Judging Books By Their Covers: 10 Deceptive Covers

I try not to judge books by their covers, but I do more than I probably should.  Thankfully now that I’m blogging and active on Twitter and Goodreads, I’m reading far more reviews than I ever have before which has helped me look past covers.  When it comes to covers, I’ve found that I’m much more judgmental about them when I’m thinking about my students and what will draw their attention.  For these reasons I really like this Top 1o Tuesday prompt because it’s giving me a chance to narrow down the most deceptive covers.  When I put this list together, I thought about books that I was hesitant to read because of the cover, books that I wish were better suited for their audience, and books that give the wrong impression about the topic.

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Goodreads): I’m a HUGE fan of this trilogy, but when I first heard about The Hunger Games at the MCTE (Michigan Council of Teachers of English) conference I was hesitant to jump on the bandwagon.  My friend and I stopped at a book store after the conference to check out some books and I passed up The Hunger Games because the cover looked boring.  Thankfully I looked past my judgment and read it.  I appreciate the cover now 🙂

Tris & Izzie by Mette Ivie Harrison (Goodreads): This cover is gorgeous!  And it ends there.  I saw this cover and thought it was going to be a romantic, gushy book.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Besides the fact that this is one of the worst books I’ve ever read, the cover and the plot don’t mesh AT ALL.

Tempest by Julie Cross (Goodreads): There are two issues I have with this cover.  The first one is that I thought this was a book about fallen angels or something when I first looked at the cover.  The characters are in the sky, one is falling, the other is reaching, it screams paranormal love story to me.  I never would have guessed it’s about time travel.  I definitely wouldn’t have guessed that a guy is narrating the story.  That’s my second issue.  I can’t stand it when perfectly good books with guy appeal are given girly covers.

I Know It’s Over by C.K. Kelly Martin (Goodreads): Both the hardcover and the paperback cover for this book are deceptive.  It’s obvious judging by both covers that Martin’s novel deals with a relationship.  I’m not sure who the audience is though.  Both covers are more appealing to girls than guys, but our narrator has an incredibly authentic male voice.  I really think guys would enjoy and relate to this book, but I don’t see any of my boys in class borrowing my copy.  I talked it up all over the place to grab the guys’ interest, but only the girls are borrowing it.

I Know It's Over Paperback Hardcover I Know It's Over

Cryer’s Cross by Lisa McMann (Goodreads):  Cryer’s Cross is a really cool book full of creepiness.  The original cover fits the mood perfectly with the desk and the creepy handwriting.  I am not thrilled with the paperback cover at all.  Romance is not a big focus in Cryer’s Cross, but this cover gives the impression that it is.  The mystery involved in the story isn’t represented in this cover either.

Hardcover Cryer's Cross Cryer's Cross Paperback

Breathing Underwater by Alex Flinn (Goodreads): I love this book, and I love teaching it in my Y.A. Lit class.  One of the main reasons I’m such a big fan is because it’s almost always a winner for my reluctant male readers.  Admittedly, many of my students tell me that they would never pick this one up based on the original cover, but once we start reading it they really appreciate the cover.  When the paperback was released I showed my students to get their opinions.  For the most part they don’t care for it.  Their reasons match my own.  This cover says nothing about the book and the abuse that goes on.  The models don’t exactly look like they’re in love, but Nick’s anger isn’t represented.

Breathing Underwater Original Cover Paperback Breathing Underwater

The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler (Goodreads): Something about this cover leaves me with the impression that it’s girly and upbeat.  Maybe it’s the pink.  Maybe it’s the hip jutted out to the side.  The problem with this is that this is not an upbeat book.  Virginia is battling some heavy issues (no pun intended).  She has very low self-esteem, her brother has been accused of something horrible, and her family is falling apart.  It’s a good book, but the cover needs to look more serious to fit the tone of the book.

