The Sweetest Thing You Can Sing by C.K. Kelly Martin
Publication date: September 1st 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Losing weight over the summer gains Serena some popularity, but it also means discovering first-hand the pains of being a fifteen-year-old girl in a world that both sexualizes and shames young women. After narrowly avoiding exploitation in a shortlived relationship, Serena aligns with a new friend who was the victim of an explicit image that was shared at school. When Serena finds herself in a relationship with a new guy, she is surprised to find a different set of expectations. But have her previous experiences damaged her too much to make it work? As Serena struggles to find who she is as opposed to who she is expected to be, she begins sighting Devin – her older brother who disappeared months earlier.
C.K. KELLY MARTIN’s bestselling debut novel, I Know It’s Over, was published in 2008. It was followed by One Lonely Degree, The Lighter Side of Life and Death, My Beating Teenage Heart and the sci-fi thriller, Yesterday. A graduate of the Film Studies program at York University, Martin loves good books, movies, music, web design, and Ireland. She currently resides in Oakville, Ontario.
The Importance of Book Covers
Apparently that old adage about not judging a book by its cover goes back to at least 1867 and while I’m sure most of us would agree with it, and realize a compelling novel can sometimes be found lurking under the drabbest of covers, it’s difficult not to be momentarily awed by an attractive cover.
Obviously every writer wants a cover they can fall in love with. The trouble is that what an author might love, might not be the same cover the publisher’s sales and marketing departments or Barnes & Nobel rep prefers. The truth is, an author doesn’t always have a lot of choice in what appears on their book’s cover. Sometimes their publisher doesn’t even have much of a choice. For several of my young adult novels, I was told by my publisher that Barnes & Noble wanted a girl on the cover as a condition of their stocking the book.
Now, of course there’s nothing wrong with having a girl on the cover of your book and Barnes & Noble must have found these sorts of covers sell copies. But having any single image as a default for a YA book doesn’t make sense to me when there are so many different arresting images and designs to consider. In practice, what this girl on the cover (and usually not a large variety of girls – mostly pretty white girls in attractive poses, which makes you wonder where the heck everyone else is!) preference has led to is a flood of novels that are fairly indistinguishable from each other visually. We could aptly call them ‘the pretty girl covers.’
But a good cover isn’t just appealing to look at; it should also faithfully represent the distinctness of the story inside. For example, for a novel which is a nuanced exploration of a teenage meth addict’s emotional state, Beneath a Meth Moon (by Jaqueline Woodson) is a stunning cover. On the other hand, the hardback cover of Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver (the middle book in a series I absolutely loved by the way!) is pretty, but bland. It doesn’t reveal anything about the fascinating dystopian story within its pages. If I hadn’t already known something about the book, the cover certainly wouldn’t have made me pull the book off the shelf.
It’s a tall order, isn’t it? That a book cover should ideally look intriguing, appealing AND be a genuine reflection of the novel it represents. But as an author that’s what I’m always hoping for. The last thing a book cover should do is misrepresent itself and look like a frothy romance when it’s really a hard-hitting book about mental illness, for example.
It doesn’t escape me that the cover for my new young adult book, The Sweetest Thing You Can Sing, features one of the things I’m complaining about here—a girl on the cover—but I’m definitely not saying there shouldn’t be any girls on book covers; I’m arguing against being generic, like many of the covers in this photo I snapped of a collection of books on a Coles table back in 2011.
This is a trend that’s had a fair amount of criticism over the last few years and as a result I hope it’s one that has finally begun to fade and give way to more distinct covers. Taste is incredibly subjective and opinions about individual covers will always vary
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