I received an ARC of Boys, Girls, and Other Hazardous Materials a few days ago in the mail. I’m excited to read it, partly because I need a break from my recent diet of rather depressing dytopias, and partly because it’s written by Rosalind Wiseman, who also wrote Queen Bees and Wannabes, a nonfiction volume for parents of teenage girls that was evidently the inspiration for the movie Mean Girls (a movie enjoyed by both males and females in my high school – some males saw it about a dozen times in the movie theater, I kid you not).
When publishers choose a cover, they’re making a strong argument about who they believe will be – and should be – interested in the book. The first cover appears to be more gender-neutral, while it seems to me that the second appeals to a more female audience. I don’t know much about the book aside from the title, which I think could appeal to both genders pretty easily, but it looks like the publishers have opted for a girl-centric readership. (The protagonist of the book is also a girl, but the subject of “Do boys read books narrated by girls and vice-versa” is the subject for a whole other, much longer, post.)
I am almost universally opposed to having real photographs (or depictions that look as if they could be real photographs) of actual people on the covers of books. It prevents me from forming my own mental image of the person, which is a large part of my reading enjoyment. (This one isn’t that bad because their faces aren’t showing.) Also, as the cover controversy for Justine Larbalestier’s Liar has shown, the models for so many of these covers all look alike. I understand that publishers want to sell books above all, so if they find something that works, it makes financial sense for them to stick with it. I still lament the fact that truly creative and attention-grabbing covers on YA novels aren’t as ubiquitous as they should be.
What do you think about these covers? Do you have a preference? After I read the book, I’ll have a better idea, but teens grabbing a book from the library shelf aren’t going to have that knowledge going into it either. Honestly, I’m not crazy about either cover – the first isn’t as interesting as it tries to be, and the second is just too much like so many other YA covers.