Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Bad cover of the week

I read Breathing Underwater by Alex Flinn years ago, swallowing the book in one go at the library one summer afternoon. The book surprised me for taking the side of the boyfriend in this boyfriend-hits-girlfriend story. It's a good book about violence and anger*, one that breaks out of the typical victim cliche and successfully conveys the inner turmoil the book's main character Nick is faced with. This was the cover I knew:

Shows the turmoil, right? A rather appropriate cover, if somewhat weird and also clearly more geared towards young men than women (and indeed, the content is also more guy-oriented that girl-oriented, what with the male narration and the male frame of mind repeatedly on display). It's a strong cover, one that stuck with me for many months after I'd finished reading Breathing Underwater, particularly the crudely drawn monster who shares a head with Nick.

And then I accidentally (unfortunately) came across this reissued cover:

If I knew nothing about this book, my guess would be teen romance. Heck, even knowing the story, my assumption is that this a book told from the girl's perspective (though this may be my own generalization... in my experience, when there's a girl on the cover, she's the centerpiece). Even the tagline is somewhat misleading: "He promised he wouldn't hurt her. Was his anger bigger than his word?" It again paints the picture that the focus is on the victim, the girlfriend.

This reissue highlights one of the most frustrating trends in young adult fiction today, and that's the constant need to make everything a teen romance. Because publishers see little purpose in marketing towards young men (who, according to various studies, read far less than young women...), they try to market books as effectively as possible to girls. I guess they must think romance sells. A book with such strong messages about violence and rage like Breathing Underwater gets a bland, romance-oriented makeover. With a pretty bad cover photo, no less.

* To be fair... in my 15-year old review I wrote that the book was "too short, with not enough information and feeling". I think this was during my classics phase, when I expected every book to be like War and Peace. Whoops...


  1. What?!!? What the heck was wrong with the old cover? I do not like this new cover at all!

  2. This would make a great weekly meme! Thank you for sharing these.

  3. The new cover definitely looks like it does this book a major disservice. How unfortunate!


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