Picture drawn by Maggie Stiefvater, 2009. Header made by S.F. Robertson, 2010.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A Little Rant

(This is an expansion to the rants/conversations I had with a couple people on Twitter earlier today.)

So I was on Twitter earlier today and saw a link to something about why boys don't read. I expected a thoughtful article about the reasons why boys aren't reading- it's always a fascinating topic to me. Instead I got this- a whine about the book cover for The Forest of Hands and Teeth and how it doesn't appeal to both genders.

I don't understand this. Just because there's a girl on the cover means that it's not going to appeal to both genders? I can understand if the book is maybe something like 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson, which has a girly, pastel-y cover. But this is The Forest of Hands and Teeth:

To me, this cover is perfect for the book. Yes, it features a girl on the cover (since the book is from a girl's POV), but the tone of the cover is what makes this different from something like 13 Little Blue Envelopes. The tone is darker and more serious, and is fairly neutral color-wise, thus not favoring either gender. It embodies the post-apocolyptic world that Mary lives in. Even the title treatment is neutral- simple red and white as well as a straight-forward font. No curlicues or fancy treatment.

If the author of this blog entry is so secure in his masculinity, then why didn't he buy the book? I would think that a guy who's secure in his masculinity wouldn't care what other people thought about him for buying this sort of book. Especially one that's hardly all that girly.

Another problem I have is his proposition that the paperback cover have a shambling zombie on it. Um, how about no? I've read the book and it's about much more than zombies. Yes, zombies figure heavily into the storyline, but it's really more about Mary's search for answers and uncovering all these secrets and truths hidden from her all her life, as well as dealing with first love and, as cliche as it sounds, finding herself in the process. Compared to all that, the zombies are pretty much a minor plotline. And, in a way, they are, in the sense that they're already present when the book starts so no idea how they first appeared, and at the end of the novel, they're not "cured" or anything. They're still around. Yes, Mary and her friends have to escape from them, but a lot of the plot doesn't revolve around the zombies.

I feel that if the paperback featured a shambling zombie, it would debase and cheapen what the book is really about and make it into some sort of cliche zombie book (at least percieved by potential buyers). For me, I feel like it would put the wrong emphasis on the book- making it about zombies and not Mary.

Alright, I think I've rambled enough. I think I covered everything I wanted to. Any thoughts?

In better news, I finished The Awakening by Kelley Armstrong today! Expect a review to pop up this weekend here! :) Also, I now have 100 followers! Thanks so much to Eleni the Bookaholic for being the 100th! :)


  1. Do the zombies in the book even shamble around and have intestines everywhere?

  2. I agree. As a teacher, I think there are a lot of myths about "boy books." My HS students read Beautiful Creatures because of the storyline. None of them comments on the purple cover. Maybe they are just very secure in their masculinity. xx

  3. Khy- Now that I think about it, no. From what I remember, the zombies seemed pretty together, lol.

    Kami- Exactly. Give boys more credit- they may not even care about the cover. Besides, it's a hardcover- you can take the dust jacket off if you're so offended by the cover. What really matters is on the inside of the book.

  4. Ugh that post makes my skin crawl. So tempted to leave him a snarky comment. *sits on hands*

  5. Interesting. Sometimes when I hear things like "boys will only read it if it has blood/guts/cars/explosions in it," I think: well, maybe some boys, but surely not all boys?! Boys' tastes are no more in universal lockstep than girls' tastes (for example, we gals don't all adore shoe shopping!)
    Readers are individuals.

    But your post did give me a tangential idea: I would love to see readers' ideas of covers they would have chosen for books.

  6. First, I did buy the book.

    Second, I spent 10 years teaching high school English, and during a lot of that time, I worked with 14-year-old reluctant readers. I took groups of teens to bookstores and observed what they bought and what they wanted to read. Perhaps the boys I worked with were particularly unenlightened, but they never would have picked this up in a bookstore.

    Third: I stand by my assertion. The cover sucks. There's nothing there to indicate that anything even remotely interesting is going on in the book. I know this from conversations I've had with publishers about my own books: they put a big picture of a girl on the cover because that's who they want to buy the book. Here's a book that boys would probably enjoy reading, and they make it look like a romance novel, or one of those "girl who's nonthreateningly ethnic comes of age and gets sexually assaulted" books that come out every two weeks or so.

