Friday, April 29, 2011

Another cover, another double.

These tricky things sneak up on you sometimes.
First up, the paperback-changed cover I am not a huge fan of:

I won't talk much at length about it, since I've done that already. I do like the font for the title.

And here's the double:

Will Allison's Long Drive Home will be published at the end of May. It's an adult novel, and I find it interesting that this cover with the teen on the cover was the one used for the book. Much like the cover for Mockingbird, the blurb runs at the top of the cover and the author runs at the bottom. Both use white serif fonts, as well.

I don't necessarily think one covers does it better than the other because they're so similar. Do you have a preference?

Continue reading...

Thursday, April 28, 2011

What I've Been Reading and Listening to, Twitter-Style

Some mini-reviews, Twitter-style, of what I've been reading and listening to lately!

My Life, the Theater, and Other Tragedies by Allen Zadoff
In Adam's high school, the theater department is split right down the middle: the arrogant actors on one side, the nerdy techies on the other. But when Adam, a techie with a love for lights, falls for Summer, a new actress, he is torn between his friends and his heart. A quick read that falls a bit short of Zadoff's debut, Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can't Have, this book is nevertheless a wonderful depiction of a teen boy: his insecurities, fears, struggles, and aspirations.

Bossypants by Tina Fey
A compilation of Tina Fey's musings on balancing career and motherhood, being a boss, comedy, and being a woman, this book was absolutely hilarious. Fey's true voice shone through, and her anecdotes were laugh out loud. Her comparisons of being a little bit skinny and a little bit fat were especially amusing--this woman is a great observer of society.

Charles and Emma: The Darwin's Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman
A charming audiobook covering the courtship and marriage of Charles Darwin and his wife, Emma, who clashed in their beliefs regarding natural selection and faith. Impeccably researched, Heiligman masterfully weaves together pertinent facts, quotations, and amusing anecdotes into a seamless narrative. Narrator Rosalyn Landor's British accent is perfect for this production.

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
I finally picked this up after hearing so much hype over the upcoming release of The Last Little Blue Envelope. Following Ginny on her quest throughout Europe as she opens up her aunt's succession of notes to her is a blast, and Maureen Johnson's writing is engaging and amusing. The cast of supporting characters is well-fleshed out and three-dimensional, and Ginny's emotions are true-to-life. I started listening to this on audio during my commute and had to bring the print copy home on Friday so I wouldn't have to wait until the next week to finish it up!

Continue reading...

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Upcoming Releases, TLA Edition

My job sent me to the Texas Library Association annual conference April 13-15 in Austin this year, and it was a treat as always.  I've been lucky enough to be able to attend three straight years in a row.  In between attending sessions and speaking with vendors, I was able to pick up a few books from publishers that looked promising.  I've already motored my way through almost four of them, and although they won't be released for a few months yet, I figured I would give our readers a peek.  Full reviews will come closer to publication date.

This is a change from Warman's previous books.  Liz Valchar wakes up on her parents' boat the night of her 18th birthday and realizes she's dead, but she hasn't "passed on" quite yet.  You see, Liz's death wasn't strictly accidental, and it appears she's still hanging on in this world in order to solve her own murder.  She's joined by Alex, a fellow classmate, who was killed in a hit and run the year before.  Unsurprisingly, the two deaths are linked.  The plot is nothing new (it's really similar to Amy Huntley's The Everafter and others I could name), but Warman writes well and she's created a compelling character with Liz.  

Chloe lives with her older sister Ruby in a small town in New York, next to a giant reservoir.  One night, Chloe is with her sister at a party at the reservoir, and Ruby tells the crowd that Chloe can swim to the other side of the reservoir and not drown.  When Chloe attempts this, she finds a boat with her dead classmate in it.  This event prompts Chloe to leave town to live with her father, but Ruby wants Chloe back.  Two years later, Chloe returns to Ruby, and she begins to learn about the strange hold her sister has on the town and what really happened to the girl in the boat that night in the reservoirThe book is incredibly creepy, thanks in large part to Suma's writing style and the character of Ruby, who is beautiful, manipulative, and selfish, yet so protective of her little sister Chloe.  It's a character study of the two sisters and a meditation upon sisterhood in general.  It toes the line between fantasy, magical realism, and straight-up realistic fiction.  So unsettling but very, very good.

Tamora Pierce, aka my favorite author from my teenage years, blurbed this book, so it was an immediate draw for me.  It's billed as a fantasy in the same vein as Pierce and Kristin Cashore, but in reality, it's got a lot of elements that you don't normally find in fantasy adventures.  Carson is clearly trying something new here, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.  When Elisa was a baby, she was gifted with a jewel in her navel, indicating she has been chosen to carry out a great act of service.  What that service is, she doesn't know (and in fact she's terrified of what it might be).  The book starts out slow, but the last two thirds pick up a great deal and they're filled with some great action.  There's a lot of Spanish flavor to this book, which I appreciated, since so many fantasies go straight for the weirder than weird made up stuff or rely on old British Isle stand-bys.  Religion also plays a major part.  Carson has created her own religion for her book, but it's quite similar to Christianity (in particular Catholicism), and I wasn't ever able to puzzle out if the similarities were purposeful or not.  This is not your typical fantasy.

I am about halfway through this book, and I am in love with it.  Two ships are bound for New Earth sometime in the future.  A girl and a boy, romantically linked, are separated by a battle between the ships.  The girl, along with the rest of the girls on the first ship (ages infant through 15), are forcibly taken to the second ship and told they have been rescued.  The boy remains on the first ship, along with a largely slaughtered crew, and must somehow work with the surviving boys to salvage a broken ship that's filling with radiation.  What I like best about this book is how I feel that I know what's going on, and then Ms. Ryan throws me for a complete loop.  She's manipulating me in the best of ways.  Plus, the writing is polished, there's plenty of action and intrigue, and she knows how to write a good character.  I predict this one is going to be huge.

Continue reading...

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Bitter End by Jennifer Brown

Going into Jennifer Brown's Bitter End, I knew what I was getting into: this is a story about relationship abuse. Unlike Deb Caletti's recent Stay, which also tackles this topic, Brown's book faces it head on as it happens, rather than reflects back on it after the fact.

It doesn't take long for Alex to fall head over heels for the new guy, Cole. He's been assigned to her tutoring duties, as he's a little behind from changing schools. He's a sports star, and though Alex believes he's way out of her league, Cole finds her attractive, smart, and completely his kind of girl: the kind he can manipulate.

