The Cover Wars


It’s the beginning of the summer in a small town in Ireland. Emma O’Donovan is eighteen years old, beautiful, happy, confident.

One night, there’s a party. Everyone is there. All eyes are on Emma.

The next morning, she wakes on the front porch of her house. She can’t remember what happened, she doesn’t know how she got there.

She doesn’t know why she’s in pain.

But everyone else does. Photographs taken at the party show, in explicit detail, what happened to Emma that night.

But sometimes people don’t want to believe what is right in front of them, especially when the truth concerns the town’s heroes…

Janet: Oh, yikes. It’s almost impossible not to know what happened to Emma. It’s a terrifying cover and a terrifying synopsis. Effective and frightening – and they give away only the past, not the future.

Nafiza: The cover is kinda fantastic, isn’t it? It’s not very subtle but stops at being in your face. It’s done so cleverly, especially if you consider the synopsis. There’s a brutality to the fact that a doll is used instead of a real model. It speaks to societies expectations of women. Who says we have left the dark days behind? I remember many cases such as the one described in the synopsis and I’ll probably give this a read. I just hope the resolution is a lot more satisfying in fiction than in real life.

Yash: Man, I barely got through All The Rage. I don’t know what this one is going to be like but I am curious. The minimal cover, the naked doll, the title– it’s all powerful on its own, and then the synopsis is just kicking you while you’re down. Still. As Janet says, effective. I like it. I’d probably wait for a couple of reviews before I go in, though.


Eleven-year-old Wren Matthews has always known she’s weird. Super-smart, happily solitary, and obsessed with astronomy, the only place Wren fits in is on the stargazers forum she moderates. When a mysterious visitor appears and invites Wren and her long-time science-rival Simon Barker to join the ancient guild of magicians known as the Fiddlers, things get a whole lot weirder. As apprentice Fiddlers, Wren and Simon have a lot to learn, but their ordinary alchemy lessons are soon overshadowed by tainted legends of Mother Goose, battling alchemists, and dreams of the dangerous otherworld, the Land of Nod.

Janet: I have a lot of questions about this one. How can you have a sliver of stardust? How can legends be tainted? Which specific Land of Nod does this book reference (there have been a few)? I like the northern lights on the cover, and I like the two sentences of the synopsis. Wren sounds like a cheerfully unusual girl. I’m not sure I like it enough to read it, but if I come across it in the library I’ll read the first few pages.

Nafiza: I like certain elements of the cover but I’m not much of a fan of the flying eagle. I don’t know why. (Hawk? I don’t know? What is it?) I love that Wren is happily solitary and not y’noe, shunned and lonely because some people like being alone sometimes. I like the synopsis quite a bit and will be willing to give this one a try.

Yash: I’m with Janet on the title. I love the alliteration, it just sounds odd … but, I’m sure the story will explain it. Also, the cover doesn’t really jump out at me. I do like the colours and the summary is interesting enough. Not sure why this isn’t working for me … I’ll wait for Nafiza to review it first. *tosses on tentative TBR pile*


Emily has always been the kind of girl who tries to do the right thing—until one night when she does the worst thing possible. She sees Belinda, a classmate with developmental disabilities, being attacked. Inexplicably, she does nothing at all.

Belinda, however, manages to save herself. When their high school finds out what happened, Emily and Lucas, a football player who was also there that night, are required to perform community service at a center for disabled people. Soon, Lucas and Emily begin to feel like maybe they’re starting to make a real difference. Like they would be able to do the right thing if they could do that night all over again. But can they do anything that will actually help the one person they hurt the most?

Janet: This is a hugely important topic. Something like 75% of women with a disability are sexually assaulted. Right now I don’t know if that is what happened to Belinda – blast, I hope not – but the point is, disabled people are underrepresented in literature and overrepresented on the victim side of police reports. I’m excited to see a book that addresses this and makes the ordinary nice-type of people we all think we are face up to their shortcomings.

