Cover Stories: Paper Covers Rock

Publisher's Weekly named Jenny Hubbard's debut a Flying Start last spring, and summarized the novel thusly:

"Set in the early 1980s, Paper Covers Rock is structured as the journal of 16-year-old Alex No Middle Name Stromm, who is holding onto some secrets about the recent drowning death of one of his classmates."

The title and cover caught my attention, and here's Jenny to explain that gazing boy from Paper Covers Rock:

"I didn’t envision a cover while I was writing, but after I found out it was going to be published, I envisioned a black-and-white photograph of three boys in silhouette on a rock, their backs to the viewer.

"All I said [to my publisher] was, 'Please don’t put a face on my narrator.'

"The cover that is currently on the book is not the first one that was designed for the book. The first one caused me to burst into tears--truly. It was entirely wrong, both in mood and character depiction. What the reader would have seen was a free-spirited, smiling, skater-dude boy in mid-jump over water.

"When I explained why the first cover wasn’t right, they scrapped it immediately, and the designer went back to the drawing board. My editor asked me what I would like to see, and I gave her some ideas, none of which included a face on my narrator. One idea suggested by my agent I liked very much: a graphic design that hinted toward the journal aspect of the book. I liked that because it was, I guess, less literal.

"What the designer definitely got right the second time around was the mood of the book. The boy on the cover looks troubled. There’s a mystery in his face. And I like how the green (his innocence) is behind him. That’s fitting.

"They hired a model, as is often the case for the novels published by Delacorte Press (an imprint of Random House). I do not know this young man’s name, but he lives in or near NYC. He’s certainly more attractive than the Alex I’ve imagined. Of course, the boy on the cover isn’t even necessarily Alex, but I would imagine that most readers connect him to the protagonist on the inside pages.

"I didn’t notice, until later, that the boy’s tie is undone, as if he’s trying to get free of something that is strangling him. I really like that.

"I think the cover works. When I asked why they went with 'the face on the narrator,' my editor explained that they needed a cover to appeal to teenaged girls, as teenaged girls are the primary audience for young-adult fiction. Random House knows much more about how to sell a book than I do. I deferred to their experience and judgment. And, come to find out, the cover does indeed appeal to girls! It would be interesting to see, when the novel appears in paperback, a different cover--maybe something along the lines of what my agent suggested--to see what kind of reader might be drawn to it. I’ve had people, adults and teens alike, tell me that the current cover is off-putting because it seems to advertise a romance novel."

Thanks, Jenny! I actually like the cover a lot. It made me think of A Separate Peace by John Knowles, which is a good thing in my book.

What do you guys think?