When they begin dating, Alex's best friend Zack becomes a problem for Cole. He's jealous of the time she spends with him, and he's begun showing up whenever they're hanging out as friends. It's just an accident -- really -- when Cole walks in at a time that Zack happens to be on top of Alex; they'd been goofing around like good friends would. But that's only the first instance of Cole's anger. When he begins taking out physical aggression on her, Alex writes it off as accidental; she even goes as far as to cover it up with makeup when he's knocked her down and turned her face a few shades of black and blue.

Zack and Bethany -- Alex's other good friend -- become increasingly concerned as she writes off Cole's stalking behavior as his desire to spend time with her because they're both so busy and when she writes off his attitude and his acts of assault as simply his stress relief. Moreover, they know Alex is lying to them and to herself about the severity of Cole's actions, but it's not until she's ready to handle the issue herself that Alex will finally realize she's in a mess of a situation and it won't get better if she continues to ignore it. And the last act of this show is brutal: so brutal, in fact, Alex finally discovers the real reason Cole had to transfer to her school in the first place.

Bitter End is an extremely difficult book to read. What I have come to appreciate so much about Brown's writing both here and in her debut Hate List is that she's willing to delve into a challenging problem facing teens, but she does it in a manner that is full of heart and understanding, rather than one meant to teach a lesson. With Bitter End, we come to really like Alex: she's an average girl. There's nothing spectacular about her, and she has the same insecurities any girl has while dating a guy she's thrilled to be with: she wants Cole to keep loving her no matter what because it feels good. The abuse, though it doesn't really feel "good," feels right to her because it's a sign that he's paying attention to her. And though we're right there with Alex knowing what he does it wrong -- so, SO wrong -- we can almost understand why she explains it away. We almost understand why she's willing to ignore all of the warning signs about Cole.

Of course, we don't accept this abuse as readers. We're squarely on the side of Zack and Beth in the story: we want Alex safe. She's worth a heck of a lot to them, and they care so deeply about her. But they realize early on that their influence over Alex to change her attitude toward Cole is pretty limited; she has to come to terms with what he's doing in her own way. That's not to say they think she deserves what she's getting nor that they're ignoring it. They're pretty blunt with her about how awful she looks when she's wearing Cole's scars and they're perfectly honest about the fact she needs to get out of the relationship. But they can't actually remove her from the situation because she's also stubborn. She's finally got something she's wanted for a long time -- a cute boyfriend who she believes cares so much about her he can't let her go -- but she doesn't want to come to terms with the fact he abuses her. Or that he has immense baggage and issues he needs to deal with, and she doesn't deserve to bear the brunt. The thing is, both she and we as readers know that these things are wrong. She knows she doesn't deserve this treatment. But the fact is, she feels trapped and continues making excuses.

What Brown does so successfully in this story is set up a victim who cannot be blamed. We empathize with her immensely because we are right there in her mind. And while we know Cole is a bully and deserves everything coming to him, we also sort of understand that he's not necessarily doing what he does to Alex because he's mad at her. He's got much bigger issues he needs to tackle -- we see this through what we learn of his own family's challenges and manners of dealing with those troubles -- and we almost sympathize with him too. As readers, we actually want him to overcome his own hurdles, but we know he can't do it through Alex.

The secondary characters in this book are all well drawn and add to the greater arc of the story. I liked Zach and Beth quite a bit, as they're the kinds of people I'd always wanted as best friends. They care deeply about Alex and they offer her all of the help they can without downright meddling in her affairs. Each of them has a distinct personality, despite not having all that much page time. I also really liked Georgia, one of Alex's coworkers at the bistro where she works. Georgia has a bit of a history and some experience with pain herself, and it's almost through her that Alex garners her own strength and pulls out the realizations that Cole's behavior toward her is not excusable.

Bitter End is steadily paced; it's not a fast read nor a slow read, but it's one that's deliberate in execution. I had to read this one in spurts, since it does get difficult to read straight through. It's emotionally challenging, as I had to remind myself more than once that what Cole was doing was wrong and that the way Alex justified things was wrong. Brown's talented in developing these characters that beg you to drop into their skewed mental perceptions; however, what I most appreciated in reading was that we never once are able to excuse Cole's actions, despite feeling sorry for everything he's got going on in his own life. We can sympathize without justifying. Perhaps most important, though, is that Brown never makes any sort of statement that creates a villain of one gender and a victim of another. What she sets up in doing in this story is exploring relationship violence in this instance, rather than create a generalized story to talk in a grand sense of violence in domestic relationships, and she's successful in doing just that.

The one thing that didn't quite work so well for me in this book was the ending, but I won't say it's not a fitting end to the story. I prefer my books to end a little messy and with a little uncertainty, since that's how things are in the real world. Alex's story wraps up pretty neatly in the end and too quickly. This is probably due to the fact this story focuses less on plot and more on character, and the wrap-up is key to the plot, rather than the character.

Pass this book off to your contemporary fiction readers and those who found Brown's Hate List a compelling story. Fans of Sarah Dessen or Deb Caletti will likely enjoy this book, as well. I don't usually think of books in bibliotherapeutic ways, but this is the kind of book that would resonate with a person experiencing relationship abuse. I'd also hand this book off to adult readers easily.

Continue reading...

Monday, April 25, 2011

Happy Birthday (to us)!

Happy Birthday to us! It's been two years since we kicked off STACKED and never did we think we'd be where we are now. So much has to do, of course, with the wonderful readers who not only read our thoughts but share theirs as well and then are kind enough to spread our words out even further. Amazing.

We thought we'd use this as an opportunity to share the fascinating things we as bloggers discover when we look at our blog from the last two years. We thought we'd give you a glimpse into what the most popular posts are statistically. We're also going to share some of our favorite posts in hopes you can relive some of the fun with us.

Of course, no good blogoversary celebration would be complete without a giveaway. The thing is, you're going to have to wait for it. I would suspect that May 2 would be a good day to check for that -- it's a big giveaway and an awesome interview we get to share with you.

But without further ado, here's a look back at two years of blogging, STACKED style:

Most viewed posts:

1. Texas Book Festival, 2010
2. Elixir by Hilary Duff
3. Tricks by Ellen Hopkins
4. One Cover Through Time
5. Guest Post: I Don't Care About Your Band by Julie Klausner
6. Ten Truths About Blogging
7. Riffs on the Tale - A Rant
8. KidLitCon 2010
9. Bone by Jeff Smith
10. Hardcover to Paperback: Big Changes

Our favorite posts (in no particular order):
1. Life on the Cybils YA Panel
2. Oh, Your Windswept Hair (which could be updated to add about a dozen more)
3. The Stormchasers by Jenna Blum (yep, an adult book review)
4. Where Have All the Fat Girls Gone?
5. Typography and reading (Kelly's geek obsession)

6. Ten Truths About Blogging
7. Sweet Valley Confidential by Francine Pascal (Jen's first truly snarky review)
8. Our Childhood Favorites (waxing nostalgic always makes Kim happy)
9. The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex (mostly because Kim got a chance to use the phrase "pink squishable gapputty," and this book is awesome)
10. Wither by Lauren DeStefano (Kim's favorite mostly critical review)

Things we've come to love about blogging:

1. Meeting people! We've met, both online and in person, some incredible bloggers, publicists, and authors. Little is more exciting than putting a face to a name of someone you email with, someone you Tweet with, or someone who writes the books you love.

