Is There An Ugly Truth Behind The 'Liar' Cover?

Today’s Youth Advisory Board post is from Megan Reid who weighs in on the recent controversy sparked by the misleading cover chosen for the U.S. version of the dark YA novel Liar by Justine Larbalestier. As always, you can communicate directly with any member of the Ypulse Youth Advisory Board by emailing them at youthadvisoryboard at…or just leave a comment below.

Is There An Ugly Truth Behind The ‘Liar’ Cover?

Liar+by+Justine+LThe first time I read Liar by Justine Larbalestier, I stopped a couple of pages in, flipped to the cover, back to the passage I was reading, and then back again to the cover. The description of Micah, the book’s main character, and the pretty cover image of a light-skinned, long-haired girl didn’t match to a degree that it was distracting. (“I’ve been mistaken for a boy before….I got the nappy gene so I keep my hair cut close to my scalp.”)

I know that covers that depict characters can’t always be totally accurate to what an author writes. But the fact that publisher Bloomsbury played with the race of a main character (who is bi-racial, but clearly identifies as black…or at least not white) is a pretty serious and unnecessary change. The uncomfortable, yet totally obvious question is: Why make it at all?

Bloggers like Mitali Perkins and writers at The Brown Bookshelf think it’s a sales choice, and I agree. Since covers help sell books, clearly somebody thought that putting this girl on the cover, and not a model who resembles Larbalestier’s character, would help “Liar” be more popular. Following that argument through, this change to Micah’s race by doing what Jezebel and Perkins called “whitewashing” suggests that publishers assumed that audiences prefer not to buy books with people of color on the covers. And for many, even in “post-racial America,”…


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