topic: models on YA covers and YA covers in general

10 June 2012

What do these new 2012 books have in common? The models on their covers. It seems that many of the young adult books you see today have young, enticing looking models on their covers. There's swirls and smoke and misty flowers and an ethereal quality to all them
Timekeeper looks like some sort of eighties cover with the boy and his haircut and random tux. Sigh. 
An airbrushed girl wearing a lacy white and black dress on massive rose petals staring seductively at me.
The Fallen covers have really bugged me. I don't like how Luce (presumably) is just like "Ohh, let me stand around in pretty dresses posing with my arms in my hair, and walking around innocently in dreamy backdrops" The story of Fallen itself is weak, so choosing one central idea or item that could be on the cover is not an option. 
And the Temptation of Angels cover: the model's face is heavily airbrushed, and she's just looking off into the distance with a gorgeous, lost look in her purple-contact-lens-ed (or photoshopped) eyes.
And the cover of Finale totally looks like it was done in a cheap studio set. Why is Patch shirtless? Does he need to be? And why is Becca wearing a ghostly white dress? Is she going to a party? NO. She's fighting to be with Patch! In the first book, all she wore (I'm guessing) are tops and jeans!

But what I don't understand is why they are necessary. The idea, the content and the overall theme of the book should be reflected on it's cover, not a person or model.
I think the identity of the book is lost with false covers. There has got to be a more deep message designed in only a way art can portray. However, these books I've portrayed are pretty self-centered (I'm not sure about pandemonium. Delirium was brilliant though) I mean, Becca and Patch? Starcrossed lovers. Same with Daniel and Luce. It's all about that couple facing supernatural obstacles. I guess it's reasonable that the covers should have the couple, or at least one of them, on the cover.

 Perhaps it's just that young adult books have become so shallow, that the covers must automatically reflect this shallowness, or maybe not. I believe, based on Delirium's amazingness, that Pandemonium is just as amazing, and deep and meaningful. It doesn't deserve an orange cover with Lena (presumably) staring seductively at the us. This isn't about her seducing anyone! Let's compare the covers for Delirium.

The original cover is brilliant. It shows how Lena is trapped in this world where love is a disease, where she can't love and where she's being smothered by a misled society.

The new cover is terrible. It shows Lena, look seductive with her glossy lips slightly parted, and her eyes saying "Look at me". The flowers are a nice touch to fill in the rest of the the space. But it doesn't reflect the brilliance of the book! It has no hidden meaning, or depth to it at all.

What I never understood was the cover of The Dark Divine (and the other books in this series) by Bree Despain.

These books are not about pale, slender legs and nailpolish. Nor is it about Grace wearing thin shawls across her legs or lower half of her body. This is about Grace who is searching for a way to cure her dark and mysterious werewolf boyfriend, Daniel and rescuing her brother. What does spindly legs have to do with anything? You call tell with my tone that I'm quite passionate about this subject that I've been trying to express something. Maybe I should provide examples of good covers, instead of focusing so much on the negative aspects.

 This covers are beautifully done. Shiver had a lyrical simplicity to it, almost fairy-tale like, and the light blue trees and detailed leaves represent that perfectly, in a lovely, realistically twisted tree branch pattern. The faint wolf in the background is there for many reasons: because Sam keeps his identity secret so few people know that he exists as a wolf. Or that he's distant from Grace because he can't be with her if he's a wolf. The red, bloody dot represents a darker part of the book, something that may seem small, but is present in the deep parts of the story. I mean, aren't those valid observations, all based on just looking at the cover alone?

Now this lovely cover is brilliantly done. The subtle map in the background, hidden by light blue waves of sea water, calm and peaceful, with a boat containing two lovers about to magical! Everlasting is fairy tale like in a way too, with a story of adventure and romance and ships and pirating and islands and fights and a quest and a villain: all while shipping across the world. The map is ideal for that reason, and in the romance is a beautifully simple one: the font of the title giving it a cute feel.  

Now I have spent nearly two hours trying to get this post together. Blogger is terrible when it comes to trying to move pictures around effectively. Phew! Nonetheless, I hope I'm brought light to an issue I hope you all agree with me on. What do you think? Did I insult a cover you enjoyed (I am truly sorry, I mean no offense)? Do you think cover artists should put more thought into books, or marketers should try different tactics?

3 thoughts:

  1. I love your post! You really do have a point. Sometimes the cover doesn't necessarily connect/summarize the book's plot. But as a person who looks at covers first in a bookstore before reading anything, I have to admit that covers play a big part in attracting consumers. I think artists should put more thoughts into books and at the same time make it...beautiful/attractive or at least mysterious. It pains me to see a review that says "Dont let the cover fool you" because sometimes covers are misleading. I know a couple of good books with bad covers. For one of those books, it didn't go well. :-/ But after the cover was changed, people were okay with it.

  2. I completely agree. The whole "I'm a pretty girl in a dress" look makes me want to put the book down. It feels shallow, or that the book contains way too much flowery romance. I like some books with that kind of cover - mostly because the story ends up REALLY good, like "Chalice" by Robin Mckinley - but usually I prefer subtle covers. Take "Birthmarked" by Caragh O'brien. The ribbon with strange markings on it expresses not just a central object in the book, but of mystery and secret codes. Which is much better than seductive-girl-romance covers.

  3. Lovely and interesting post (AND fun, I love your description of the Fallen covers!). I'm so glad to see that someone shares my point of view!

    I have never liked covers with faces on them, may they be close-up or not. Actually, I agree with almost everything you say, so I'm not going to repeat it all. :)

    There are so many talented illustrators and cover designers out there, that I think there should be way more amazing covers like the Shiver trilogy, for example. With a real identity. I am drawn to these, whereas unnatural girls with weird poses do not make want to read the book.

    Great post Kirthi! :)


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