Cover Stories + Win-It Wednesday: Boy21

This week's W-i-W is a Cover Story too! Matthew Quick is here to talk about the cover of his latest (and incredibly great) novel, and one commenter will win a copy! (US only on this one).

So in honor of a certain basketball tournament (in which my Tarheels are no longer competing, sigh), here's Matthew:

"The idea I pitched for the cover of Boy21 was a shot of Finley and Russ from the neck down. Finley would have been in his team uniform and holding a basketball. Russ would have been in his space costume and holding his makeshift astronaut helmet. I still think that would have been a good cover, but I have to admit that what the designer came up with was much much better. Maybe this is why I am a fiction writer and not a jacket designer!

"When I saw the design, I yelled, 'YES!' Alicia [his wife] came running into my office to see why I was yelling, looked at the image on my computer screen, and said, 'That's so much better than what you pitched them. That cover is amazing! Amazing!' It was a happy day.

"At one point they changed the photo of Russ, who is depicted on the cover. The photo they swapped in featured an older-looking teen who appeared harder and maybe even menacing. It didn't look like Russ at all. I immediately wrote an e-mail explaining why the original photo captured Russ perfectly. The teen on the cover now has an intensity--especially if you look into his eyes--but he also looks a little vulnerable and as if he would be a complex person. Russ is a very complex character, who is troubled, but is also wise and compassionate and intuitive. I believe there was a meeting regarding which photo to use and, happily, everyone at Little, Brown agreed.

[Take a closer look at his face, and those energetic illos, right.]

"I absolutely love this cover. It's perfect for the book. Basketball is mentioned in BOY21--the game provides the framework for the plot--but it's not a basketball book, per say. It's a book about friendship, mental health, and escaping the cycle of poverty; it's about two troubled teens meeting at precisely the right time and benefiting from simple things like conversation and stargazing. The doodles that cover Russ's face seem to represent all of the swirling thoughts that he has in his mind. (Finley has swirling conflicting thoughts too.) Also, both Russ and Finley are hiding behind coping devices--Finley's silence, Russ's obsession with outer space--and the doodles covering Russ's face are symbolic of that. I also appreciate that the cover is mysterious and hard to peg genre-wise. This isn't a book that's easily labeled."

Thanks, Matthew! I also asked Matthew about the fact that his cover features an African-American character from the book, Russ, which interested me especially because of the whitewashing controversies that have happened in the past with book covers. And he pointed me to this interview on Diversity in YA with his editor, Alvina Ling, who says, "...for the upcoming YA novel Boy21 by Matthew Quick, the face of a black teen is featured prominently on the cover. There are two protagonists in the book, one white and one black, and the narrator of the book is white, and yet when two versions of the cover were shown at our jacket meeting, one with a white teen, the other with a black, it was the black teen that was unanimously chosen. I found that heartening."

So, extra cool. What do you guys think of the cover? I loved, loved, loved this book, and you guys will too.  I'll choose a winner from the comments at random next week.

PS-The winner of last week's W-i-W, for The Difference Between You and Me by Madeleine George, is... Brianna! Send me your address, B (you magazine addict! I love it.)