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Friday, July 18, 2008

Poetry Friday--Sharp Teeth Can't Bite If They're Not Bared

Sharp Teeth is a novel in verse by Toby Barlow [F BAR]. The book has been reviewed widely, and Barlow has been interviewed on NPR and elsewhere.

First let's take a look at the description of the story:
An ancient race of lycanthropes has survived to the present day, and its numbers are growing as the initiated convince L.A.'s down-and-out to join their pack. Paying no heed to moons, full or otherwise, they change from human to canine at will--and they're bent on domination at any cost.

Caught in the middle are Anthony, a kind-hearted, besotted dogcatcher, and the girl he loves, a female werewolf who has abandoned her pack. Anthony has no idea that she's more than she seems, and she wants to keep it that way. But her efforts to protect her secret lead to murderous results.

Sounds pretty interesting, huh? It does to me, and I'm not even a horror fan! So, why has this book been borrowed only once from our library since it was purchased in late February? It's been sitting on the "New Books" shelf the whole time!

Two reasons, I would say:
  1. The cover is particularly unappealing to an audience raised on the cover art of Stephen King and Laurell K. Hamilton books.

  2. The book is written in free verse, that is, it's in poetry!

Let's compare some covers. First, Sharp Teeth:



Next, Cujo [F KIN], one of Stephen King's books about dogs:



The Sharp Teeth cover is not visceral enough to attract a supernatural/horror fan. Also, there's no glossy paper cover--only the black dog graphic on a fake clothbound book. To tell the truth, in comparison to the other books on the "New Book" shelf, there's absolutely nothing to draw the reader to it. (A little aside: Barnes and Noble has a book trailer for Sharp Teeth which does a better a better job of selling the book. By better, I mean there's the dripping blood that's so attractive to horror fans!)

Now for the second point--the book is in verse. To some, verse would be a turn-off. But others, like the younger generation who started with novels in verse like Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse [J HES] and moved through the teen years with Crank by Ellen Hopkins [YA HOP], might want to continue to read in the novel in verse genre as they moved up into the adult book world. It's too bad the cover won't grab them!

Too bad too, for the adults who haven't had the pleasure of reading a novel in verse --the marketing department of Harper Collins let you down! Maybe a standard book jacket and sufficient jacket flap copy would have enticed our adult readers.

Just to show you how easy it is to read a novel in verse, here's a short excerpt:
She sits in the car and pulls a bag
from under the passenger seat,
a ziplock bag holding a bloody cell phone
and a bloody wallet.
A universe of information can be held
in two fists.

Now that wasn't so hard, was it? No hidden meanings, no rhymes! Next time you visit us, pick up Sharp Teeth, and don't be put off by its cover!

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