Thursday, April 19, 2012

YA Cover Critiques

My plan for today was to write a response of this Huffington Post article and discuss all the things I disagreed with in it. But there was so much I didn't like and since the writer's intention was to stir up some "controversy," I've decided to go in a different direction and instead look at some recent YA covers and discuss them. These are all books I've read this year, though some of the books were published earlier. I'm looking at a few different things in these covers:

1. Are models used on the cover? And if so, are the models a good representation of the characters within the book?
2. Font. This is one of my BIGGEST THINGS in covers and something that I always think is the most overlooked aspect of many YA book covers.
3. Do the different elements of the cover come together? Are they cohesive; does the cover have a finished, polished look?
4. Is the cover a good representation of the story?
5. Does the cover make me want to pick up the book?

Cover #1: 7 Clues to Winning You, by Kristin Walker
This is a contemporary YA novel. It's told in first person from one girl's perspective and the characters are juniors in high school. The models on this cover look a bit young to me and the amount of people on the cover makes me think that it's a multiple POV story or at least a novel with a large cast of characters, neither of which are true. On the whole, I'm not impressed by the cover; it gives no indication of what the story is about (a girl who starts at a new school where her dad is the principal and ends up running an underground scavenger hunt to earn the respect of her peers) and definitely doesn't make me want to pick up the book. It feels and looks like a bunch of different stock photographs photoshopped together. I like the font, but the colors and arrows don't fit the mood of the story at all.

A better cover: I'm horrible at graphic design, but in my head I imagine a Geek Charming-ish cover for this book. Pretty, preppy girl, preferably with a head and maybe a backpack instead of a purse. Also, the cover needs pink.

Cover #2: The Probability of Miracles, by Wendy Wunder
This is another contemporary YA told in first person from one girl's perspective. And I love this cover. There's very little I can say critically against it. The font is incredible, as are the colors, and the feather against the sky sets up the idea of "miracles" really nicely I think. If anything, I wish the model looked a bit less vibrant and healthy since the protagonist of this novel is living with incurable cancer. This is one book where I love the cover more than the story itself; it's just the right mix of artsy and current.

Cover #3: Shatter Me, by Tahereh Mafi
This first-person futuristic sci-fi-ish novel is more along the lines of what many think of as far as YA novels are concerned, which is why I want to talk about it. For much of the story the protagonist, Juliette, is very much a broken girl and this model has such a fierce look that I really don't think it's a very good representation of her. Though the shiny and embossed cover effects are awesome, overall this is a cover that, while technically pretty and well-put-together, just doesn't make me want to pick up the book. The colors all go together and the font is pretty good, but it gives absolutely no idea of the story inside and doesn't do the book justice. 

A better cover: Honestly, I'm not sure, but I'm thinking a darker, more drastic and less generic cover. Get rid of the fierce girl in the wedding dress for starts. I'd love a cover with the color scheme of Restoring Harmony, or maybe something like this foreign cover for Neva, which is still a little generic but I feel like would fit the mood of Shatter Me  so much better.

Cover #4: Cinder, by Marissa Meyer
Another sci-fi novel, this one a science-fiction-y retelling of Cinderella. Mostly I really like the cover. The font is great -- both fairytale-looking and futuristic. And I love the translucent leg with the robot parts inside. If there's anything I don't love it's the fact that the shoe is red instead of glass, but that may just be because my vision of Cinderella is the Disney version. Still, I like this foreign cover just a teensiest bit more.

Here are a few other things about YA covers: just like YA is more than one genre, so are its covers. Contemporary, historical, sci-fi, dystopia, paranormal, and fantasy cover trends are all a bit different. What I think of when I think of YA covers may not be what you think of, and it definitely isn't what you'd typically see face-out in stores. What types of covers do you think of when you think of YA book covers?


  1. This was a GREAT post! Loved it.

    Right now, it seems YA covers are all about the girls in beautiful dresses. I'm over that trend. The YA covers that initially drew me to the genre were City of Bones, Graceling, and Hunger Games - either entirely objects and symbols or mostly objects and symbols.

    I'd love to see more of those again and fewer distressed girls in flowing gown with long hair that covers the face.

    1. Thank you!!

      And yeah, the overall trend lately seems to be girls in dresses -- even a few contemporary novels have this, though definitely not to the same degree as Fantasy and Paranormal do.

      It's interesting that you mention The Hunger Games covers; I must be in the minority, because I was never drawn to those covers. It wasn't until after I'd already read the series that the covers started to grow on me. Sometimes I'm a fan of symbolic covers like that, but for some reason that series specifically didn't appeal to me. Though I do totally agree that I'd love to see more object/symbol covers and less of the girls-in-dresses covers.

  2. I think your last comment is absolutely correct. When Ms. Lowry discusses covers that she thinks bloggers like, it seems as if what she really is talking about are fantasy covers/bloggers who like fantasy. And though I still like a ball gown as much as the next person, I'm obviously not expecting to see one on a contemporary novel or science fiction. The only reason I would even expect to see a model on the cover is because it makes it evident at first glance that the book is YA if there's a teen girl standing there.

    That being said, there are some books that take advantage of the beautiful dress, such as Unearthly. I loved the story, but the protagonist was never wearing an evening gown.

    1. I agree - I definitely think she's looking at a small sample of YA covers, but I think that also those are the covers usually face-out in stores and more visible than many other YA covers. I think I may be in the minority, but I actually like models on book covers. Not always, of course, and some cover models aren't very good representation of the character(s), but I do like photograph covers.

      One good thing I can say about the Shatter Me cover is that the main character does wear fancy dresses at points throughout the book.

    2. I actually really like illustrated covers, but publishers usually reserve those for middle grade books. I guess it's because our society tends to associated things like cartoons and animated movies with children? I loved the old cover for Clockwise by Elle Strauss because it was an illustrated YA cover, but she seems to have a new cover with a photo now.

      I will have to pay more attention the next time I am in a bookstore! That makes me wonder whether booksellers think/know from experience that those covers are eye-catching or whether they just like the dresses themselves.

      As for Ms. Lowry's book, I think the first cover looked fine. I know some people are saying it looks ugly or poorly drawn. I just think it resembles some of the things I'm reading in my Hispanic Studies classes. So, from a marketing perspective, the problem is most likely that people don't realize the book is supposed to be YA.

  3. I think every reader of YA has their own likes and dislikes for covers. That being said, there is something about the objectively "pretty" covers that draws readers in. The trend right now definitely seems to be the pretty, and young women with gorgeous hair and flowy dresses! But I think eventually we will tire of it! Sometimes abstract is nice, sometimes simple is good, too.

    Also: I do think that Lowry should have left her book cover alone!! I don't like the new one- the original cover was very distinctive.

    1. I didn't like either of her covers to be honest -- the first one scared me the first time I saw it and the second is just garish and awful. I haven't read the book, but from what I can gleam from reviews/synopsis neither of the covers fit the book very well.

  4. Error: you said boo instead of book when talking about shatter me.

  5. I hadn't seen the foreign cover for Cinder, and I like the white/glass shoe a lot better, too. (But mostly because of my idea of Cinderella a la Disney.) And let's not even discuss my disappointment over the Shatter Me cover. It just hurts my heart.