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readergirlz is a literacy and social media project for teens, awarded the National Book Foundation's Innovations in Reading Prize. The rgz blog serves as a depot for news and YA reviews from industry professionals and teens. As volunteers return full force to their own YA writing, the organization continues to hold one initiative a year to impact teen literacy. All are welcome to "like" us on Facebook!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Cover Stories: Mexican High by Liza Monroy, Part 1: The Hardcover

I professed my love for Liza Monroy's Mexican High on I Heart Daily, and now she's here to share her Cover Story. Today I'm posting the hardcover tale--next week, the very different paperback saga! Here's Liza:

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"Mexico City (left) is such a visual place, colorful, vibrant, gritty, and full of life, and I definitely wanted the cover of Mexican High to capture that. Of course, capturing the spirit of one of the world's largest metropolises on an 8-by-5-inch book jacket is no easy feat! While I was thinking big (city-scale big), my publisher, Spiegel & Grau, were more inclined toward the character-level -- the book, after all, centers on seventeen-year-old protagonist Mila (Milagro) Marquez, who moves to Mexico City for her senior year of high school with her U.S. diplomat mom, and her coming-of-age misadventures in the city.

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"Milagros--Mexican charms said to bring good fortune in different areas such as love, work, and health--play an important role in the story. Milagro takes her name from them, since her mother wasn't supposed to be able to have kids; she was a miracle, and surprise. In Spanish the word means both things. They come into play both symbolically and then physically in a major plot-twist, so I definitely knew that milagros had to play a central role in the book's design.

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"Initially, I imagined a large-sized heart milagro, el Sagrado Corazon, sacred heart, in the center of the cover. You can see this one in the photo I took in a church in Puebla, Mexico (left). To me, it represented my main goal for my novel, that it have heart.

But the very first cover (for the hardcover)
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my publisher showed me wasn't Mexican at all. It's pink and the model is blond, which echoes Gossip Girl -- and while Mexican High does showcase the Gossip Girl-types of Mexico City, I felt it did need to portray a cultural aspect. Mexico City is totally different from Southern California or Manhattan so I felt it was important that the cover show that. I'll admit it -- I hated that first cover! Not for what it was, I think it would be perfect for a book that was set in SoCal, I just felt it was wrong for this novel.

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"My publisher was very understanding and soon I saw another version - this one with milagros! The length of the skirt scandalized me (left), so they pulled it down a little (see final cover). We liked the edginess of the cigarette, and I always thought it ironic that smoking rates were so high in the already very-polluted Ciudad de Mexico, which Mila points out. But what everybody involved in the design, myself included, missed was that teen magazines and parents might mistake it for encouragement! And so the paperback is very different..."

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I like the hardcover, but I have to admit I was surprised to see the cigarette on a YA cover. Still, it prepared me for a gritty read, and that was cool. What do you guys think?

Ooh, wait till you see the paperback next week! Yes, you can just google it, but what's the fun in that?

2 comments:

Jennie said...

I'm glad they lengthened the skirt. On the first version, the black circle that says "a novel" looks like a modesty patch because the skirt was too short!

Lorie Ann Grover said...

I reacted the same, Melissa, at first. I'll watch for this.