"Oh man...THIS BOOK!!!It does so many things startlingly well -- so well that the author makes them look easy. As a writer, I can assure you they are not. I'm not going to list all of them here because this review would turn into a tome of praise, but I want to talk about at least a few." - Erin, Goodreads
Release Date: February 27th, 2018
THE LOVELY BONES meets ALL THE RAGE in a searing, heartbreaking contemporary story of a lost teenager, and the town she leaves behind.
Ellie Frias disappeared long before she vanished.
Tormented throughout middle school, Ellie begins her freshman year with a new look: she doesn’t need to be popular; she just needs to blend in with the wallpaper.
But then the unthinkable happens and Ellie is trapped after a brutal assault. She wasn't the first victim and now she watches it happen again and again. She tries to hold on to her happier memories in order to get past the cold days, waiting for someone to find her.
The problem is, no one searches for a girl they never noticed in the first place.
TE Carter’s stirring and visceral debut not only discusses and dismantles rape culture but also makes you slow down and think about what it is to be human.
The Story of the Cover
Admittedly, I had very little involvement in the cover design for the novel, since it was handled internally at Macmillan. However, there are so many elements that the cover just got so right about the novel itself that it’s a really interesting topic of discussion.
My editor did ask during our second round of edits if I had any feedback or specific requests. I didn’t, to be honest, except to say I knew the cover shouldn’t be pink. There’s a recurring theme in the novel about what makes a girl and I worried that this would lead a designer to pink and I don’t like the automatic linking of girls to pink. I don’t mind pink, but Ellie (the main character) doesn’t like pink and one of the key themes of the book is that defining a girl is about more than stereotypes or this idea of what a girl should be. So pink felt somewhat antithetical to that. At the same time, I then thought maybe pink would be ironic and could be effective, so I wasn’t too useful in providing insight into the design process.
When they first showed me the cover, I fell in love with it aesthetically, but I also found myself a little confused. It was nothing like I had expected. I knew it was a cover I would be drawn to and it does make sense for the book when you stop and think about it, but I figured that the primary setting – an abandoned house – would play a role in the design. When there were no houses, I was a bit taken aback.
After thinking about it, though, I realized an abandoned house would have hinted at the book being horror or a thriller, and it’s not. It’s firmly rooted in contemporary realism, so combining a thriller-looking cover with a summary that’s a bit mysterious may actually have worked against getting the book to the target reader.
What I love about this cover is that it’s black, which clearly illustrates that it’s not a light read. It’s not a light or easy story and I like knowing, when I pick up a book, what kind of book I’m getting. The cover is also symbolic of so many aspects of the story. The leaves are covered in frost, showing that they shouldn’t even be alive. But there are small flowers finding their way through anyway. It’s this idea of life fighting for a way, even when it’s impossible. Plus, it also speaks to the story, which does try to show that even in the darkest and coldest places, there can be small bursts of good.
I also did some research into the plant itself, which is stinging nettle, and discovered that the plant thrives in places where iron has been left to rust. The town where the book is set has seen better days and is full of abandoned factories; it is, in essence, “rusting.” In addition, the plant symbolizes being detached from your body and a lost soul, which is the entire premise of the book. After an assault, Ellie is trapped and trying to find her way back to life before. Stinging nettle also helps heal trauma in youth, especially in situations of low self-esteem, and both of these are key parts of Ellie’s character. According to [stinging nettle], is also useful for those whose body/soul fusion has been incomplete, or is damaged due to trauma” and this could not speak more to the novel and its themes!
Finally, there’s the title. It’s so bold and the book is very much about Ellie not having a voice and not feeling like she’s even part of the world she lives in. As the summary says, she was a girl no one noticed, but the title refuses to go unnoticed. I like this, as it’s almost like Ellie screaming from the darkness and demanding to be heard for once.
So, while I had little say in the cover, it really does capture everything about this story beautifully and I think it speaks volumes to what a reader can expect.
About the author:
TE Carter was born in New England and has lived in New England for pretty much her entire life. Throughout her career, she’s done a lot of things, although her passion has always been writing. When she’s not writing, she can generally be found reading classic literature, obsessing over Game of Thrones (she’s one hundred percent Team Lannister), playing Xbox, organizing her comic collection, or binge watching baking competitions. She continues to live in New England with her husband and their two cats.
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