Some Super Awkward 90s Book Covers

My predecessor taught 20 years before retiring from my school.
 Thankfully and unthankfully, she left around a billion books in my
classroom, and so I’ve been spending the better part of my teacher
workdays organizing them by genre. In doing so, I have discovered that
there was roughly a 10-year era in the publishing of young adult literature
where book covers were dominated by a style I like to call Super Awkward
Realism. Here are some quintessential book covers from the period I’ve found in my sorting:

This cover is what gave me the idea for this post.  Anyone else’s first reaction involve the title Nothing Butt the Truth?

 I’d be worried, too, if a nude feral child was stalking me from behind a

The caption stole the words right out of my mouth.

No comment.  Absolutely no comment.

 Girl in Exile, or Boy in Braids?

“‘Always telling Sally what to do. ‘Girls tend the garden,’ they say. ‘Boys get to laugh and play,’ they
say. We’ll see who’s laughing soon. Their joy shall turn to ashes in
their mouths…” –Girl in this picture

A more awkward pose would be difficult to arrange. Also, this
is what it looks like when a student tries to hug me.

I… I can’t….
Awkwardly and lovingly,
P.S. In-service at new school: awesome. Stay tuned for a big surprise!


  1. Mrs. Thompson

    Haha! I have only taught for 5 five years prior to this year, but I buy a lot of my books for my classroom at our super-awesome used bookstore, so lots of my covers look like this. I might have to take some pics and link up with this post. Cracking up – at your musings, and at how many of these types of books I have bought!!!!

  2. MamaArroya

    Oh, what a delight! Most MN schools start this Tuesday (day after Labor Day, every year…), so I had workshop last week, but I'm not 100% into back-to-school mode yet. It dawned on me, as I fiddle with my first-day Prezi (trying some new techie toys) that I YOU might be back in school. What fun for me to have multiple posts to read in a row. I'm so glad the school year is off to a good start! Wish me luck.

  3. Erin

    I just laughed for far too long about Karen's new friend. My only complaint is that you didn't zoom in one more time on their faces to really dig the dagger of laughter deeper within my side.

  4. Anonymous

    I just started crying laughing so hard at the nude feral child comment. Thanks for your blog–I am in my sixth year teaching, and very much relate to things you post. I think we could be friends. Please write a book 🙂

  5. Claire

    THANK YOU! I know the whole 'don't judge a book by it's cover' saying but when I was a kid and saw these books, I just could not take them seriously enough not to judge them. I mean, really?! I'd be interested to meet the people who designed these things, or then again, maybe it wouldn't be very surprising after all…

  6. Ms. W

    For years I taught The Scarlet Letter. Students could use any edition they chose so they all had different covers. The first day of our study, the students with different covers went to the front of the room. We analyzed the covers in terms of the time that the book was published. Why did this cover have a Madonna-like Hester Prynne on the front? Why did that novel have a facial henna tattoo of an A on the front? It was an interesting sociological study.

  7. Karen Schumm

    HA! I just went through my bookshelves and removed books just like these. No sense having them there as no one will risk reading them. I actually think some of the contemporary covers of middle school books are just as bad with cartoon-like characters on the covers. Do these really appeal to the kids? I love your blog!

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