BY SEAN CLARK

We don’t pick on everybody here at C4, just the jerks. So for our second round of Judge a Book by Its Cover, we’re not going to mock. Instead we’ve chosen a book that we expect will be pretty good, by an author we like and certainly don’t consider a jerk.

Aimee Bender’s upcoming novel sports an interesting cover to be sure. We’ve asked some of our contributors to take stabs at writing a summary based only on the cover art and the title. You can read what we’ve come up with below, with the real summary mixed in. Can you guess which is real?

The answer (and who wrote which fakery) will be posted in the comments.

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1.) On her 9th birthday Rose Edelstein bites into her mother’s homemade lemon-chocolate cake and discovers she has a magical gift: she can taste her mother’s emotions in the cake. Her outwardly cheerful mother tastes of despair and desperation. Suddenly, and for the rest of her life, food becomes a peril and a threat to Rose.

2.) Allison is a frumpy fifteen-year-old who doesn’t quite fit in. For the most part, she lives her life as an observer. Her classmates, her teachers, and even her parents never seem to notice anything Allison does–perhaps because she has the extraordinary ability to grow and shrink at will. This captivating novel is a dark lesson in humanity, an acknowledgement that sometimes even the sweeter things in life can be particularly tart.

3.) Sarah Goldstein has always been fat. Diets for her are as unsuccessful as relationships. After an incident on her 39th birthday embarrasses her in front of her family, coworkers, and the one man who seems to see her for who she truly is, Sarah decides to give life change one last shot. With the help of her closest friends–and maybe a little magic–she endeavors to battle her looming and delicious demons, before she succumbs to food forever.

4.) Sarona’s family’s legacy of trouble-making witchcraft makes it hard for her to make friends, no matter how many cookies she hands out. When her grandmother falls ill, Sarona takes on an afterschool job at the family bakery. She learns how certain, special ingredients can affect the flavor – and results – of a cake. When her classmate and fellow loser Felix (being overweight, he’s hard to miss, easy to insult, and lonely) is hired on to bake part time, she can’t help but reveal the secret recipes to her cooking partner, and new best friend. After some odd occurrences, the town labels it the “witch” bakery, and Felix becomes desperate to prove the worth of the bakery without betraying his best friend’s secret.

5.) Nathan is a classically trained circus clown who’s been reduced to working children’s parties since a trapeze accident shut down the Red Top Circus. Nathan is about to quit forever when the bearded lady and the professional memorizer show up at a party with terrible news: the accident was no accident at all—the Flying Strombolis were sabotaged! Together the three of them must take an adventurous trip across the country, to find the saboteur and relaunch the Red Top. But it won’t be nearly that easy…

6.) The Lemon Cake, the most disgusting and unappreciated of all the pastries, grows tired of being labeled irrelevant and leads a faux-populist crusade against the cakes it deems elitist. Pineapple upside-down, red velvet, tiramisu, dacquiose, lemon-merange: one-by-one they are all deemed unpatriotic, and their recipes outlawed and destroyed, replaced with bland yellow cake. But as even innocous cakes are targeted, it soon becomes clear the Lemon Cake will only rest when there is not competition left, making it by default the most popular dessert of all. Bender’s tale is a warning as much as it is a reflection on shared history: this is what would have happened had John McCain won, and Sarah Palin been allowed to run the country. A brave and important cautionary from one of the premier fabulists of our time.

7.) Sarah works in advertising, plays softball in a rec league, and loves her husband most of the time.  It’s all just good enough until one day she wakes up to discover that everything she eats or drinks tastes like lemon cake.  Friends and doctors are baffled and incredulous, forcing Sarah on a culinary tour across the country in pursuit of another flavor.  When nothing seems to work, she has to return home to face the mystery of the looming taste of lemon head on.  A strange and semisweet exploration of everyday sorrow.

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