So I walk into Chapters this afternoon, killing time while my mom buys underwear or hijacks cars or whatever moms do at the mall. I make a beeline to the Teen section, where I am confronted by a table with a sign promoting the Teen Read Awards. Hey, I’m a teen. I read. So I examine further, and am profoundly disappointed.
Look, I’m not against girls reading, and so I’m not against fiction marketed toward girls. I understand that Twilight's undeserved success is largely to blame for the trend of supernatural romance, and that the genre itself can and often does contain wonderful stories—I enjoyed Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments trilogy, even with the piles of angst crammed into it like stuffing into an overcooked holiday roast.
But I was looking at a table of what appeared to be the exact same book over and over again.
(Ms. Oliver’s novel leaves the pronoun ‘I’ uncapitalised. On the cover. That is the opposite of how you get me to buy it.)
If I see one more novel cover composed of most of a girl’s face—and that face, of course, looking pouty and vulnerable—I’m going to punch someone.
I know, I know. Judging a book by its cover—not the thing to do. Scott Westerfeld’s brilliant Uglies series (if you haven’t yet, dear reader, I encourage you to read it) has a similar set of covers. John Green’s Paper Towns has a similar cover, though it doesn’t imply any sort of supernatural element, because there isn’t any.
The problem—to me, at least—is not that books have these covers, but that all the books have these covers. I wander up and down the aisles—I was the only male I saw in the teen section that day—and a good third of the books have covers similar to the ones posted above. There’s also the generic “this is about socialite girls and someone’s going to say ‘besties’ before chapter three” cover:
The synopses on the back are no better. The main heroine, in an attempt to create a flawed, realistic hero, will be labelled ‘shy’, and often painfully so. There will be a boy—if it’s a fantasy book, he’s mysterious. No debate. Never will a male love interest be open and upfront about himself, like in—oh, I don’t know—a healthy relationship.
I haven’t read these books. It’s likely that some of them are well written and have decent plots. But as long as they’re all advertised like this—all the exact same—I’m going to assume they’re the exact same, and not waste my time.
I want a cover that defies trend. I want a cover that stands out. I want a cover that makes me want to read the synopsis, and I want a synopsis that makes me want to read the story within.
Too much to ask?