Tell Me a Secret by Holly Cupula (Goodreads): Tell Me a Secret is an unputdownable book.  It deals with serious issues and broke my heart at the same time that it left me feeling hopeful.  I think the cover gives the impression that it’s a serious book, but it looks like it’s about a romantic relationship.  There really isn’t any romance to speak of.  Tell Me a Secret deals with Miranda’s sister’s death, Miranda’s pregnancy, and problems with Miranda and her parents.

But I Love Him by Amanda Grace (Goodreads): But I Love Him is another unputdownable book.  The cover, while being dark, doesn’t strike me as serious as the topic is.  The sea glass heart looks a little too friendly to represent a book about a broken and abusive relationship, but this heart is on the cover because of the symbol it represents within the story.

When You Were Mine by Rebecca Serle (Goodreads): I haven’t finished reading When You Were Mine yet, but I’ve read enough to wish that the cover was different.  It’s a different spin on Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, so we know it’s a love story and we get that impression from the cover.  I’m just not a fan of covers like this because it doesn’t give us any other information about the book.  It looks like any other love story out there, but based on the premise of this book it should have a cover with more personality or more of a story.

Love or Hate the Holiday: Valentine’s Day Reads That Might Break Your Heart

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday post is all about being anti-Valentine’s Day and reading books that might break your a heart a little.  To be honest, I’ve always been a romantic at heart, so this was a hard list to compile.  I love stories about love, but I also love stories that make me cry (Is that weird?).  Whether you’re not feeling the love today, or maybe you just want to read a book that will tug at your heart strings, I recommend reading one or all of the following.

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish.

Dreamland by Sarah Dessen (Goodreads)–Caitlin is experiencing what she believes is true love until Rogerson starts abusing her.  Her story is one of heartbreak, isolation, and much more.  By the end of this book I was hiccuping with tears.

Where She Went by Gayle Forman (Goodreads)–First of all, if you haven’t read If I Stay, don’t read Where She Went until you do.  Adam’s story tore me apart.  I’ve said this before, and I’ll continue to say this, Gayle Forman is a genius for writing this book from Adam’s point of view.  He’s so lovesick and torn up, that you can’t help but feel every ounce of his pain and love.  Love it, love it, love it.  I cried for more than one reason while reading Where She Went.

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson (Goodreads)–Lennie is grieving over her sister’s death, and in the midst of this she gets involved in a complicated love triangle.  Part of this love triangle involves her dead sister’s boyfriend.  Jandy Nelson’s writing is lyrical and poignant.  Lennie is a poet who writes her poetry on different objects like tree branches and discarded paper cups.  The Sky is Everywhere is heartbreaking and hopeful.

The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks (Goodreads)–Don’t judge me.  I know not everyone likes Nicholas Sparks because so many of his books follow the same storyline, but seriously.  I read The Notebook when I was in college and stayed up all night reading it and sobbing simultaneously.  Like I said, I’m a romantic.  I will say that I hated the movie; they completely butchered it.

I Know It’s Over by C.K. Kelly Martin (Goodreads)–Talk about heartbreak!  Nick is completely broken up over his break up with Sasha, and to make matters worse, he finds out weeks later that Sasha’s pregnant.  He can’t get over Sasha, and he doesn’t know how he feels about Sasha’s decision about her pregnancy.  Nick’s voice is incredibly authentic.  I’d be surprised if someone read this and didn’t feel Nick’s heartbreak.

But I Love Him by Amanda Grace (Goodreads)–This book has made it to a couple of my lists, and it’s because it’s so excellent.  This is another book about abusive teen relationships, but it’s written in such a manner that it was hard for me to pinpoint when I would have left Connor.  Ann is an excellent student and an all-around good girl.  She falls hard for Connor, but unfortunately their love isn’t perfect and right like Ann wants it to be.  The story switches between present day, which is a year into their relationship.  Ann is in a dark room and badly hurt.  Then we flash back a few days and get a chance to see what’s been going on with Connor and Ann.  This back and forth gives readers a clearer picture of their roller coaster relationship.

