The Cover Wars

When Suzette comes home to Los Angeles from her boarding school in New England, she isn’t sure if she’ll ever want to go back. L.A. is where her friends and family are (along with her crush, Emil). And her stepbrother, Lionel, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, needs her emotional support.

But as she settles into her old life, Suzette finds herself falling for someone new…the same girl her brother is in love with. When Lionel’s disorder spirals out of control, Suzette is forced to confront her past mistakes and find a way to help her brother before he hurts himself–or worse.

Jane

I’m of several minds with this book. On the one hand, I’m always happy to see stories with LGBTQ elements, particularly bi elements (assuming that Emil is a dude). I’m also happy to see mental illness make an appearance. And I’m not particularly bothered in theory by books that deal with the impact of mental illness on family members – several members of my family have mental illnesses, and I know first-hand how harrowing it can be to love someone and try to support them through something that’s almost impossible to understand unless you’ve experienced it, and how painful it can be to watch a loved one suffer, knowing that there’s a limit to how much you can help them. My parents supported me through a teenaged eating disorder, and my partner supported me through a mental health crisis early in our relationship. Loving someone with a mental illness is hard. These stories are powerful, and if addressed in respectful, informed ways, can really help ignite important discussions on mental health and support. Still, it bothers me when these are the only sorts of representations we have of people with mental illness – the erratic sufferer who’s a threat to themselves, and potentially others, who’s dependent on the people around them. Yes, this can absolutely be an element of living with mental illness, but it’s not the only reality. Bipolar individuals can live productive, healthy lives, given the right treatment and support, just like people with any other illness or condition. They’re not always dancing on the edge of disaster, waiting for someone to save them and make things right. People with mental illnesses have agency, too, and can be active participants in their own treatment and recovery.

In other words, I’m holding my breath a bit with this one, and I’ll have to wait and see how I feel about it.

Yash

I am very intrigued, but also concerned about how well it’s written. I’m definitely going to keep an eye on reviews for this one. I do love the cover, though. As for the cover, I like it. I like the alliteration of the title, and the bright summer-y colours that contrast against the black, and I really like the little sketch of (I wanna say, The New Yorker?) in the background. Somehow that little detail, makes everything so much more interesting? Anyway, yes. I’m intrigued.

When Lily Michaels-Ryan ditches her ADHD meds and lands in detention with Abelard, who has Asperger’s, she’s intrigued—Abelard seems thirty seconds behind, while she feels thirty seconds ahead. It doesn’t hurt that he’s brilliant and beautiful.

When Abelard posts a quote from The Letters of Abelard and Heloise online, their mutual affinity for ancient love letters connects them. The two fall for each other. Hard. But is it enough to bridge their differences in person?

This hilarious, heartbreaking story of human connection between two neurodivergent teens creates characters that will stay with you long after you finish reading.

Jane

UGH. Once again, I am conflicted. On the one hand, I rejoice in the idea of a romantic story between two neurodivergent teens. YES! Guess what, world, romance (and sex!) can be for anyone who wants it!

But…I’m hesitant. I know nothing about this writer. The characters have two different diagnoses, so even if the writer is neurodivergent, they will likely be writing about an experience that isn’t theirs. What kind of research went into the novel? Were actual neurodivergent individuals involved in the research? How authentic will the voices feel to them? Of course no two people are the same, but there are likely elements that could feel authentic to many readers with the same diagnosis.

And finally, I am a bit nervous about the potential for neurodivergent teens to come across as “quirky”, and used more as stock elements than as actual, authentic characters. There can be an unfortunate romanticization of characters with different abilities – the noble wheelchair user, the quirky manic pixie ADHD character, the cancer patient who’s mature beyond their years, the endearingly eccentric autistic character. Rather than becoming real, fully-fleshed, complex individuals, for whom their condition is a part of a larger identity, there’s a tendency for these kinds of characters to come across as flat, defined only by their label, and the valuable lessons they can impart on “normal” readers. They can also be used as a sort of literary “click bait” element – look how diverse my book is! It features buzz words like “neurodivergent”! How thrillingly diverse!

Now, I know absolutely nothing about this author or the book, and it could very well be the story we’ve all been waiting for. I’m really, really hoping it is, but only time will tell.

Yash

Yeah, I share Jane’s reservations over this one. And the thing is, the cover–though it may be very fitting for the story/characters–doesn’t appeal to me. Mostly, it reminds me of other nondescript, kinda romance-y books out there that I’ve somehow trained myself to walk past. BUT maybe that’s a huge mistake and this one is actually thoughtfully done and I’d regret not reading it? Again, gonna look up some reviews for this one. I don’t have nearly enough romance books on shelf, let alone ones that feature neurodivergent characters.

There are secrets, there are betrayals, and there are sacrifices…

The Behemoth has been destroyed, and the bloodthirsty Hellions seem to have left Westraven. But Claire Abernathy’s mind is not at ease. A terrible disease plagues her sister, appearing to have been brought on the Vesper, the leader of the Hellions beyond the tear between worlds– the Breach.

To save Abby and stop the Hellions for good, Claire must find the machine her parents built before the attacks, and fix it before the monsters return. To do so, she needs the help of her crew, and must ignore the secrets and rivalries between her captain and the man she saved.