2. It's always funny. Book blogging comes with drama, but we like to think we see of it more as amusement than something with which to get involved. We do our thing our way and we always will.

3. It is a productive and creative outlet. Some days, it gets frustrating and some weeks it feels like we have nothing to post about. But then there are days where writing up seven posts comes in a couple hours. It's nice to pour that energy into something.

4. Conversation. Whether in comment threads or on Twitter, book blogging has started some of the most spirited, fascinating, and opinionated conversations we've recently been a part of. Bloggers and readers have such strong opinions about writing, characters, and plot, and we're honored to be able to share in it.

5. Professional Development. As librarians, being able to be up on recently published books and the trends of YA, adult, and children's lit is invaluable. Discussing what works and what doesn't work in books, along with which population novels work for, is immensely helpful for us in our day jobs.

6. Finding out more about books than we ever would have otherwise.  Writing a blog has brought with it a natural affinity to read more blogs (I know, shocking), and as a result, we've discovered books we never would have read otherwise (and have shared the love in turn here at STACKED).

Once again, we'd just like to thank everyone for tuning in these past two years.  It's been a treat, and we hope you'll keep reading for many more years to come.  And don't forget to check back on May 2 for our awesome anniversary giveaway.

Continue reading...

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Great YA Blogger Meetup @ ALA Annual in New Orleans

It's back!

We'll have another YA blogger/publisher/author meet up in New Orleans during ALA's Annual Convention. Details aren't set up yet, but we want to know it's in the works, and we want your input. Let us know you're interested in coming and what day works best, and we'll see what we can work out.

With the number of other exciting programs going on at ALA, we've narrowed down our best days to Saturday night or Sunday night. If you want to come, fill out the form, and we'll make sure to get you on the guest list.

Of course, you'll get more updates such as location, costs, and confirmed guests as ALA grows closer right here. Feel free to spread the word. We had an excellent time in San Diego, so let's do it again.

Continue reading...

Friday, April 22, 2011

Double Take: Remove that Cigarette

It's probably a good idea when you market a book for teens that the cover image not feature things that teens can't do -- so, having someone drinking on the cover isn't usually a good idea. Neither is smoking.

When I first saw the cover for Michelle Cooper's The FitzOsbornes in Exile, I knew something funny was going on. You can see the puff of smoke, but if you look closely, the male's clearly had something photoshopped out of his fingers. Why the cloud of smoke remains, I'm not sure. It looks sort of silly to be there, since it's obvious why it's there, even if the cigarette is not.

I've read this book, and I'm not sure I care for the cover. The girl on it looks way older than teen age, and this book is set in the late 1930s. Although the feeling sort of fits that era, the cover models look too old. I like the feel of the black and white with a pop of red, and I think that the title and author's name are well placed. The other thing I like about this cover is that there is no blurb on it; I'm not a fan of them on the front covers of books, and so not seeing one is kind of a welcomed sight.

Then I saw its double:

There's the cigarette! There's also another guy in this cover, as well as the statue, since the image used for Cooper's book is zoomed in tightly. What's strange to me in this use of the image is that everything is still in black and white (with the pop of red) but the guy kneeling is not. He's still got his natural peach toned skin. It feels sort of strange. I'm also not feeling the strange font use for the title -- why are consequences and heart bigger than of and the, as well as italicized? -- but I get why it couldn't be placed higher on the image, since the statue is in the way. I'm not a fan of the blurb on the top. It feels as though the title, author's name, and the blurb are competing with the image on the front, rather than working with it.

Cunningham's cover isn't for a new book, either: this is a paperback rerelease of a title published in 2000. It's marketed for the adult reading audience. I think that, despite the strange photoshop effort and the fact it doesn't really "fit" the story, Cooper's cover does the image more justice.

What do you think? Have you read either one and have a thought of whether it fits?

Continue reading...

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Divergent by Veronica Roth (aka my seventh dystopia of the year)

You know, I have to admit it is kind of lovely that the publishing world has seized upon a subgenre I was obsessed with as a teenager.  There's so much to choose from!  Sure, some of it is dreck, but a lot of it is pretty darn good.  And just think, so many of these books never would have stood a chance at being published (or even written) before the subgenre's popularity exploded, thanks in large part to a little book called The Hunger Games.

I'm happy to report that Veronica Roth's debut novel Divergent is one of the good ones.  And because I've harped on this ad nauseam in practically every single review of a dystopia I've written lately, I feel the need to state this right away: this book tells a complete story.  That's right folks, it's the first in a trilogy, but there is still a beginning, a middle, and an end.  I feel like hunting down Veronica Roth and personally thanking her for this favor.

Now that I've gotten that important tidbit out of the way, I suppose you'd like to know what Divergent is actually about.  In a future Chicago, the people have been divided into factions that each value a different personality characteristic: Erudite values learning, Dauntless values courage, Amity values kindness, Candor values honesty, and Abnegation values selflessness.  Something terrible happened in the past (what that terrible thing is, we don't find out, but it's implied that it's a big war) and the faction system was created to prevent that terrible thing from happening again.  Each faction believes that a lack of their own chosen characteristic was the cause of the strife that plagued the world before - Erudite thinks ignorance is to blame, Dauntless thinks cowardice is to blame, and so on.  It's an interesting idea that I don't fully buy into, but Roth's writing and plotting is good enough that I was willing to suspend my disbelief.

Beatrice Prior, our protagonist, was born into Abnegation.  She's about 16 years old (people in Abnegation don't keep track of their birthdays since that would be selfish) and will soon choose which faction she wants to be a part of, along with all the other 16 year olds.  Most people choose the faction they were born into, but not all.  Those who don't choose their parents' faction are usually ostracized by their family (you see the problems beginning already).  