Other Words for Love by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal (Goodreads)–This book.  This book hit so many emotions.  I positively adore it!  It’s the perfect story about first love and all the heartbreak that comes with it.  I read it close to non-stop and recommend it whenever I have the opportunity.

The First Part Last by Angela Johnson (Goodreads)–I love Bobby and Nia’s story.  They’re so in love, but that love is tried when a baby enters the picture.  I can’t say too much because I don’t want to give the story away, but this one is sure to break your heart.  Bobby is a wonderful narrator that I couldn’t help but connect with.

If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson (Goodreads)–Jacqueline Woodson is a beautiful writer, and she’s written a beautiful story about Jeremiah and Ellie.  Ellie and Miah fall in love, but they keep it a secret in fear that their family and friends won’t understand or approve of their relationship.  The ups and downs of their relationship might tug at your emotions, but the ending is guaranteed to.

Running Loose by Chris Crutcher (Goodreads)–I wasn’t expecting the love story that’s tied into Running Loose, but I really enjoyed it.  It’s another example of first love, but it’s heartbreaking.  If you read Running Loose, make sure to read Deadline which is a loose companion where you can see Louie as an adult coach.

Review: Don’t Breathe a Word by Holly Cupala

Holly Cupala Don’t Breathe a Word

320 pp.  HarperTeen (HarperCollins)  2012

Source: ARC received from the publisher

Release Date: January 3, 2012

Summary (From Goodreads): Joy Delamere is suffocating…

From asthma, which has nearly claimed her life. From her parents, who will do anything to keep that from happening. From delectably dangerous Asher, who is smothering her from the inside out.

Joy can take his words—tender words, cruel words—until the night they go too far.

Now, Joy will leave everything behind to find the one who has offered his help, a homeless boy called Creed. She will become someone else. She will learn to survive. She will breathe…if only she can get to Creed before it’s too late.

Set against the gritty backdrop of Seattle’s streets and a cast of characters with secrets of their own, Holly Cupala’s powerful new novel explores the subtleties of abuse, the meaning of love, and how far a girl will go to discover her own strength.

Don’t Breathe a Word starts off strong with an attention grabbing scene.  Joy is in the process of staging her kidnapping because she needs to get away in order to save her family, but we don’t know why she feels compelled to do this.  We don’t know why she needs to save her family.  This had me hooked and needing to read more.

Joy’s story is one that isn’t told very often in young adult literature.  She’s in a relationship with Asher, which we discover isn’t a healthy one.  Holly Cupala does an excellent job of slowly revealing the truth behind Joy’s scars and suffering.  Most YA novels about abusive relationships deal with physical abuse, so I appreciate that Holly Cupala focuses more on emotional abuse because I know it’s unfortunately a common occurrence.  Don’t Breathe a Word has the potential to help teens realize that emotional abuse exists, and like physical abuse, it shouldn’t be ignored.

As much as I enjoyed Don’t Breathe a Word, I’m also a little torn.  Joy runs away from home to live on the streets of Seattle.  While doing this, she meets a group of teen runaways that take her in.  These characters are well-developed and believable.  My issue is that I felt more connected to these characters than I did to Joy.  Part of this is because Joy purposely keeps her past hidden because she doesn’t want any of the runaways to take her less seriously.  I can appreciate this about Joy, but I would have felt more connected to her, which I very much wanted to experience, if she would have opened up sooner.  It became distracting from the story because I found myself thinking more about these characters as opposed to Joy.  I wasn’t as impressed with the ending, which makes me wonder if the reason for this is because I wasn’t as invested in Joy’s character.

Despite some misgivings I have with Holly Cupala’s second novel, I wanted to keep reading and enjoyed Don’t Breathe a Word.  It’s a compelling story, but it’s compelling for reasons I didn’t expect upon reading it.  The writing is superb, but I craved a stronger connection with Joy.

