Wednesday, September 29, 2010

More on books for boys - this time with bras on the cover

Following up on my post last week about what a "boy book" is, I wanted to throw out there a bit more on covers. A new YA title, THE SECOND BASE CLUB, recently came to my attention and I really had to give it a double take. Here's the publisher's description:

Elroy's got one thing on his mind: girls. In an effort to get to second base, he offers to tutor the hot new girl in math, forms a band with his two best friend (okay, so he gets a face full of tomato for his efforts) and joins the wrestling team.

Hes a little vague on the whole bases thing, but the jocks have a club dedicated to getting there with every girl they can. And now that hes a jock (sort of), maybe Elroy will find out for himself what it means to be a member of the Second Base Club.

So clearly a book aimed at teenage boys but I have to wonder - will a boy pick up a book with a bra swinging on the cover?

When I threw this question out on twitter someone pointed out to me that Chris Crutcher's INEXCUSABLE also featured a bra on the cover and according to at least one librarian was not a problem for boys. (Do note that the paperback version is completely different - and absent the bra.)

I have my own suspicions about bras and boys and book covers - and posts like this one, from writer Shaun Hutchison who took some grief as a kid over a Robert Jordan cover, just reinforces the notion that YA books and covers is a way bigger deal than most publishers seem to realize. I do think covers are easier to dismiss for girls (and I have no idea why) but maybe this is why the "right" shirts and jeans are not such a big deal for boys. Some things are judged differently depending on gender; it's just one of the dirty little ways that the hallways in our country's schools operate.

So tell me - do you think the bra on the book cover matters? Was this the best way for Henry Holt to go? Would they have done it for a book aimed at adults? It's something to think about as we continue to navigate the waters of teens and reading. Maybe appearances matter too much - or maybe this was a mistake on the part of the publisher.

ETA: Here's the direct link to Brendan Halpin's take on the book (as mentioned in the comments). He has a serious quibble with this one:

But I am offended by a male character whose sexual behavior is beyond the pale of what's acceptable and who doesn't seem to do much soul-searching as a result. This scene bugs me a lot because Elroy commits a really serious offense here--I know making out is a nuanced event not marked by written contracts and that people can have different expectations of what's going on, but going for the blouse after two very clear "no"'s is extreme douchebag behavior. I hate when people overuse terms like this, but this reads like a scene of sexual violence to me. The girl resorts to physical violence to defend herself against unwanted advances because her words are being ignored. I have to imagine that feeling like you have to punch someone to defend yourself from sexual assault is a pretty traumatic experience for a girl. But her feelings aren't really important in this book. And neither Elroy nor the author seem to feel like it's that big of a deal.


Ms. Yingling said...

It sounds like something we desperately need-- a boy romance. My only question-- how middle school appropriate is it? I don't think the bra will be a problem. I had 40 boys check out aggresively pink and sparkly books during a week long challenge last year, and they were okay with it. The bra makes it look like a book that they SHOULDN'T be reading, so they will all want a copy. I would expect to have some trouble with it from parents, though!

tanita✿davis said...

Having not read The Second Base Club I can't say whether or not that cover ...goes? The gents I know wouldn't be keen to pick it up, certainly (that would be right on par with trundling around a grocery store with tampons in the top of the cart, and who wants to do that?), but the title is a bit lighthearted (?) and maybe it "goes," to someone's mind. Jury's out 'til I read it.

But having read Inexcusable? That is obscene. Did the designer even read the book??? Do they know Lynch's work??? A flung bra is just -- bah. I am wordless with disgust.

Colleen said...

It's tagged as 14 & up so I'm not sure if it's middle school okay or not...hopefully someone will chime in on that.

And yes, to INEXCUSABLE. That cover was really really wrong.

Terry said...

The cover looks vaguely middle school in style/color choice. I don't think it will go over well with the HS guys I teach. Brendan Halpin wrote an interesting critique of this book at his blog. I can book talk it an get readers, if it hits the right measures of crude and funny.

Colleen said...

Thanks for that link, Terry - I edited my post to add it as well as a bit from Brendan's reaction.

Unknown said...

I do not think that a MG boy would pick that up based on the cover.

I'm glad that Ms. Yingling said some boys don't care, because I love the IRON KING series by Julie Kagawa, but it's put out by Harlequin Teen with girly covers (the upcoming spine is lavender --).

They need to change the covers, because these books are filled with battle and bravery.

My book blog: 5 Minutes for Books

Sarah Stevenson said...

I'm not even a boy, and I'm not sure I'd pick up that cover. I mean, it's kinda clever in a way, but I don't find it appealing, personally. And being the sort of shy and retiring person that I am, I know I'd feel weird about reading a book in public that depicts a ginormous bra swinging in the breeze.

I guess my point is that it'll probably depend heavily on the individual reader...

david elzey said...

as a middle aged guy with two teen girls in the house, i see bras lying all over the place and i don't pick them up either.

but seriously, it's a clever cover but perhaps too clever. the middle grade boys will yuk at the humor but won't necessarily want to be seen reading it; the YA boys who won't mind the cover are probably beyond second base, or at least beyond thinking of second base, and will eschew it for different reasons.