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Childhood Relics: Cover Story

Because what '90s nostalgia book tour is complete without, like, some totally heinous covers?

Childhood Relics: Cover Story

I def. missed the boat by not calling this series "The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly", because it's about to get REAL ugly up in here. Now excuse me while I converse with an empty chair.

Prior to my ongoing Reading Renaissance, the peak of my YA-readerdom coincided with the fashion-challenged late '90s/early '00s. Just like my own wardrobe of ill-fitting unisex logo tees, my books too were a manifestation of poor choices in appearance. But which cover is the snortworthiest of them all?

Just because I alluded to it and this is still the Year of Snow White: Ginnifer Goodwin is the cutest (though it could be me forever seeing her as the Sassy Best Friend in Tad Hamilton). Lily Collins is ethereally/unfairly pretty. K.Stew... too easy. In more ways than one (heyo!).

To uphold the academic integrity of this archaeological expedition, materials aimed at a more Y than YA audience have been disqualified. So SAY GOODBYE TO THESE, Michael!

Also noteworthy but ineligible are obvs the actual good covers. Yeah, it's on the cusp of a fancy dress, but this cover belonged to a series based on female historic figures in their teens (but not in a Clone High way). And I've always been fascinated by Cleopatra.(Although what kind of lunatic would rather be HER than Eleanor Roosevelt!?)

I'd put my Marie Antoinette here as well, but I was a responsible seventh-grader who returned stuff that didn't belong to me, SARAH J.

So pretty! And the page edges are (fake) gold!

One last honourable mention to continue the grand tradition of embarrassing myself on the internet. When I wasn't contemplating the physics and colours of their hair, I was obsessed with Sailor Moon.

I had manga and trading cards (trading in name only, because I would NEVER part with them! Er, back then, I mean. Sure.). I even made my cousin and my neighbour get matching Sailor Moon shirts with me. (And both of them are older, so you can infer how much of a bossypants I was/am.)

Also among my Sailor Moon merch was this book of artwork. And . . . yeah.

I've had this since I was six.

ANYWAY. Enough literal and figurative foreplay.

Francine Pascal:

Oh yes, I'm returning to the Francine Pascal Cabal vault! Since the majority of my FP books belong to her three late '90s series, she alone provides so many examples of cover infractions.

Practically any cover from Junior High is eligible.

Sweet Valley Junior High 3: Soulmates

Now this could be overanalyzing, but this cover had to pass through many pairs of eyes before it reached me. I treat the possibility of this being an unintentional offense with a Streep-sized dollop of doubt.

I love me a good pun (e.g. My trip planning involves names like "Eat. Prague. Love.", "V For Vienna", "Rome If You Want To", and "Planes, Trains, and Otto von Bismarck". And if I decide to go, Amsterdam has me stumped.) but this book is called Soulmates and there are soles on the cover. I SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE.

Unintended or not, it's just LAZY. You gotta work for my guffaw, Francine.

Sweet Valley Senior Year 8: Maria Who?

I'm no textile expert, but is that velvet? Remember when velvet was cool? No? Oh OK, so it was only me who made poor choices in fabric.

Anyway, Tyra Banks might approve of this cover; "Maria" seems to be aiming for ugly pretty, instead of the exasperation and frustration that the title suggests. Or maybe she's just practicing her BJ face.

Fearless Series

One of my deal makers is the cool, sleek minimalist cover. That was actually my impetus for picking up the Fearless series (aside from it having "FRANCINE PASCAL" emblazoned on it). There's an allure to how simple and bare the layout is, with just enough detail to intrigue.

So why in hot holy hell was it changed!?

The Heidi Montag* Award for Unnecessary Cosmetic Changes
*I know, I'm super topical.

If the cover is essentially one big photo, then at least make it a good. How does gazing off to the distance better portray 'fearless' than some Blue Steel!?

How about some wide shots of a figure à la Tris, standing on top of a ferris wheel? Skydiving, juggling knives, walking through a field without allergy medication -- ANYTHING would be more evocative of 'fearless' than LEANING AGAINST A WALL. (OR -- gasp! -- just stage a photo that's actually related to the plot of the book!)

And then there's the neon colour scheme. The original had danger stripes, which I'm not too cray about, but at least it doesn't reek of "HEY TEENZ I'm so edgy and funky! I'm da bomb!".

As evident by the latest crop of re-issues, Francine & Friends realized the error of their ways (and kind of ripped off the new Weetzie Bat cover). But this Gaia seems so docile and pure. And the Village of the Damned: The Teenage Years aesthetic = fearlessness? Mmmk.

And the Winner Is... :

Remember that song "C'est La Vie"? You know, the perky, upbeat song from 1998 that used to make me think, "Why isn't this song on ALL THE TIME!? I LOVE THIS SONG."? And in the video, they wore matching demin outfits against a bright backdrop that The Ghost and the Goth would envy.

I bring this up because the girl group B*Witched share a great deal of similarity with the book that has the undisputed worst cover:

•  they have a set of twins, thus continuing this weird twin obsession that I apparently (used to?) have;

•  they abuse asterisks; and

•  their name is peripherally related to magic, which used to be my jam.

Is it any wonder that this cover appealed to me?

T*Witches 1: Power of Two by H.B. Gilmour and Randi Reisfeld

Where to even start? The tagline? The Charmed rip-off title? The outfits of my tween self's dreams?

What this cover says: they're twins(.witches.exactly.), but they're as different as their day and night necklaces! Because it is a truth universally acknowledged that twins are not in possession of common personality traits. Also, they are often separated at birth.

But why do they both look so BORED? Shouldn't they be excited to exploit their powers for personal gain, or at least scared of the inevitable Big Bads out to get them and their Wonder Twins powers? Take a cue from your fellow magic wunderkind.

(Side note: In addition to having written novelizations for Clarissa Explains It All and the Clueless series, the authors also wrote one for Pretty In Pink -- with the original ending of Andie picking Duckie!)

And finally, I think Moon Twin is also rocking velvet.


Think you can top my worst childhood cover of T*Wtiches? (What am I saying -- of course you can.) Share it in the comments!

Mandy Wan's photo About the Author: Residing in Edmonton, AB, Mandy unabashedly loves YA lit, frozen desserts, and terrible puns.