Book Trailer Thursday (40)–But I Love Him by Amanda Grace

I read But I Love Him over the summer and completely loved it.  It’s been a really popular title in my classroom; I’m actually thinking of buying a second copy.  The trailer is simple, but I think it’s effective.  I highly recommend reading Amanda Grace’s book and I hope you enjoy the trailer (my review).

Summary of But I Love Him(From Goodreads):

Tonight was so much worse than anything before it. Tonight he didn’t stop after the first slap.

At the beginning of senior year, Ann was a smiling, straight-A student and track star with friends and a future. Then she met a haunted young man named Connor. Only she can heal his emotional scars; only he could make her feel so loved — and needed. Ann can’t recall the pivotal moment it all changed, when she surrendered everything to be with him, but by graduation, her life has become a dangerous high wire act. Just one mistake could trigger Connor’s rage, a senseless storm of cruel words and violence damaging everything — and everyone — in its path.

This evocative slideshow of flashbacks reveals a heartbreaking story of love gone terribly wrong.


Split by Swati Avasthi

Swati Avasthi Split

280 pp.  Knopf (Random House)  2010  ISBN: 978-0-375-86340-0

Interest: Recommended by friend; Cybils Award 2010

Source: Purchased

Summary (From Goodreads): Sixteen-Year-Old Jace Witherspoon arrives at the doorstep of his estranged brother Christian with a re-landscaped face (courtesy of his father’s fist), $3.84, and a secret.

He tries to move on, going for new friends, a new school, and a new job, but all his changes can’t make him forget what he left behind—his mother, who is still trapped with his dad, and his ex-girlfriend, who is keeping his secret.

At least so far.

Worst of all, Jace realizes that if he really wants to move forward, he may first have to do what scares him most: He may have to go back. First-time novelist Swati Avasthi has created a riveting and remarkably nuanced portrait of what happens after. After you’ve said enough, after you’ve run, after you’ve made the split—how do you begin to live again? Readers won’t be able to put this intense page-turner down.

I need to say this first: If you’re like me and you’ve had Split sitting in your TBR pile for a while now, or you’ve been meaning to buy it and haven’t, do yourself a favor and read it now.  This book is powerful.  I didn’t really follow the 2010 Cybils awards that closely because I didn’t know much about it (I’ve since corrected that!).  I found out this summer that Split won the fiction award, which piqued my interest that much more.  I really wish I would have read this sooner.

Swati Avasthi has written a really eye-opening novel.  I think many of us have an idea of what an abusive household is like, but reading about it from Jace’s perspective is a completely different experience.  The book begins with him driving from Chicago to his brother Christian’s place in New Mexico.  Jace is really beat up and nervous about going to his brother’s because his brother left years ago.  From the way Jace describes himself, it’s obvious that he suffered a major beating.  Besides this, Christian’s question at the end of chapter one gives us a very clear picture of how abusive their father is: “Did he kill her?”  I can’t imagine that being part of my conversation with my brother, but fortunately I didn’t grow up in a household like that.  Through Jace’s eyes, we know how he feels and how he’s trying to cope with the violence.  His relationship with Christian is strained, especially because Jace feels so different from him.  Christian always has the appearance of being calm and composed when Jace is struggling with the urge for violent outbursts.  Nothing about Jace, or this story, is simple, which is part of why I loved it so much.

Split is written so well that I experienced a variety of emotions while reading.  Many times while Jace was recounting memories of his father beating Christian and/or his mother, I was completely horrified.  And I wasn’t feeling this way just because of the details.  I was horrified by how matter of fact Jace was when he remembered it.  This way of living has made him numb and it broke my heart.  When he was finally making some progress and getting his feet on the ground, I couldn’t help but cheer for him.  Jace is haunted by a secret for most of the book, and even though I had a pretty good idea of what his secret was, when he finally opened up about it I was stunned/upset.  But the roller coaster of emotions doesn’t stop there.  Yes, I was shocked, but Avasthi has us learn this at a pivotal point in the novel.  By this time, I’m so concerned about Jace, I can overlook that.  I simply want him to heal and become the person he wants to be.  Let me tell you, Swati Avasthi knows what she’s doing.

