The Cover Wars

The only thing 17-year-old Jane Sinner hates more than failure is pity. After a personal crisis and her subsequent expulsion from high school, she’s going nowhere fast. Jane’s well-meaning parents push her to attend a high school completion program at the nearby Elbow River Community College, and she agrees, on one condition: she gets to move out.

Jane tackles her housing problem by signing up for House of Orange, a student-run reality show that is basically Big Brother, but for Elbow River Students. Living away from home, the chance to win a car (used, but whatever), and a campus full of people who don’t know what she did in high school… what more could she want? Okay, maybe a family that understands why she’d rather turn to Freud than Jesus to make sense of her life, but she’ll settle for fifteen minutes in the proverbial spotlight.

As House of Orange grows from a low-budget web series to a local TV show with fans and shoddy T-shirts, Jane finally has the chance to let her cynical, competitive nature thrive. She’ll use her growing fan base, and whatever Intro to Psychology can teach her, to prove to the world—or at least viewers of substandard TV—that she has what it takes to win.

Jane: JANE! I rarely see my name in contemporary books, so that’s exciting. Funny little aside – when I was a kid I desperately wanted something with my name on it, and my dad could never find anything, so he bought a pen that said “Janet” and scraped the “t” off for me. Anyway (focus, Jane!), our protagonist’s name is Jane Sinner? And her parents are presumably religious? Huh. That’s unfortunate. I like the colour of the cover, I’m not a huge fan of the reality TV premise, but the “prove myself to the world and to my parents, and show everyone how much deeper I am (turning to Freud?) than your typical teenager” storyline can hold appeal, and hey, Becky Albertalli likes it!

Nafiza: Aww Jane. That was so super of your dad. I had the chance to hear the author of this book speak at a recent Raincoast event and her story was so interesting that even though I don’t read contemporaries much, I am interested in giving this one a whirl. I am not so much a fan of the cover but it’s okay.

Nestled in the bucolic town of Green Valley in upstate New York, the Pennywort farm appears ordinary, yet at its center lies something remarkable: a wild maze of colorful gardens that reaches beyond the imagination. Local legend says that a visitor can gain answers to life’s most difficult problems simply by walking through its lush corridors.

Yet the labyrinth has never helped Olivia Pennywort, the garden’s beautiful and enigmatic caretaker. She has spent her entire life on her family’s land, harboring a secret that forces her to keep everyone at arm’s length. But when her childhood best friend, Sam Van Winkle, returns to the valley, Olivia begins to question her safe, isolated world and wonders if she at last has the courage to let someone in. As she and Sam reconnect, Olivia faces a difficult question: Is the garden maze that she has nurtured all of her life a safe haven or a prison?

Jane: I’m a bit confused here – the cover looks like a middle grade novel, but the text uses expressions like “her entire life”, “all her life” and “childhood best friend”. Is Olivia an adult? Is this an adult novel? Either way, I really like the cover, the garden looks both beautiful and ominous.

Nafiza: I adore the cover of this. It’s eerie and layered and I can imagine having this on my wall. However, the back copy doesn’t intrigue me so it’s a pass.

A girl wishes for a better life for herself, her mom, and her baby brother and musters the courage to make it happen in this moving and emotionally satisfying story for readers of Kate DiCamillo and Lynda Mullaly Hunt.

Eleven-year-old Brittany knows there has to be a better world out there. Lately, though, it sure doesn’t feel like it. She and her best friend, Marisol, stick together at school, but at home Brittany’s granny is sick, her cat is missing, there’s never any money, and there’s her little brother, Tommy, to worry about. Brittany has a hard time picturing her future as anything but a plain white sky. If her life is going to ever change, she needs a plan. And once she starts believing in herself, Brittany realizes that what has always seemed out of reach might be just around the corner.

This debut novel by Emily Blejwas is perfect for readers who love emotionally satisfying books. Thoughtful and understated, it’s the hopeful story of a girl who struggles to make her future bright . . . and the makeshift family that emerges around her.