Prior to the choosing ceremony, all 16 year olds undergo a test whose purpose is to help them decide which faction is best suited to them.  The test isn't decisive - it's merely meant to guide the person.  Beatrice's situation is unique: the test tells her she is best suited for not one faction, but two, making her a divergent, something very dangerous in Beatrice's world.  Luckily, the person administering her test is a kind soul and erases Beatrice's results, entering in a manual result for one faction.  Beatrice then struggles with her decision at the ceremony - which faction will she choose?

Initiation into the chosen faction follows the ceremony, and it's anything but pleasant.  It's a long, drawn-out process that takes weeks where the initiate must prove she belongs in that faction.  During initiation, Beatrice discovers that her secret status as a divergent means more than just the fact that she might belong in two factions.  She also begins to uncover secrets about the faction system and their leaders (I love a dystopia with some juicy secrets that are revealed at key points in the story).  The stakes are high and the trustworthy people few.

Divergent is action-packed the whole way through, aside from the first few chapters that set up the premise.  Beatrice's initiation into her chosen faction is particularly well-done.  The initiation challenges both her body and her mind, and the process also allows the reader to get to know the other initiates and their foibles and fears.  While many of the ancillary characters aren't fully fleshed, Beatrice herself is a dynamic character who grows and changes throughout the book.  There's also a romance, but it doesn't overwhelm the story and it makes sense in context.  What's more, Beatrice relies on herself rather than her love interest during initiation and what follows, and even supports him at times.
There's a lot of comparisons with other dystopias that can be made - I personally don't mind that there's a lot of derivative dystopias out there as long as the author can write well and add a unique twist  - but I actually found myself thinking of the Harry Potter books as I read Divergent.  In both series, children/teens are divided into houses/factions based on personality characteristics, with one particular characteristic overriding the others and determining much of the person's future.  The problems with this system of separation are similar in both sets of novels: rather than fostering teamwork and togetherness among each house or faction, the system fosters hatred of other houses or factions and derision of their most valued characteristic.  The special hatred between Slytherin and Gryffindor in the Harry Potter novels is mirrored in Divergent with the hatred between Erudite and Abnegation.

Divergent avoids a lot of the pitfalls that other recent dystopias have fallen victim to: it tells us something about how we live now (how labels can divide us, the importance of teamwork, the difficulties of friendship during competition, and the dangers of a herd mentality), the characters' actions make sense within the context of the novel, it tells a complete story, and the female protagonist is active rather than passive.  

I would have liked to see more world-building.  As I mentioned before, I don't completely buy into the premise, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that Roth doesn't tell the reader what happened to create this very unique society.  Julia Karr's XVI - another dystopia set in Chicago - does a much better job of this, but her world is also more closely related to our own, so the world-building comes a bit easier.  I hope that future installments will give me a better picture of the decimated Chicago and greatly expand upon the snippets we saw in Divergent.  Overall, though, Divergent is a book that stands out from the pack, and I look forward to the sequels.

Continue reading...

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Display This: The Middle East

Continuing with the theme of books set in foreign places, I thought today I'd showcase a few books that take place somewhere totally foreign to most Americans: the Middle East. In my research, I found few books set here that aren't war related, and it makes me think that that could be a worthwhile niche for a writer. I'd love to read stories about the normal lives of teens in these countries that we really know so little about beyond what our own media tells us.

Again, I've limited the books to more recent publications, to one book per author (as some have more than one pertinent title), and to books that are readily available for purchase in the states via store and jobbers. The stories take place primarily in the country, though I've made one exception you'll see shortly. I've limited to (mostly) fictional titles with teen appeal or published specifically for that audience.

You're welcome to borrow my list, and please, if you know any other titles that fit, leave a comment!

Beneath My Mother's Feet by Amjed Qamar: In Pakistan, 14-year-old Nazia knows she'll be marrying her cousin Salman and living the traditional lifestyle. She doesn't have real agency or choice in her life until her father's injured in an accident and she and her mother must abandon whatever futures they may have had and instead work to bring in an income. Suddenly, Nazia discovers she may be able to do more with her life than she ever thought before.

Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind
by Suzanne Fisher Staples: Set in Pakistan, this older (but repackaged) title shares the story of Shabanu and her sister, who are to be married off to a pair of brothers as soon as they're of the marrying age. But Shabanu loses her future husband and is instead promised to a wealthy landowner instead, and it's then that family secrets and feuds unravel.

The Sandfish
by Maha Gargash: Set in the 1950s, this is the story of 17-year-old Noora who is a fiercely independent woman in the Arabian Peninsula (modern day United Arab Emirates) -- something completely against the norms of society. After the death of her mother and the threat of an arranged marriage, she flees. But it doesn't end well: now she's back and has become the third wife to an older man. It only gets worse from here when secrets and heartbreak abound.

Where the Streets Had a Name by Randa Abdel-Fattah: 13-year-old Hayaat is driven to return to her grandmother's ancestral home in Jerusalem in order to collect soil that she believes will save Sitti Zeynab's life. The problem is the wall dividing the West Bank and the soldiers with their checkpoints, curfews, and other road blocks that won't permit her to return to the family's old home. How will they get around it, and what will happen if they do?

Thura's Diary: My Life in Wartime Iraq
by Thura al-Windawi: In this translated diary of a 19-year-old girl during 2003, the year when the war between the US and Iraq raged and Hussein was the enemy to both sides. It's drawn comparisons to Diary of Anne Frank, and it looks at both sides of the enemy lines.

The Kite Runner
by Khaled Hosseini: Set in Afghanistan, this is a story about a young wealthy boy who becomes friends with his father's servant. It's one rich in Afghan history, both socially and politically. Although originally marketed for adults, it has great teen appeal and of course, there's a film version as well.

Beast by Donna Jo Napoli: Although this book is not set in the middle east, I wanted to include it because it's the Persian story of Beauty and the Beast.

Persepolis by Mariane Satrapi: This pair of graphic novels tell the story of Satrapi's childhood growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. What makes this set of books a knockout is that it's less about the war and more about her life in Iran. There's a lot of challenges for Satrapi, including those involving her education and the transition from child to adolescent.

Cry of the Giraffe by Judie Oron: Based on a true story, this is the story of young Ethiopian Jewish trying to make their way back to their ancestral homeland of Israel.

Thunder Over Kandahar by Sharon E. McKay: Tamanna and Yasmine, best friends, are excited to find out their small Afghan town will be getting a school. But it takes little time before their safety and education are put on the line -- the Taliban has arrived in town and they threaten to destroy the school and execute the teachers and students. When they find out that Yasmine's family is Western educated, things only get worse, and the two girls must flee their homes. But what happens if they get separated in the vast mountains of Afghanistan in their quest for freedom?

