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Book Covers and Bad Judgment

This isn't exactly old news, but it's been spiraling through the interworld for at least a week. I'm talking about the cover of Justine Larbalestier's newest YA novel, LIAR. See, the cover features a photo of a long-haired, white (possibly part Asian) teenage girl—but LIAR's narrator Micah is short-haired. And black.

What complicates the seemingly (and literally) black and white issue is that the novel's narrator is a compulsive liar; her unreliability is integral to the book. However, Justine herself says she worked hard to make the "fundamentals of who Micah is"--such as her looks—believable:

"One of the most upsetting impacts of the cover is that it’s led readers to question everything about Micah: If she doesn’t look anything like the girl on the cover maybe nothing she says is true. At which point the entire book, and all my hard work, crumbles."

Though authors famously have little say over their covers, this incident and its attitude-of-the-industry implications are undeniably distressing. The silver lining is that Justine's book has been getting tons of extra publicity—I know I'll be seeking it out.
So what's your reaction? Note: no book spoilers if you've read it, please.
Kirsten Hubbard

Kirsten is the author of Like Mandarin, Wanderlove, and the middle grade novel Watch the Sky.

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7 comments:

  1. I haven't read it. But I have to say, when there's a picture on the cover where the face is distinct, that's how I always picture the MC. I can't help it, that's just what my brain pictures.

    I feel like with a book titled 'Liar', there are so many awesome ways that cover could've been designed that don't involve people at all!

    I'm not very artistic, so I would be happy for someone else to design a cover for me (as I know will happen if I one day get published), but the idea that I could end up with a cover I completely hate and not be able to do anything is pretty upsetting.

    I hope the extra publicity does end up benefitting her!

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  2. I read about this...it's just sad, I feel terrible for the author.

    I must say, not knowing about the book itself, it's a really cool cover. But then learning that it's not an accurate representation of the MC...yikes.

    I agree with Kaitlin- I hope the extra publicity makes her sales skyrocket. I know I'll be looking for this one for sure.

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  3. 1. This is such a cool idea! (This website.) I just found you via Michelle on Janice Hardy's blog, and just thought this site is such a cool idea. :)

    2. That's awful for the author. I'd be devastated. But hopefully the publicity it generates for her book will pay her back - I think I had heard of it in passing, but now I'll definitely be looking it up to find out a bit more about it!

    Maybe if her book is published overseas she'll get a better cover. But I guess this one will always be the main one: and that just sucks.

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  4. Hey Ruth! Thanks for visiting! One of our bloggers here - Leila - is from NZ too! :)

    I forgot to mention earlier re: this topic...it's pretty cool that the controversy ties into the book that way - LIAR. The cover is a lie. At first I thought that was pretty sweet, then I read what the author said about all her hard work crumbling.

    Argh. I just feel awful for her.

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  5. this was the original cover when LIAR was published in Australia:
    http://justinelarbalestier.com/blog/2009/04/08/the-australian-cover-of-liar/

    And at this point, it's probably definite she'll get a paperback cover she's happy with (the controversial one is hardcover).

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  6. This one blows my mind. It's bad enough to misrepresent the character, but then to justify it with responses that play upon systematic racial issues is abhorrant. Shame, shame!

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  7. Good news--it's over!
    The new, final cover for 'Liar' is up! You can see it on the Photos section of The Ultimate YA Reading Group (http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=7300605683).

    -ChinLin Pan

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Item Reviewed: Book Covers and Bad Judgment Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Kirsten Hubbard