Jane: The cover for this one is very sweet and charming – it suggests that the little girl has the ability to change her environment, whether literally or figuratively. But the copy…ugh. It absolutely sounds like it’s written for librarians and parents looking for something wholesome for their young charges. It really doesn’t tell me much about the story itself beyond a generic “poor child dreams of a better life” summary, and if I told a child that a book was “emotionally satisfying, thoughtful and understated”, they likely wouldn’t be too enthused. This could actually be a wonderful book, and the cover really is sweet, but I wish they would tone down the gushing just a little bit, and let the story sell itself.

Nafiza: I adore the cover of this and the back copy makes me so sad. Jane is right though. The summary at the back is designed for adults and not children. I reckon it would have a much different tone if it were aimed at the target audience. Still, I would give this one a read.

From the New York Times bestselling author of Chasing Vemeer an unforgettable story about an island haunted by the past . . . and the ghosts who must help with the present.

Ghosts are alive on the island of Nantucket. You can hear them in the wind, and in the creaks of the old homes. They want to be remembered. And, even more, they want to protect what was once theirs.

The ghosts seem to have chosen a few local kids to be their messengers — and to help save the island. But in this mystery, the line between those who haunt and those who are haunted is a thin one — and the past and the present must come to terms with one another in order to secure the future.

Jane: Ooooh, a spooky cover and a spooky tale! This looks enticing. Kids are often drawn to eery stories, and this one looks interesting. It could’ve been interesting to maybe get an idea of who the local kids are, but it’s still intriguing. But…what’s with the “Blue Balliett” part of the title? What does that mean? Is this part of a series, or a sequel to another title? That part does confuse me a bit.

Nafiza: I reckon Blue Balliett is the author, Jane. I adore the cover and the back copy makes me shiver. Give this to me please.

It is the near future and humanity is on the brink of destruction. The only way it can be saved is if the course of history is forcibly altered. In the twenty first century, misfit student Hallie Lane packs up her troubled life in England and takes the first train to Paris, where she falls in with the eclectic expat community as a bartender at the notorious Millie’s.

Here she finds a new family, and an attraction to the enigmatic Leon. But Millie’s is not all that it seems: inside, there’s a time portal in the keg room with an inescapable hold on her. As if that’s not strange enough, she receives garbled warnings from a bizarre creature and keeps meeting a mysterious woman claiming to be a time agent.

Soon, she is navigating through the city’s turbulent past and future – from the wild years after the French Revolution, through the horrors of the Nazi occupation, and to a grim near future of her own making. But with only Leon to guide her in this fractured world, it soon becomes apparent that she is an unwitting pawn in a much bigger plan and the key to humanity’s future lies in her hands.

Jane: But what about the paradoxes?!?! Time travel is perennially popular, and what “misfit” doesn’t dream about being the only person capable of saving the world? I’m a little confused, though – music isn’t referenced anywhere in the copy (maybe she was a music student?), and the story seems to be set in London, though it’s called Paris Adrift? The cover’s also both a bit dreary and a bit cluttered for me.

Nafiza: That random eye on the cover though. Hah. No. This is definitely not for me.

A CIA prodigy’s cover is blown when he accidentally becomes an internet sensation in #Prettyboy Must Die, a fun, fast thriller inspired by the #Alexfromtarget story.

When Peter Smith’s classmate snaps a picture of him during a late night run at the track, Peter thinks he might be in trouble. When she posts that photo–along with the caption, “See the Pretty Boy Run,”–Peter knows he’s in trouble. But when hostiles drop through the ceiling of his 6th period Chem Class, Peter’s pretty sure his trouble just became a national emergency.

Because he’s not really Peter Smith. He’s Jake Morrow, former foster-kid turned CIA operative. After a massive screw-up on his first mission, he’s on a pity assignment, a dozen hit lists and now, social media, apparently. As #Prettboy, of all freaking things.

His cover’s blown, his school’s under siege, and if he screws up now, #Prettyboy will become #Deadboy faster than you can say, ‘fifteen minutes of fame.’ Trapped in a high school with rabid killers and rabid fans, he’ll need all his training and then some to save his job, his school and, oh yeah, his life.

Jane: This sounds pretty funny. I have a feeling this will appeal to teens looking for a blend of adventure and humour.  Sure high school can be a time of sorrow and angst, and the world does feel like it’s falling apart at the seams, but sometimes that’s exactly when you need a fun, fast thriller. Being old and out of touch, I have no idea what #Alexfromtarget means, though….

Nafiza: Yasss. Give this to me now.