Sphinx's Princess
by Esther Friesner: Set in Egypt, this story blends real history with a little mythology. Nefertiti is a commoner, but she's always managed to find herself in interesting situations; not only that, she's beautiful. Her aunt, Queen Tiye, wants to use this girl to make sure she can keep the power she has in royal society, but when Nefertiti leaves her life as a commoner to enter elite society, she wields plenty more power than she -- or the queen -- ever could imagine.

Alphabet of Dreams
by Susan Fletcher: This historical story is set in Persia (Iran) and follows street beggers Mitra and her little brother Babak. Although they seem like your typical poor, they're actually the children of wealth and royalty, but their father's death after a poorly plotted attempt to attack King Phraates means they've been exiled. Mitra, though, holds out hope one day they may regain their status in society.

Purple Heart by Patricia McCormick: Matt wakes up in an army hospital in Iraq with a purple heart -- the symbol given to heroes. But he doesn't feel like one remembering that he earned it by taking the life of someone else. A story of war and what it means to be a hero.

How to Ruin a Summer Vacation
by Simone Elkeles: When Amy's estranged father shows up in her life again, she can't say she's excited. But it's made worse when she finds out that she'll be spending the summer in Israel, away from her best friend, her boyfriend, and even air conditioning.

Continue reading...

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sweet Valley Confidential by Francine Pascal

(Warning: contains spoilers)

I collected Sweet Valley Twins books like young boys collected baseball cards. Their candy-colored spines were lined up on my shelves, ready to be traded with friends, passed around, and discussed. When I had devoured everything I could, and began to feel a bit too old for the sixth grade adventures of Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield, I firmly felt that I was ready to move on to Sweet Valley High and the "mature" adventures that high schoolers have. My mother disagreed. So I got my fix of Sweet Valley High in the library, after my mother had dropped me off for the afternoon. I spent hours curled up on the floor of our town library, devouring the illicit adventures of the "adult" Wakefield Twins. Yes, at that point in my life, junior year of high school was way adult to me.

Therefore, the prospect of being introduced to the Wakefield Twins as actual adults (or as twenty-seven year olds, just a year younger than me) was enticing. Not only would I be able to see where all of my favorite characters had ended up in life, but I would also finally get a tale of Wakefield twins who were actually approximately my age and see a (hopefully) satisfying conclusion to a key part of my childhood.

Oh, how wrong I was.

Sweet Valley Confidential opens on Elizabeth Wakefield, living alone in New York City, working for the online theater magazine Show Survey, a sort of "Zagat ratings guide of Off Broadway" (p. 5), as she so often has to explain to people. We are immediately confronted with her utter hatred of Jessica, as Elizabeth ignores a pleading phone call from her sister. The reason for this sisterly feud, and the crux of the entire book, is Jessica's engagement to Todd Wilkins, Elizabeth's former boyfriend and her lifelong crush. And not only has Jessica stolen Todd, but she started this entanglement with him back in college, and then revived it while Todd and Elizabeth were still together. As Elizabeth mopes in New York City, starting a semi-romantic relationship with an upcoming playwright/Todd-lookalike and planning her revenge, Jessica and Todd are home in Sweet Valley. Although the entire town looks askance on them, judging their betrayal, Jessica refuses to leave her hometown, from a mix of stubbornness and a "this is where I want to raise my kids" sentiment.

As expected, the entire book is basically a set-up to get Jessica and Elizabeth back in the same place, for the inevitable blow-up, shakedown, and reunion, but the way Pascal goes about it is contrived and seems to drag on forever. Both Elizabeth and Jessica, characters who I desperately wanted to be as a middle schooler, were reduced to pathetic caricatures, simply acting upon their basest instincts. And the plot was just a bares bones shell of an outline, with Elizabeth and Jessica repeating the same lines over and over.

Elizabeth: "I hate Jessica. I loved Todd. Oh, betrayal, betrayal. I'm too weak and wimpy to act, or to even tell people how I feel."
Jessica: "Oh, Todd, everyone hates us. But I love you so. But I love my sister, too."
Todd: "Uhhh........."

Pascal (who I recently discovered didn't even write the Sweet Valley High books back in the day) is a perfect example of why it is a bad idea to tell, not show. Everything is spelled out for the reader, and we never get a true glimpse into either of the Wakefield twins, never get to see why they feel the way they do. We are just hammered over the head with their angst. Additionally, some of the writing just plain doesn't make sense at all, or is so flowery that it invites eye-rolling: "Their eyes were shades of aqua that danced in the light like shards of precious stones...There wasn't a thing wrong with their figures, either. It was as if billions of possibilities all fell together perfectly. Twice" (p. 9-10). On multiple occasions while reading, I looked up to exclaim, "WHAT is going on here?", to the amusement of my husband. (I will not even go into the sex scene that appears in the last chapter of the book. The language used here would make third-rate romance novelists appear to be National Book Award winners.)

However, the oddest thing about this book was the way that Elizabeth and Jessica thought of each other. While I am not a twin and have no idea how twin relationships work, or their level of closeness, Pascal wrote this novel as if Elizabeth and Jessica were actually involved in a torrid romantic relationship. The two seemed to pine for each other in a way that slightly disturbed me, aching for each others' bodies. It was just plain weird.

While it was nice to be able to see some of the characters that had appeared in the Sweet Valley High series, these supporting characters didn't get much air time, save for the small mentions of what they were doing as adults, and a brief anecdote to illustrate this. Save for Bruce Patman, who did a completely 180 overnight and transformed into Elizabeth's best friend, and Steven, their brother, no one else really factors into the story. I would have liked to see more of an appearance by both Lila Fowler and Enid Rollins, who were Jessica and Elizabeth's best friends, respectively, but the narrative is very tightly focused on the twins themselves. I believe Sweet Valley Confidential suffered from the exclusion of the other residents of Sweet Valley, who were a key part of the Sweet Valley High books.

Ultimately, I am glad that I read this book, simply for the nostalgia factor. I wouldn't discourage any Sweet Valley Twins or Sweet Valley High fans from doing the same themselves. But I wouldn't hand this to anyone who had never read the Sweet Valley books before. Perhaps the reader needs that firm grounding in the Sweet Valley universe to retain their love for the Wakefield twins after reading Sweet Valley Confidential.

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Monday, April 18, 2011

Bumped by Megan McCafferty

Like in any good society nowadays in ya lit, the world which Megan McCafferty creates in Bumped starts with a virus that makes everyone over the age of 18 sterile. Unlike in other worlds, where teen girls are forced into birth-slavery though, in this one, girls are paid big bucks to carry children for those who have crossed the 18 year threshold. Melody, one of the two main characters in the story, has been offered a mega deal by a couple, and her womb has suddenly become gold territory in the world. While her adoptive parents are excited, she's a little worried and angry about the deal because she's got a massive crush on her friend Zen. See, in this world she can't express that or follow through on it because that would be a waste of her physical resources.