    Fourth: I detect an anti-genre fiction bias in your post. The presence of zombies on the cover would only demean the book if horror novels are inherently inferior to novels about girls staring contemplatively into middle space. I disagree with that assertion.

    Fifth: Go ahead and leave me a snarky comment. I can take it!

  7. That's really stereotyping, saying boys don't read. The writer of this proves that wrong.

    I have a fifteen year old friend who has read all the Twilight books, and loves them.

    Oh, yeah, he's a boy.

    Just now, I asked another friend of mine who's twenty, and a guy if he'd read The Forest of Hands and Teeth, judging by cover alone.

    His response, "No, looks like a long, drawn out piece of trash that uses overanimated characters that dont really do anything. A lot of words but no story." and added, "I would read the blurb first of course, I dont judge just by front cover."

    My other friend, the fifteen year old boy, said, "Yes, I would get it" and "The names is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. It seems interesting." and, when asked about the picture, "She seems as though she was in trouble, thinking about something, or doing a shit, which are all cool topics." Normally I don't swear, but that is a direct quote. :P

    Besides that, there are thousands of books out there, you can't blame one book for boys not reading.

    Interesting note: I asked my friend if he'd read The Lightning Theif by cover alone, which is a book marketed for boys, would you agree? His answer: "I'd give it a look but it looks like it is trying too hard, and one of those old books that use long drawn out introductions, explanations and definitions, which result in a depreciated dialogue and story line."

    Fifteen year old friend of mine: "THAT one more than the other one." and "The cover is interesting." and "He has a sword that is yellow, and looks as though he drags the lightning though the water with it, leading me to think it is a fictional book (my fav) and He is heading towards a big city, that makes me think he is on a mission to do something.... I cannot see what is in his left hand though."

    So I guess our lesson here is don't judge things by their covers, boys and books alike.

  8. I remember reading that S.E. Hinton published under initials bc she was afraid that guys wouldn't read her books if they saw they were written by a woman. Sad, but I can see that.

  9. Wow... is he ever a horse's ass!

    Obviously, he is a prejudiced reader & a guy who's secure in his masculinity wouldn't give a flying twinkie what other people thought about him. So, if buying certain books keeps him away from incredible fiction... he is not a reader or a writer...he's an ignorant JERK!

  10. I know what you mean, Book Chic! As a fellow guy book blogger, I am so irritated with people in the publication industry stating that "boys don't read, because of this or that" or better yet, "this book is geared towards girl, because it has a girl on the front." I believe it's some of the problems boys are afraid to read certain books, because society says they can't! "Oh, boys, you may look feminine." Great blog and I hope to read more of your blog postings!

  11. I think it is stupid to judge a book by its cover because you never know you might even like it even if the cover is girlie/boyish.

  12. Laina, your friends sounds like a pretentious snot. I mean, really, who looks at a cover and says:

    "one of those old books that use long drawn out introductions, explanations and definitions, which result in a depreciated dialogue and story line."

    It's laughable.

    Brenda is flat wrong. Boys fall all over themselves to read the Uglies books, which have a VERY similar feel to the Forest of Hands and teeth cover (close upon a girl's face, with vegetation).

  13. Alie Pixie- Yes, I agree. I am a guy who loves the Uglies series. Who cares if there is a girl on the cover? This truly comes to show that this little quote, shouldn't be understated: "don't judge a book by it's cover."

    P.S. Also, isn't Twilight supposed to be a book guys don't usually read? I am a huge fan of the series and I own my own Twilight fan blog. People need to quit stereotyping books. It's really immature.

    Dazzling Leeches
    at dazzlingleeches.blogspot.com .

  14. Ali Pixie: HE did because I asked him if he'd read it based ONLY on the cover. If you'd actually read what I wrote, he goes on to say that he doesn't judge books by their covers. Why don't you try not being a pretentious snot and don't judge people you don't even know?

  15. Unfortunately, I agree with everyone AND no one ... books AND people are read by their covers. Period!
    It seems that we are all guilty of prejudging, at one time or other, be we males or females, and our lives are less rich because of it.

    I, being a lady of sorts, wouldn't be induced to reading this book BECAUSE of the cover (it gets lost among similar-looking works and would not hold my interest) but now, I am intrigued, for these comments that are filled with passion have lit a fire ...