Double Suspense

Okay, so I heard that this cover (Liar by Justine Larbalestier – Bloomsbury 10/2009) was controversial – but I haven’t heard why. I’m perplexed. Can’t figure it out for myself :-(
I like it. It’s quite striking. And I’m reading blog posts about it that have me dying to get my hands on a copy (beg readers not to give anything away, and boy does that whet the appetite).
Help me! If you know anything about the cover controversy, please post your info in the comments. Do respect the author’s plea – no spoilers.

Picture 1 copy

There’s a hint of the cover controversy here… Is that the gist of it?

Liar: Compulsive liar Micah promises to tell the truth after revealing that her boyfriend has been murdered. Age 14+. Reviews 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

23 Responses to “Double Suspense”

  1. Yep. Micah is described as being a character of mixed race who has very short hair and can easily pass as a boy. So basically, nothing like the cover girl at all. I also think the cover misrepresents the feel of the book – this cover looks kind of light and fun, and the book is pretty intense. It sure is eye-catching, though.

    • Hmmm… I wouldn’t say it looks light and fun… the way the face is presented, it doesn’t look innocent to me… But it definitely sounds like you’ve got to read the book to really understand the controversy!
      Thanks for commenting.

      • …does she look biracial to you??
        Maybe the word “controversy” is wrong; it’s just that there are begging and pleas from multicultural writers to have more of varied kinds of kids represented, and Larbalestier consistently writes multiracial characters, respecting the tradition of her own country in terms of its Native population — and they’re rarely reflected on the covers.

        I think it’s just a question of people asking, finally aloud, “WHY!?”

  2. Yeah, the girl on the cover is clearly white and definitely not Micah, who, as others have noted, is described within the first few pages as mixed race (half-black, half-white) with very short hair cropped close to her head. I think this is a huge cover FAIL, and wonder how/why it was even proposed as a cover. It’s an intense cover, for sure, but it just doesn’t fit the book….Unless Micah was lying about how she looks and who she is as well….

    • Sabrina Says:

      I’m black and if you black & white a photo of me i can pretty much pass for that girl so theres nothing “clear” about the race of the girl on this jacket at all. that aside i can see what it was proposed and chosen for the cover. she looks deceptive.

      • Sabrina Says:

        i can see WHY it was proposed and chosen for the cover.***
        [typos bother me greatly]

  3. I’m looking at the Bloomsbury catalog, whose cover is the cover of LIAR. I think the girl looks Asian, not white (not black/white, either). I assumed her eyes were meant to look “manga-style,” which is what says Asian to me, along with the straight dark hair.

  4. Do you guys know what this book is about? Its about a compulsive liar. Its about deception. Maybe the girl on the cover is the “real” Micah. maybe not. Maybe the cover is supposed to be deceiving (if so, then its working isn’t it?) Micah says shes black with cropped short hair but how can you be sure? She’s a LIAR. You can’t be sure at all now can you?
    I think every one should wait to read the book before calling this a “cover FAIL”
    personally, i can not wait to get my hands on a copy.

    • I’ve read it. And as soon as Micah described herself in the book I flipped back to the cover and did a “wha?” She is mixed race, but as she describes herself in the story, she is definitively NOT the person who is on the cover. So, it’s pretty much a cover “fail” if you ask me. Though, as I noted in my first comment, it’s possible the whole book is lie. That’s what Micah does.

      • It’s certainly possible that the whole book is a lie – but it really does seem more like a cover fail than anything else. That is, I have seen enough cover fails in my life to believe that the publishers made an honest effort to have the book cover match the story.

  5. The girl is not “clearly white”
    The girl on the cover of this book could very well be of mixed race. She could very well be black.
    The photos in black and white. Theres no skin color so how can you tell?
    I think what works best about this cover is the ambiguity. I think thats the point. Shes a liar. Who knows what she really looks like. Its all very intriguing.

  6. I can see how after reading the book, readers might be dissatisfied with the cover. I’m not personally bothered it only because Micah is a liar, I can totally accept that she might not be as boyish as she states she is. That she might be denying her femininity. She might also be wearing a wig, she might not… so I really don’t have a problem with the cover in this instance. Although I should mention that I much prefer the Australian cover that the author displayed on her blog.

    That said, i think there is an important discussion here about race and covers. It frequently happens that a character’s race is not represented on the cover (I’m thinking Chris Crutcher’s Whale Talk here).

    • I agree with you that if in the story you don’t know what to believe, you can’t get upset about what the person on the cover looks like…
      BUT… if the choices tip away from persons of color any time that it’s possible to do so… I GET the irritation. Those choices need to tip BOTH ways.

      • Oh definitely. I agree that there is valid irritation – this seems to be a conscious decision on the part of marketing departments not to put people of color on covers. It is shameful.

  7. I like the Australian cover much better. You can see it here:

  8. I like the US cover much better from an aesthetic point of view. Until I read the book, it won’t be possible to comment on its appropriateness. However, when I first saw it, racial issues did not pop into my mind at all, because I found myself questioning the humanity of the subject. She looks kind of inhuman or even alien and less deceptive than confined or silenced. That may be misleading as well if the book is more of a contemporary problem novel kind of thing. Whether those impressions are accurate will depend on my reading of the story, so the controversy goes on a back burner for now.

  9. On first glance I loved the cover of Liar, and wanted to read the book. When I found out the MC is suppose to be mixed race, I no longer thought the cover fit the book. I see from all the comments that Micah is a compulsive liar. Though I don’t think this trait excuses the cover. Maybe Micah on the cover is a deception but what we need more right now is color. The majority of YA cover faces are White protagonist. This one time publishers could’ve added a little color but they choose not to.

  10. I hadn’t heard about the controversy or the book, but I’m interested now after reading the plot summary. I think I’d be easily able to ignore the cover, but I agree that it would be nice if it reflected the way the main character was supposed to look.

  11. I don’t get the controversy. The character absolutely looks mixed race to me. Look at the flatness of her nose. Of course, I know many mixed race people, whose color and feature combinations span the gamut. Some, you’d never know had a white parent, and some you’d never know had a black parent. Of course, I’d have to read the book to see if I feel any of the criticisms have merit…but just by looking at the picuture, seems to me they actually got a bi-racial girl to be the model.

    • Or she could just be a white girl with a flat nose. Which might accurately represent the character.

      This controversy (and the synopsis I just read) makes me want to read this book. See how much controversy sells!!!

  12. As someone who has read the book, I can say that the cover is definitely not appropriate. Micah describes herself as having VERY short, nappy hair. Nothing like the cover model. And if the idea is, “Well, maybe she’s lying about her appearance” — sorry that’s way too out-there. There are no suggestions in the book that she has long, straight hair, or that she’s lying about it.

  13. The author herself does not like the cover of the book. This is another case of publishers showing their true colors. Honestly, if the main character of the book was a white girl, I highly, HIGHLY doubt they would have put a black girl with short nappy hair on the cover.

    And that is what this is about. This isn’t the first time that publishers, filmmakers or other media have changed the race of main characters to fit the ideal.

    This annoys me and I think it was a fail for the publishers to ignore the wishes of the author and go with this cover. BTW, this girl looks white to me, or the whitest possible looking mixed race girl I have ever seen in my life. There is nothing wrong with this, but seriously, this is not what the author had in mind.

    I am an author of color, and I fear the day my publisher comes to me with a whitewashed portrayal of my beloved characters.

    This is a shame.

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