Things get even more complicated, though, when Harmony, Melody's long lost twin sister, shows up at the door. Harmony's come to grab her sister back from the dark side and instead train her in the ways of her lifestyle on the religious Goodside. Toss in a case of mistaken identity sure to happen when twins are involved in a story, and you suddenly have more and fewer problems than you had from the beginning of the novel.

Bumped was one heck of a hilarious book. So many reviewers have commented on this book, suggesting it's strange or not as enjoyable as they hoped, but I actually really liked it. Though this is not my usual fair, I loved the spoof on the influx of dystopian worlds in the ya world today. This is satire done well.

In the beginning of the story, readers are tossed in the midst of this world, and there's little to grasp. McCafferty doesn't offer us the rules or the history of this society for quite a long time; in fact, it's not until many chapters in that we understand why Melody's fertility's been sold off to a high bidder. It's not until near the end we understand why she has scored such a mega deal with a genetically perfect rockstar of a bumping partner, Jondoe. Likewise, we don't really get exposed to the relationship that exists (and develops) between Melody and Zen for quite a while: it's not really important. It ends up playing a pivotal role in the story later on, but the growth and investment in that relationship doesn't matter that much in the context of the story. It's more a plot device. Then when Harmony enters into the story, the plot becomes even more complex and unexplained.

What McCafferty does is trust us to go with it and experience the absurdity right along with both the characters. She wants us as readers to draw upon our knowledge and experience of future and dystopian worlds and see what it's like when every single one of them collides. This is what many readers seem to be missing in the story -- it's not meant to be a fully realized world and the characters aren't meant to be fully developed beings. Instead, we're supposed to get a kick out of the idea of twins separated at birth reuniting then experiencing (and perhaps reveling in!) mistaken identity; that anyone over 18 suddenly gets a virus and loses fertility and must resort to bribing teenage girls to have babies for them; that there's a girl who gets a great deal but instead is considering throwing it all away in the name of love to another teenager; and, of course, the fact that one twin comes from the crazy religious group and wants to save her sister from her life of sin. Let us not forget, too, that this is indeed the first book in a series.

It's insane. It's hilarious. It's spot on. And in this strange way, it works so well.

Perhaps my favorite part of the book, though, was the language. Like any sci-fi, dystopian world, there's a lexicon to learn. The way it was used reminded me a lot of M. T. Anderson's Feed: it's strange enough to be different but understandable enough to make perfect sense to the reader. For some readers, it might be a turn off, especially given the lack of laying out the world and its rules clearly, but other readers will eat it up.

I think many readers have been unfair to this book because it's the first book that McCafferty's published since her Jessica Darling series. Whereas that series is a contemporary fiction and one that many readers (yours included) fell in love with, it's a completely different and unrelated book to Bumped. Comparing the two isn't fair, and in fact, I think it speaks to McCafferty's strengths as a writer that she can produce two entirely different story lines successfully.

Pass this story off to your fans of quirky stories -- I would think your fans of stories like Natalie Standiford's would appreciate this book quite a bit, even though it's less contemporary and more science fiction. This will also work quite well for your fans of dystopian fiction: they will see what McCafferty's doing and appreciate it. I think those who appreciated Julia Karr's XVI, M. T. Anderson's Feed, and similar titles will eat this up. Of course, this is one to also hand off to those who enjoy a great satire. Be warned, though: there is frank discussion of sex and reproduction in this book, so it's not one for your younger or more sensitive readers.

Review copy received from the publisher. Bumped will be published April 28.

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Friday, April 15, 2011

Back When You Were Easier to Love by Emily Wing Smith

Joy's a new girl in town, but not totally new. She's been in the small town of Haven, Utah, for a year now, but this year's different since Zan, the boy of her dreams and first guy who noticed and cared for her in this town, is now out of the picture. He's left Haven for a college near Joy's original home town in California. He's also left no contact information, no way for them to stay in touch. It's like he's disappeared off the map all together, and he never even gave Joy a proper goodbye -- nor did he properly end whatever relationship they had.

Now that he's gone, though, Joy can't move on. She needs closure, and she'll get it thanks to the help of Noah, Zan's ex-best friend and the guy who Joy wants to ignore. But she realizes he could be the key to her closure, and with him, they travel to Zan's new college and seek him out.

Back When You Were Easier to Love was a book I went into with high expectations, but I left feeling a bit left down. The book is exceptionally fast paced, as chapters are only a page or two long; as a result of this, though, the characters are a little underdeveloped for the complicated and lengthy-feeling plot line. While the pacing and set up certainly mirror Joy's own journey, the structure wasn't strong enough for me to forgive the weaker aspects of the story.

As a reader, I wanted to care for Joy: she's in a really tough spot, being a new girl in a small town. But the thing is, she's not really a new girl. She's a new girl only in the sense that the guy she clung to when she was new has left her for college. Rather than use this as an opportunity to slide back into life as she should have a year ago, she instead chooses to fixate on Zan. As a reader, I was annoyed because Joy had no interests outside Zan, both when he was a part of her life and after he leaves her. During the course of the story, we see hints of what her interests are, but so much is focused on her obsession with this boy that she quickly becomes an irritating character. I didn't quite care about her finding her closure because it seems like something she should have done during the summer between the end of her first year at Haven and the start of the second. Instead, there's a bit of a gulf in time.

I will admit that this fixation/obsession is well done. Joy blows off everything she has in her life for this guy, including Noah, Zan's former best friend. Noah was probably my favorite character in the story, as he's clearly moved on from being ditched by his best friend, and even though he's moved on, he's willing to put up with -- maybe even encourage -- Joy's obsession because he wants to be a good friend to her. She ignores him and treats him like dirt, yet he still comes back loyally to her. I liked this about his character, but I also wrestled with it because I wanted him to find someone new who'd actually care about him. As much as he wasn't outwardly struggling with the loss of Zan, it was clear he was internally wrestling with losing a huge part of his social life; the thing is, he was unable to express it because no one would bring it out of him. Joy was far too self-centered to step back and consider what Zan's departure meant to his best friend.

Zan was never developed as a character to me, and as a result, I found the obsession Joy has frustrating. She describes him as brilliant and gorgeous, but we get little else. It's clear she's idealizing him (as seen when she finally gets her closure later in the story), but because I have to believe her for a long time before "meeting" him, I wanted a little more reason to believe in him. I didn't; perhaps that was because as an adult, I'm under the belief any person who just disappears and doesn't leave contact information prefers not to be reached. And maybe that person is just a jerk who needs to be forgotten about, too.

