Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Guilty Covers

http://www.readingrevels.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Gilt-KatherineLongshore-201x300.jpg When I was in eighth grade, I got a year's subscription to my first (and only) teen magazine: YM. I remember how cool I felt to find it waiting for me when I got home from school, like I had entered into the secret world of teens in the know. (Which was exactly how they wanted me to feel.) Especially when the front cover advertised a special sealed section all about sex. I went to my room and tore it open.

Of course, the most titillating part was the packaging. The special sealed section, as I recall, largely encouraged waiting. It focused more on the question of "how do you know you're in love?" and offered such teen-appropriate answers as "when he's seen you when you're sick" and "without make-up" and is still unswerving in his affection. I might even be blending that section with something else from the magazine--I can't remember. Years later, my mom confessed that she'd considered opening or tearing out that section before I got the magazine, but had decided to trust me. "There really wasn't anything in there," I told her. Jazzed-up health class.

The same hype is true for the cover of Katherine Longshore's "Gilt." The cover promises an R rating for writing that's actually PG-13. Written for a YA audience, it's the story of Catherine Howard, fifth wife of King Henry VIII, as told by her best friend and lady-in-waiting, Kitty Tilney. There is sex in the book, yes, but always very much off-screen: those who know their history will recall that wifey #5 was executed for adultery. Cat Howard, were she in modern high school, would be known as the girl who sleeps around, the girl your parents would warn you about (if you had parents, which Kitty doesn't) because she'll try to get you to join in. But this is, ultimately, a book about friendship. We're on the edge of our seats from chapter one, wondering how just far Kitty will follow her charismatic, bullying best friend Cat as she rises all the way to the top--even while pursuing actions that can only lead her all the way back down. Despite what you might guess from the over-the-top cover, the book is beautifully written and historically accurate. It's difficult to put down.

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