The Cover Wars

A searing #OwnVoices coming-of-age debut in which an Indian-American Muslim teen confronts Islamophobia and a reality she can neither explain nor escape–perfect for fans of Angie Thomas, Jacqueline Woodson, and Adam Silvera.

Maya Aziz is torn between futures: the one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter (i.e.; staying nearby in Chicago and being matched with a “suitable” Muslim boy), and the one where she goes to film school in New York City–and maybe, just maybe, kisses a guy she’s only known from afar. There’s the also the fun stuff, like laughing with her best friend Violet, making on-the-spot documentaries, sneaking away for private swimming lessons at a secret pond in the woods. But her world is shattered when a suicide bomber strikes in the American heartland; by chance, he shares Maya’s last name. What happens to the one Muslim family in town when their community is suddenly consumed with hatred and fear?

Janet: Hand it over, please.

Yash: Oh no, this one is going to destroy me. But yeah, I’d read it. And not just because of the synopsis. The cover may be a bit stark–and white covers drive me and my perpetually brown-with-foundation fingers crazy–but it’s striking. I like that the character is looking at the readers and framing the scene in front of her, but also framing herself so we can’t help but stare at her eyes. Title’s pretty awesome too.

Nafiza: Ahhhhh. This one is going to be tough for me to read. At the same time, this is an incredibly important book and it needs to happen. I like the cover for all the reasons Yash mentioned. I feel like this book is going to make a lot of people question their own biases and assumptions. I’m looking forward to this one.

Jane: What can I say that hasn’t already been said?

MEET KIRANMALA: INTERDIMENSIONAL DEMONSLAYER

(But she doesn’t know it yet.)

On the morning of her twelfth birthday, Kiranmala is just a regular sixth grader living in Parsippany, New Jersey… until her parents mysteriously vanish later that day and a rakkhosh demon slams through her kitchen, determined to eat her alive. Turns out there might be some truth to her parents’ fantastical stories—like how Kiranmala is a real Indian princess—and a wealth of secrets about her origin they’ve kept hidden.

To complicate matters, two crushworthy Indian princes ring her doorbell, insisting they’re here to rescue her. Suddenly, Kiran is swept into another dimension full of magic, winged horses, moving maps, and annoying, talking birds. There she must solve riddles and slay demons all while avoiding the Serpent King of the underworld (who may or may not want to kill her) and the rakkhosh queen (who definitely does) in order to find her parents and basically save New Jersey, her entire world, and everything beyond it…

Janet: Snakes! A girl with bow and arrow(s)! Gorgeous, practical clothes! This cover is a yes all the way. The back copy had me laughing out loud in delight. Tbr asap!

Yash: I’ve seen this cover before and I still think the best part of the cover is that she’s wearing boots with her salwar-kameez. I think this could be fun. Tangent: is NJ just going to be where all the brown superheroes live?

Nafiza: Yasss. I’d totally wear boots with my shalwar kameez. I mean, I’ve worn sneakers with them so why not? Haha. I want this one on my shelves.

Jane: My first thoughts definitely echoed Janet’s – a warrior princess who’s actually dressed in clothes that are practical for fighting? About time! I love her little half-smile – it’s like she’s saying, “bring it on!” Kids are sure to be drawn to this cover – and the tag line seems to suggest that this is going to be a series? I can see this being a great fit for fans of Percy Jackson, who love that blend of fantasy, action and regular old middle grade drama.

Karen thinks she’s not proper white.

Her dad is Pakistani and her mother is white Christian, and somehow she feels as if she doesn’t quite fit in… anywhere. So she’s made a choice: she’s switching sides.

Karen’s going to convert to Islam to find her true identity.

But Shamshad, her Hijab-wearing school mate, isn’t making things easy for her. What’s her deal, anyway? Is Shamshad really any more proper than herself?

Trouble and turmoil await in the old textile mill town of Boardhead East, as school battles are replaced by family troubles, name calling turns to physical confrontation and cataclysmic secrets are unveiled.

Janet: The cover isn’t exciting; the large all-caps font isn’t easy on the eyes. The back copy sounds interesting, although it looks more at the broad sweep of things than at Karen’s particular character – we haven’t a sense of her voice yet. All in all this packaging doesn’t make me leap, but I’d glance inside.

Yash: The cover is pretty–all the yellow!–and while the back copy is interesting, it’s not for me at the moment. (Also, I gotta say, the girls facing each other made me think it was w/w romance and now I’m a little sad.)