What I did enjoy about this book, though, came after Joy finally gets her closure. As a reader, it was what I wanted to happen to her -- as painful as it was -- and it was through this and this alone that she finally figures out who Noah is and why he's important. More than that, though, Joy realizes that there's much more for her to have in Haven, even when she was earlier convinced it was a worthless place to be. Even though the Vegas scenes were strange to me, I let them slide under the belief they'd make Joy a stronger person, and they did. For me, these scenes read a little bit like some of the scenes between Amy and Roger in Morgan Matson's Amy and Roger's Epic Detour, meaning they were a little uncomfortable/too much like a honeymoon scene (that is, much older than a teen's perspective). That said, though, I think most readers who enjoyed Matson's book will eat this one up because it's of the same premise of dealing with grief and love through a road trip.

As I mentioned earlier, there is a lot tackled over the course of this fast book, and one of them is faith. This is a Mormon-friendly read, although I felt this aspect of the story really got buried beneath Joy's obsession with Zan. It's not until about 3/4 of the way through the book do we see Joy talk more candidly about her spiritual beliefs; this made me sad because I thought had this aspect been amped up sooner in the story, I would have found Joy such a fuller character. Instead, this got a little buried, and part of me wonders if it was the case that had it been a bigger aspect of the story, this book would become too easily labeled as religious ya fiction (a label that carried a certain weight when you use it).

Back When You Were Easier to Love will appeal to those looking for a light-hearted and extremely clean book. Even though I had issues with character development and plausibility within the story, the right readers will overlook this. For them, it'll be a story of reconciling lost love and moving on into a new relationship. There's nothing blush-worthy in here, so you don't have to worry about a heavy or sexual relationship among the characters. It's definitely a book with greater appeal for female readers, and I'd be comfortable handing it to middle or high school readers.

Review copy picked up at ALA. Smith's novel will be published by Penguin/Dutton April 28.

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Chime by Franny Billingsley

I think the best word I could use to describe Franny Billingsley's Chime is "odd."  It's a very different sort of fantasy written in a very different sort of way.  I do think it's well done, but it's going to appeal to a specific kind of reader - a patient reader who enjoys leisurely stories and takes the time to absorb the writing style.

To be honest, it'd difficult for me to explain exactly what this book is about.  It doesn't have an easy plot that can be summed up in a few snappy lines.  Briony is a teenager and lives in Swampsea, which is (I believe) supposed to be somewhere in England.  Swampsea is built on a swamp (obviously), and the town leaders have decided to drain the swamp to improve the economy of the city and the standard of living of its inhabitants.  Evidently swamps aren't great places to live.

The Old Ones, supernatural-type beings with names like Mucky Face and Boggy Mun, have a problem with this swamp-draining idea.  The swamp is their home and they'd like it to remain as it is.  The Old Ones inflict the swamp cough, an incurable disease, on Swampsea's inhabitants on a whim, and one of the cough's victims happens to be Briony's odd twin sister Rose.      

Brought into this mix are the Chime Child and the idea of witches.  The Chime Child is a person born at the stroke of midnight who can determine whether a person is a witch (in this world, witch=bad).  And she's not always correct.  I suppose everyone makes mistakes.
The book opens with Briony telling the reader that she's a witch and deserves to be hanged.  The rest of the book involves Briony telling us what led up to her arrest - she believes she's responsible for her sister Rose's mental condition as well as a massive wave that injured her stepmother's spine and eventually led to her death.  (This is all revealed very early on, so don't worry that I'm spoiling it for you.)  Briony has a lot of self-hatred, and this permeates the entire novel.  It can get a bit depressing, but it's not surprising considering what Briony believes she has done.

And there's a boy.  Of course there is a boy.

So, have you got all that?  And that's not even half of the weird stuff going on in Chime.  There are so many elements at play, a reader has really got to be patient and wait for it all to fall in place at the end.  Patience is also required for the writing style.  Billingsley's writing is heavy on metaphors, particularly odd metaphors you wouldn't have considered before.  She also uses some really quirky phrases that add to the mood of the book, but also cause the reader to do a double-take at times.  Instead of being drawn further into the story by the writing style, it made me feel further removed.  It also made for a very long read - make no mistake, this is a slow-moving book.

Most times when I review a book I didn't particularly care for, such as in the case of Chime, I have something fairly critical (but valid) to say about it.  Usually it's mediocre writing, flat characters, or a nonsensical or boring plot.  In many of these cases, the book can still be enjoyed if one is willing to overlook these factors.  In the case of Chime, however, I don't have anything specific in mind to criticize - it simply isn't my cup of tea.  It's slow, certainly, and it's the weirdest book I've read in a long time, but these can also be strengths for the right reader.  Billingsley was going for a particular mood and she achieved it - it's just not one that really appealed to me.

Copy checked out from my local library.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Even more cover changes: the good, the bad, and the ugly

It wasn't too long ago I posted about a number of ya books that went through cover changes when they were published in paperback. After that post, I noticed more and more covers I thought were worth sharing and comparing. Some of these are excellent recovers and some really don't work for me.

Let's start with a few of my favorite books published in the last couple of years.

You can read my review for this book here. While I have always loved the purple of this cover -- given the symbolism it holds for the story and for the fact purple like this stands out on a shelf -- I was never a fan of the girl cowering in the corner. The font over the girl isn't a technique I care for either, but it works for what this story is quite well.

Then it got a makeover.

Talk about a completely different feel. This cover is much more inviting and positive feeling than the original. I find it curious, though, that the girl's hair cut and color is so much different than before. I do like the font and the placement on the cover, as it's much easier on the eyes than the original. I don't love this cover or hate it, since I think it looks like a lot of other ya covers on the market, but what I do love is how well this one will fit with Freitas's forthcoming novel's cover (I love that cover so much).

You can read my review of this title here. I dig this cover. It has everything it needs to have, and the balance between text, dead space, and color is perfect. There is an immediate guy appeal factor to the cover, as well.

Grittier. Edgier. And perhaps even more boy appeal. The thing is, I don't care for it too much personally. I wouldn't pick this one up off the shelf by the cover -- the orange is a little off putting when mashed up with the all-gray images. But boys certainly will. I love how they kept the guyified heart on the cover in the paperback version, using it in the "o" rather than as the "no" symbol. The only thing I can really say is that the cover doesn't scream car destruction or environmentalist fervor, but it does scream punk edge.

