coming to you, dear blog readers, for suggestions of titles new and old. I've brainstormed a short list of newer titles that I think will be good selections, but I need your help!

Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith
Cold Hands, Warm Heart by Jill Wolfson
If I Stay by Gayle Foreman
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

What other titles, new and old, would you put in a middle school collection*?

*The only real guidelines I have from the previous librarian are "no sex."