Nafiza: I like how in a way this seems to be facing herself. I like how this is about identity though I’m a bit wary because I’d argue that being Muslim is an identity but that’s just my personal opinion. I’m a bit wary, too, because the whole set up “switching sides” makes the entire thing so much more flippant than it is. I don’t know. I’ll read some reviews before deciding.

Jane: Awww, like Yash I originally thought this was going to be a f/f romance, so I’m a bit disappointed, too! That feeling of not being “enough” can be very frustrating and confusing for a lot of young people, particularly those with mixed backgrounds, so this might really appeal to many young readers.

Jason has just learned that his Afghan mother has been living illegally in the United States since his father was killed in Afghanistan. Although Jason was born in the US, it’s hard to feel American now when he’s terrified that his mother will be discovered—and that they will be separated.

When he sees his mother being escorted from her workplace by two officers, Jason feels completely alone. He boards a train with the hope of finding his aunt in New York City, but as soon as he arrives in Penn Station, the bustling city makes him wonder if he’s overestimated what he can do.

After an accident lands him in the hospital, Jason finds an unlikely ally in a fellow patient. Max, a whip-smart girl who wants nothing more than to explore the world on her own terms, joins Jason in planning a daring escape out of the hospital and into the skyscraper jungle—even though they both know that no matter how big New York City is, they won’t be able to run forever.

Janet: The cover looks carefree, and the synopsis seems laden by care. I like the title, the blue, the running, and the unexpectedness of what the reflection reveals vs. what the “direct gaze” reveals. This looks intense but I’m in.

Yash: Oh good, they managed to include the kids’ faces! I’m pleased. The synopsis and cover have completely different tones but I still like it. It’s not what I’m looking for right now, but I’ll put it on my TBR.

Nafiza: This is going to kill me dead. I know it. And the cover seems like cheating when it’s all cheery and blue and then you read the back and POW! It hits you right where it hurts. I’m going to read this but just so you know, it will hurt.

Jane: Oh NO. Max is going to have a terminal disease, I just KNOW it. Oh no no no, no more sick children, please! Also, the gentle cover doesn’t seem to mesh with the more serious back copy – the cover shows two happy, carefree children, while one presumably has a serious illness, and the other has just watched his mother being taken away. Not sure about this one – I just don’t think I can handle more sick children. 🙁

A new adventure about a girl who is fated to wash the bodies of the dead in this companion to Furthermore.

Our story begins on a frosty night…

Laylee can barely remember the happier times before her beloved mother died. Before her father, driven by grief, lost his wits (and his way). Before she was left as the sole remaining mordeshoor in the village of Whichwood, destined to spend her days washing the bodies of the dead and preparing their souls for the afterlife. It’s become easy to forget and easier still to ignore the way her hands are stiffening and turning silver, just like her hair, and her own ever-increasing loneliness and fear.

But soon, a pair of familiar strangers appears, and Laylee’s world is turned upside down as she rediscovers color, magic, and the healing power of friendship.

Janet: Much as I like seeing a hijabi woman on the cover, the art looks drawn from a video game or a manga, and though skillfully done (I like her belt purse), somehow does not appeal to me. The premise is intriguing but doesn’t give sufficient taste of Laylee as a person for me to be interested.

Yash: I’m with Janet.

Nafiza: I want to read this because I feel like I should give Mafi’s writing another chance and the synopsis excites me. But the cover is too overwhelming. I don’t know if it’s the roses or the quantity of them but I think I’d like it much better if it was slightly toned down.

Jane: The cover seems a bit too busy for me, but I think the art style will appeal to readers, it reminds me a bit of the “The School of Good and Evil” covers, in that vaguely manga-esque style. There’s also an element of “Frozen” to it, with all the snowflakes and ice.

In 1982, twelve-year-old Reza has no interest in joining Iran’s war effort against Iraq. But in the wake of a tragedy and at his mother’s urging, he decides to enlist, assured by the authorities that he will achieve paradise should he die in service to his country.

War does not bring the glory the boys of Iran have been promised, and Reza soon finds himself held in a prisoner-of-war camp in Iraq, where the guards not only threaten violence—they act upon it. Will Reza make it out alive? And if he does, will he even have a home to return to?

Friendship, heartbreak, and Reza’s very survival are at stake as he finds solace through music and forges his own path—wherever that might take him.

Janet: The cover is beautiful and so sombre. The back copy – matches. Pass the book and a box of kleenex, please.

Yash: NO, I scream, as I look up the book’s release date on Goodreads and prepare to spend money on it.

Nafiza: Why have I chosen books designed to make confetti out of my heart? I don’t know but I have and well, ouch. Still going to read it though while crying and using up all the tissue in my house.

Jane: What a beautiful cover! But UGH child soldiers, I think there will be some ugly crying.