Nafiza: I like the cover. A lot. And I also love the synopsis. As Janet has already pointed out, we do not see many people with disabilities in literature. (I did recently read a fan-translated manga where the protagonist falls for a guy who is paralyzed after an accident and it very authentically showed their lives without romanticizing anything.) I feel like the book will take an unflinching look at what and possibly how a person should behave when faced with situations they are not necessarily prepared for and can prepare for. The book will make a lot of people question themselves and make them uncomfortable with regard to their own attitudes toward people with disabilities. So many people think it is okay to use “retard” as a slur and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Anyway, I’d read this.

Yash: I don’t like the cover– something about the colours bothers me. The synopsis is interesting but I kind of wish we could have had the story from Belinda’s POV, I feel like it would give her more agency. I don’t know. The writing may be cleverer than the synopsis. Yet another one I’m hesitant about …


[Second in a series]

In 1892, New Fiddleham, New England, things are never quite what they seem, especially when Abigail Rook and her eccentric employer R. F. Jackaby are called upon to investigate the supernatural.

First, a vicious species of shape-shifters disguise themselves as a litter of kittens, and a day later, their owner is found murdered with a single mysterious puncture wound. Then in nearby Gad’s Valley, now home to the exiled New Fiddleham police detective Charlie Cane, dinosaur bones from a recent dig mysteriously go missing, and an unidentifiable beast starts attacking animals and people, leaving their mangled bodies behind. Charlie calls on Abigail for help, and soon Abigail and Jackaby are on the hunt for a thief, a monster, and a murderer.

Janet: The meld of styles on the cover confuses me. Women’s heads usually indicate an attempt toward elegance, and the brick buildings do not dispute this, but there is a messy boy in a bright blue sweatshirt and skinny jeans (I think) right in the middle. I’m not sure what effect the designer was going for. The synopsis has a lot going on, too. The unidentifiable beast that leaves behind mangled corpses reminds me of DWJ’s “Little Dot.” I would have to look at the first in the series to decide about reading this. I’m rather intrigued by the dinosaur bones, however.

Nafiza: I quite liked the first one in the series. Jackaby is an interestingly eccentric character. I don’t know why they insist on marketing this one as a YA because Jackaby is nowhere near a teenager and the book reads more like an adult fantasy crime than a YA novel. That said, I like the umber colour, the burnt yellow. I don’t like that blue-clad figure in the middle of the girl’s head. I’m going to read this though since I did like the first in the series.

Yash: I totally recognized it as a Jackaby book! I think the cover is very well done, seeing as it keeps the style of the first book. I just wish that bright blue didn’t look quite so jarring against the rest of the cover. Though maybe that’s the point. I think I’d read this … right after I’ve read Jackaby!


Where do authors get their ideas? And how do they turn those ideas into stories? This anthology looks at the process of taking real-life experiences and turning them into works of engaging fiction. The collection features award-winning and bestselling middle-grade authors who provide both original fictional short stories as well as the nonfiction accounts that inspired them. The contributing authors include Julia Alvarez, Karen Cushman, Margarita Engle, Dee Garretson, Nathan Hale, Matthew Kirby, Claire Legrand, Grace Lin, Kate Messner, Linda Sue Park, Adam Rex, Gary Schmidt, Alan Sitomer, Caroline Starr Rose, Heidi Stemple, Rita Williams-Garcia, Tracy Edward Wymer, Lisa Yee, and Jane Yolen.

Janet: I’m Not crazy about the cover – although tall brick schoolhouses remind me of Sideways Stories From Wayside School, which is a good thing. However, the contents are very alluring. How can I resist reading about these authors and how they turned something from life into something with a life of its own?

Nafiza: Did anyone else watch the Disney Pepper Ann series? At least I think it was created by Disney. The cover art reminds a lot of the TV show and immediately makes me feel warm and nostalgic for my childhood. And yes, as an aspiring author, I’d definitely pick this up.

Yash: Oooh! This cover is so fun and bright and immediately catches my eye! I love this. I also love that this kind of non-fiction but aimed at young people and aspiring writers. That’s a great resource for classrooms and libraries to offer. I’d totally read this.

3 responses to “The Cover Wars

  1. I read Jackaby (The first book before Beastly Bones) and loved it! I can’t wait for Beastly Bones to come out

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