Because the Hellions are not the only dangers following Claire. Twisted humans and old enemies surface to stop her and destroy all she loves. While she is determined to endure the trials, a single betrayal could shatter the hope of a better world, and force Claire to make a choice that will cost her dearly…

Jane

Alas, I know nothing about this series, so these names mean little to me. The cover looks fairly generic, but the back copy does sound pretty exciting, and would likely appeal to fans of the series.

Yash

Eh. Book 2 in a series. *shrug* I’m sure it’ll reach its target audience. I do love the blue on this cover though. It’s the midnight magic type blue that should appeal to any fantasy fan, I think? Good work with the colours there, cover!

New York Times bestselling author Zac Brewer delivers his most honest and gripping novel yet, about a girl who believes she’s beyond saving—until she realizes the only person who can save her is herself.

Brooke Danvers is pretending to be fine. She’s gotten so good at pretending that they’re letting her leave inpatient therapy. Now she just has to fake it long enough for her parents and teachers to let their guard down. This time, when she’s ready to end her life, there won’t be anyone around to stop her.

Then Brooke meets Derek. Derek is the only person who really gets what Brooke is going through, because he’s going through it too. As they start spending more time together, Brooke suddenly finds herself having something to look forward to every day and maybe even happiness.

But when Derek’s feelings for her intensify, Brooke is forced to accept that the same relationship that is bringing out the best in her might be bringing out the worst in Derek—and that Derek at his worst could be capable of real darkness.

Jane

ARGH ARGH ARGH ARGH ARGH!

OK, I’m glad that the excerpt gives Brooke agency – she realizes that she’s the only one who can save herself, and she might have to make some tough decisions to help Derek.

But holy CRAP why must all the books about mental illness make sufferers out to be dangers to themselves and/or society?! Yes, being depressed can mean being suicidal, and some people with mental illness can act erratically or dangerously. So, there’s nothing wrong with Madness addressing that side of mental illness.

Why oh why though can’t we have some stories that don’t feature mentally ill individuals being balanced on the edge of disaster? I know that many people with mental illness can have this kind of experience, but that seems to be the only side of mental illness we ever see. I remember feeling so hopeless as a teen because the only mentally ill people I ever came across in fiction were tragic heroes who killed themselves or wasted away, or dangerous “crazies” who murdered people and had to be locked in asylums. No wonder people are still so afraid to tell others about their illnesses, or reach out for treatment!

None of this is the book’s fault, of course, this is just me ranting and raving a bit about positive representation, and being generally cranky about the state of mental illness representation. Meh. >.<

Yash

Mm, pass. This one isn’t for me, I don’t think. There’s something very off-putting about the taglines, the one on the cover and the one in the synopsis. I’m not sure how to articulate it, but basically, I’d rather not. I do like the paint-like quality of the cover and the paper cranes. The cover alone, with the context of the title and synopsis, is quite striking.

Taking place in the world of Cassandra Rose Clarke’s Magic of Blood and Sea, this is the story of a would-be witch who embarks on an adventure filled with intrigue, mystery, mermaids, and magic.

Hanna has spent her life hearing about the adventures of her namesake Ananna, the lady pirate, and assassin Naji, and dreams to have some adventures of her own.

One day when Hanna is with her apprentice—a taciturn fisherman called Kolur—the boat is swept wildly off course during a day of storms and darkness. In this strange new land, Kolur hires a stranger to join the crew and, rather than heading home, sets a course for the dangerous island of Jadanvar. As Hanna meets a secretive merboy—and learns that Kolur has a deadly past—she soon realizes that wishing for adventures can be deadly…because those wishes might come true.

Jane

I’ve never heard of Magic of Blood and Sea, but I’m intrigued by this one. I’m a bit confused – if the boat is swept off course, why do they chart a course for a dangerous island? Personally I’d be sailing away from the dangerous island, but I guess that’s why I’m not a lady pirate. The merboy part sounds a bit cheesy, and why exactly does Hanna have an apprentice? What is he an apprentice of? Still, witches, adventure, lady pirates, merpeople and magic all sound pretty darn good!

Yash

Maybe it’s the slump speaking, but I’m not into this either. Ugh, what does my annoying brain want to read anyway?? As for the cover, I like the style. It reminds me of The Drowning Eyes cover’s style. I do think there’s something sparse about this cover, but it doesn’t feel deliberate. Instead, the cover looks like it’s missing something. Which, unfortunately, doesn’t make me want to pick it up and read the back.

Sussy and Guy are best friends, fourth-graders who share their silliest thoughts and deepest hopes. One afternoon, the two of them decide they must have something of their very own to love. After a trip to the pet store, they bring home a spotted lizard, the one with the ancient face and starfish toes, and they name her Matylda (with a y so it’s all her own). With Guy leading the way, they feed her and give her an origin story fit for a warrior lizard. A few weeks later, on a simple bike ride, there is a terrible accident. As hard as it is, Sussy is sure she can hold on to Guy if she can find a way to love Matylda enough. But in a startling turn of events, Sussy reconsiders what it means to grieve and heal and hope and go on, for her own sake and Matylda’s. By turns both devastating and buoyant, this story is a brave one, showing how far we can justify going for a real and true friend.

Jane

Oh no. This is another “My Girl” / “Bridge to Terabithia” story, isn’t it? Quirky child copes with death of quirky best friend child. Nope nope nope. Not for me.

Yash

*points at Jane’s opinion* Ditto.

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