Bloomsbury’s bad decision turns it into a ‘Liar’

When I was at Book Expo America back in May, one of the “must-grab” pre-publication books (called ARCs, or advance reader copies) handed out like candy was a young adult novel by Justine Larbalestier called Liar, about a young girl whose world of pathological untruths slowly dissolves around the reader. It’s an amazing, dark and disturbing story that leaves pretty much every question unanswered (you may hate that, but it’s the sort of device I can’t get enough of in books, and, for a YA book it’s really heavy and high-level). This is the cover (at right), as done by Larbalestier’s American publisher, Bloomsbury (Liar has already been out for a minute in her native Australia)

Almost immediately upon cracking that book’s spine, though, what you’ll find is that Micah, the teenage girl narrator, is, as the author describes her, “black with nappy hair which she wears natural and short.”

Anything discordant with that statement when you look at the cover?


I hadn’t started reading Liar when news began to break of Larbalestier’s distaste for what she termed a “whitewashing” of her book,  but when I did, despite the book’s creepily compelling plot and a narrator constantly shifting from reliable to untrustable, that cover, the little white girl with the straight hair and the big eyes, kept pulling me back out. Bleeding-edge New York-based lit critique blog and performance group Fiction Circus took that sense of disconnect all the way to the mat when it caught wind of what was going on:

“If a black cover is an absolute deal-breaker, THEN USE SOME OTHER IMAGE. Like, the word “Liar” up in flames. Or a central image from the text. A broken mirror. ANYTHING. Don’t put a little white girl on the front of your book about a little black girl. It’s going to change people’s ideas about the narrative, which is primarily a story about identity in the first place.”