As a teacher, sometimes it’s obvious when a student is being abused and I know I need to take action.  Unfortunately, some abusers know how to hide what they’re doing.  I hope that by having this book in my classroom, I’ll be able to help those students open up and find the help they need.  I also hope it will help those students who are suffering with becoming abusers themselves.  This is an excellent novel that deserves more attention.  I hope I was able to do it enough justice in my review, even though I’ve been struggling with how to accurately describe how wonderful it is.

But I Love Him by Amanda Grace

Amanda Grace But I Love Him

245 pp.  Flux  2011  ISBN: 978-0-7387-2594-9

Source: Goodreads First Reads Winner

Summary (From Goodreads):

Tonight was so much worse than anything before it. Tonight he didn’t stop after the first slap.

At the beginning of senior year, Ann was a smiling, straight-A student and track star with friends and a future. Then she met a haunted young man named Connor. Only she can heal his emotional scars; only he could make her feel so loved — and needed. Ann can’t recall the pivotal moment it all changed, when she surrendered everything to be with him, but by graduation, her life has become a dangerous high wire act. Just one mistake could trigger Connor’s rage, a senseless storm of cruel words and violence damaging everything — and everyone — in its path.

This evocative slideshow of flashbacks reveals a heartbreaking story of love gone terribly wrong.

This book has left me with conflicting emotions, and I mean that in the best way possible.  It left me heartbroken, angry, empathetic, and more.  Usually when I read a novel about an abusive relationship told from the girl’s perspective, I feel horrible for her and want to help her.  I felt that way when I was reading Ann’s story, but I also felt all of those other emotions.  Let me break it down…

Amanda Grace tells Ann’s story in reverse chronological order.  We start the book a year into Ann’s relationship with Connor and something horrible has happened to Ann.  From there, we start moving backwards sometimes by days and sometimes by weeks.  We also move back to where we started, in the present, when Ann starts unraveling what just happened to her.  Telling the story in this way made it easier for me, as a person who has never been in an abusive relationship, to see how difficult it is for Ann to leave Connor.  There would be a day that seemed wonderful for the two of them, and then we’d move back a couple days and see a moment between them that’s absolutely frightening or unnerving.  Their relationship is a roller coaster of emotions, and a dangerous one at that.  Ann’s isolated and feels like she doesn’t have anyone to help her.  As a reader, I felt so helpless.  I wanted to reach out to her and be there for her.

We also get to know Connor a little better than we do in other books like But I Love Him.  I’m usually despising and hating the abuser to the extreme.  That wasn’t the case with Connor.  At times I felt like Ann and wanted to help him and be there for him.  He’s truly haunted and broken, and it breaks my heart to think that there may not be a chance for him.  I can’t condone how he treats Ann, I want that understood, but Amanda Grace did an excellent job of truly fleshing out these two characters.  Maybe it’s because I’m a teacher and I want the best for everyone, but I still felt sympathetic for Connor because of his situation.  He doesn’t have the important family support he needs to make himself better.

I wish we could know more about Ann in the present.  I felt a sense of closure at the end of the book, but probably because I was so invested in her and Connor, I’m left wanting more information.  I’d like to know more about Ann’s mother and her friends.  I’d love to read a second book to see how Ann’s doing, or maybe even one from Connor’s point of view.  Regardless, this is an excellent novel that opens up many discussion options.

My students read Breathing Underwater by Alex Flinn in my Young Adult Literature class, and I think But I Love Him would compliment that book very well.  I’d love to have my students read both books and discuss their feelings and thoughts about the characters and points of view in both novels.  This is a book I loved and can’t wait to share with my students.

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