Now for discussing the covers of one of my favorite series of books, The Dairy Queen series (reviewed as a whole here).

Here's the original hardcover version of the first book in the series. I like how simple and quirky it is -- we have a cow dressed with a queen's crown, and we have pink font on the cover. It doesn't tell too much about the story as a whole, except it certainly gives us a sense of the story's setting (which is a key component of the books themselves). Then they made a change for the paperback:

I like that some of the same elements are present in the paperback cover: the wide open blue sky and the simple placement and font of the title. What I don't like are the people. That girl is far too pretty to be DJ; it's not that DJ isn't a pretty girl, but she's so average. She wouldn't want to be on the cover of her own book, you see.

But this month, the book was reprinted in paperback with yet another cover:

I would believe DJ to look like this girl, I really would. But could we stereotype farm girls any more here? I hate her shirt. DJ would never wear a cow print tank top. I also really dislike the cow-inspired title. It's all too much on the cover. If the girl were to wear the awful shirt, that would be ok with a solid colored font, but this is just a little too much. Here are the rereleased covers of the other two books in the series, both of which also suffer from stereotyping-farm-girl syndrome:

I hate the skirt more than the boots. I'm not sure how much the new covers heighten appeal on this series. As much as I didn't care for people on the covers for the original paperback releases, I think those had more wide appeal than these.

I've talked briefly about the cover blurb for this book when I reviewed it here. I like this cover a lot. The green is lush and inviting, the girl has a certain sway to her in the cover that invites you to read the book, and the title placement works well. Although I don't think she's a true Retta character, it doesn't matter; we know this is a story about a girl addicted to music. This cover has everything I want as a reader and as a librarian -- this one sells itself.

But then the paperback cover kicked it up a notch!

THAT is Retta. She's got enough sass and sway to make it on her own in Nashville, and she's certainly an image of contemporary country music. I love the brick wall and the burn out font for the title. The blue boots are the perfect pop of color to keep this cover from being too one-note in its color palate.

Susan Shaw's One of the Survivors wasn't one of my favorite books, but it is one of my favorite books to book talk to middle schoolers. I love the cover: it's perfect. It captures the story simply and is something instantly recognizable for readers. The tone is set from the start. I dig how the title is located in the center of the fire alarm and that it gets smaller as it goes on.

But I really dislike the cover make over. I don't like the image of the boy -- far too young even for middle school readers. His hair is what ages him for me. I also don't like that he's a strange rust orange, since it doesn't give a strong indication from the title why he might be glowing or burning. I'm also not a fan of the blurb; a little more white space on this cover could make it feel less overwhelming. For me, this book isn't as easy a sell as the hard cover because it doesn't tell the story as well and the guy on the cover just isn't compelling.

Now on to a handful of covers for books I haven't read that have also undergone some cover changes. First up, one that Kim's reviewed.

Something about this cover works for me. It's the swirly font and the girl running through the forest in heels. She's not a damsel in distress, but she instead looks like she's having fun (it's the hair). This is the kind of book that feels like a fantasy story but not a heavy one with a lot of world building. The green on the cover and the off-centeredness of the trees just work -- from a design perspective, the cropping and adjustments made on the image are spot on and visually appealing. Nancy Werlin's talked about the cover design process here herself and it's well worth reading.

So the paperback is quite different, but it has a lot of the same elements: the fun swirly font and the green sprigs of grass. And as much as I hate the girl-on-the-cover trend, I am actually incredibly intrigued by this girl. I want to know the story. The feel for the paperback is completely different from the hardcover; where the hardcover was light and airy, this one feels a little darker. The thing is, it doesn't look dark, either. The girl has the right amount of smirk on her face to make you realize she's having a little fun and there may be a little mischief. Also: I want to learn how to do my eye make up like that.

I'm not a huge fan of this cover for a number of reasons: while the girls are interesting and modeling well, they aren't telling me much. The black on white on pink feels dated to me, though I am a fan of the font for both the title and the author's name. I'm an ampersand fan, so that totally works for me too.

Look at what a huge change the paperback cover is, though:

I don't know how I feel about this one, either. It's such a dramatic change -- the book now looks like a Sarah Dessen or Elizabeth Scott title. Since I haven't read the book, I can't judge whether or not this is a smart marketing tactic, based on content. I really like the font style and placement here, and I love how the untying of hair fits into the idea of being "undone." The thing is, the first cover looks like a story about sisters, while this one looks more like a story about a romance. As much as the hard cover looked dated to me, it stands out a little more than the paperback does.

I really like the hard cover version of Carolyn Mackler's Tangled. It fits with the trends of her other book covers: simple and eye catching. The use of white works well here, as the hearts and the author's name stand out. My only complaint is that the title does get a bit buried in the cover; the image of the hearts and her huge name pop more than the title does.

Ready for a dramatic make over?

Talk about a huge change! There is far more color and far more going on. There are two people on the cover -- is it me or do they look like they're 20-somethings, rather than teens? It's interesting that the title again seems lost on the cover, as this time it's lost a bit in the sky and butterfly images. Again, Mackler's name is quite large on the cover, though it doesn't overwhelm it. I've gone back and forth on my thoughts regarding the butterflies, but I think they're a necessary part of the cover; despite the fact I think they look a little comical, they help make this cover stand out a little more from the rest of the covers that feature a couple on the front, laying on the grass (need I remind you of The Dairy Queen?). But when I saw this cover, I was immediately reminded of the paper back cover of Mary Pearson's The Miles Between:

It's all about the superimposed monarchs.

I know this post is getting lengthy, but I have one more to share before asking you to share your input. I'm posting this one since I really love the hardcover edition of this book:

I really dig the pink key and how the color deepens its hue the lower it gets. The cursive font at the top of the key and the author's name and blurb along the teeth part of the key work, since neither are overwhelming the cover, nor are they hidden. This book stands out on the shelf, and it's a stand out when faced out, too. There's such a great story in the image -- who needs to go home? Why do they need a key? Is this the right key? I think there's a sense of hope in this cover, too.

Then it was changed:

It's so different, but it works so well. The girl's patchwork skirt against the blue-green cover pops. Though the font for the title and the super tiny font for the author's name don't work as well as they do in the hardcover, I still think they work well on the cover. The biggest difference I find in this cover, though, is the tone. Whereas the hard cover has a sense of hope, for me, this cover feels desperate and almost hopeless. It's such a different style and sense of story. Again, not having read the book, I can't comment on which fits the story more.

Your turn! What do you think of any of the changes? Any work better for you than others? Agree or disagree with my comments? Spill your thoughts in the comments.

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