It’s been a minute since I’ve done a look at YA book cover changes. For some reason, I keep a massive list of them but can forget to actually write about them when I’m working on posts. Alas, I’ve put together two at once — the one here and one for next month — and hope to continue highlighting these with more frequency because I love looking and thinking about YA book covers.
As usual, some of these changes are great and others are less so. I’d say on the whole, this round falls a little more into the “less so” category for me, but I suspect some of you might feel differently. As always, I’d love to hear what you think, which covers you prefer, and what cover changes you’ve seen lately that have caused you to pause and think.
Original covers in this round-up are on the left, with the redesigns on the right.
Kids of Appetite kicks off this round of cover changes and I have to be honest: I dislike both covers. Quite a bit, in fact. The hardcover looks to me like it’s not only trying too hard, but also that it’s doing too much. The text takes up a significant amount of real estate, and a good portion of that is a tag line that doesn’t seem to add much. I’ve never been a huge fan of illustrate covers, and this one is no exception. As nice as it is to see an inclusive illustration, none of the characters have any personality since we’re only able to see their backs.
The paperback takes what the hardcover did and turned the kids into telescopes. One of them even has on a scarf which kills me. It’s trying so hard to be clever and literary. More, the paperback redesign takes on a new trend from this particular paperback imprint that I’ve not been fond of: it’s making the paperback cover into two pieces, wherein the design is on top, with an underlaid cover that has praise all over it (in redesigns like the one for Jeff Zentner’s The Serpent King or Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You The Sun, one of those cover pieces is simply a quote from inside the book, which literally tells you nothing about the book). These kinds of choices scream adult audience, serious literary business. And if that’s the angle, then it’s succeeding, but….it’s not a YA look. What the paperback does have going for it, though, is the lessening of text. The title and author look much better on this one. It’s also interesting that they not only cut the tag line, but they also got rid of “bestselling” before “author of Mosquitoland.”
Neither of these covers really does it for me. If I had to pick one, though, I’d likely go hardcover, if for no reason other than it features at least two teens of color on it.
Kids of Appetite by David Arnold will be available in paperback on September 5.
The original cover for Sarah Mlynowski’s Ten Things We Did (And Probably Shouldn’t Have) came at the same time we got the original cover for Siobhan Vivian’s Not That Kind of Girl. They feature the same couple in slightly different positions. Back in those olden days of YA in 2011, covers with people on them were all the rage. On the right, though, we have a brand new edition of Mlynowski’s title in paperback that seems to follow the conventions of 2017 design: illustrated and, as I’ve noticed in a number of “lighter” YA titles, totally covered in stuff. See, for example, Lauren Strasnik’s 16 Ways to Break a Heart. Maybe it’s the color choice, but the new Ten Things cover looks really middle grade leaning to me, despite the fact the cover does feature a wine bottle, red underwear, and other items that one wouldn’t associate with middle graders. It is also certainly not a middle grade read in terms of content.
This is a tough one for me, since I don’t especially care for either of the covers. It is interesting to note that the new design denotes that Mlynowski is a New York Times Bestselling author, whereas the original hardcover has a blurb from Sara Shepard. Neither of the covers really do much for what the book is about; I almost wish that the Strasnik design scheme was what we saw for this particular cover, as that might make it feel more appropriate or appealing.
Ten Things We Did hit paperback in its new look June 6.
How about before saying anything about these covers, we pause and just appreciate how different the stories these covers are telling? And yet, what I love about both of them, is they both convey a sense of something Not Good happening. Amy Chelsea Stacie Dee in hardcover looks like a pretty solid horror novel. The doll face is creepy, and it’s made even creepier by the dirt splotches on the doll’s face. The title fonts work pretty well, too, as they’re sparse and it’s really the face of the doll which stands out on the cover. As someone who likes scary, this cover would be enough to make me pick it up.
The paperback edition, though, is also pretty damn good. I think that maybe the hair strands on covers could become cliche very quickly (there’s at least two others that I know of for 2017 alone, including the new E. Lockhart) but on this cover, it certainly does something interesting in conveying the idea this book might be more thriller than horror. The color differences on the hair locks is notable, as is the small pink bow. Like with the original hardcover, there’s a careful use of fonts with the title, wherein both “Amy” and “Dee” are in the same design and “Chelsea” and “Stacie” are in an alternate font. What I don’t like about this cover, though, is the use of the tag line. I think the effect of the cover is lost a bit in there being too much text on it now. Were it gone, the starkness would speak volumes.
Each cover tells a different story about the feel of the book — the one on the left is certainly horror, whereas the one on the right conveys thriller or mystery. I think both work, though as someone who hasn’t read this book, it’s challenging to discern which one is more fitting for the story. But in considering which might make me pick up the book….both actually would catch my eye enough. Perhaps the one on the right is geared a little more toward adult readers than teen readers, but it’s hard to say.
The paperback for Mary G. Thompson’s Amy Chelsea Stacie Dee will hit shelves October 3. It might hit my own TBR a little sooner than that.
Unlike the previous set of covers, I don’t necessarily think the design change for Unnatural Deeds by Cyn Balog offers up anything different. The two images are even almost exactly the same in where they’ve been placed on the cover: dead center. On the original hardcover, we have a pair of scissors cutting a flower, while on the right, we have a take on the “moth to a flame” cliche (just, you know, a butterfly to a lightbulb without any shade on it). The font on both covers feels somewhat uncreative, and it bothers my eyes a bit that the paperback font is not an even size between “Unnatural” and “Deeds.” I also find the fact that part of the word “Unnatural” actually clips the lightbulb to be bothersome. Or maybe it’s the fact that it looks like the lightbulb was slightly altered to allow the title to fit?
An interesting difference between the two: we lost the blurb on the paperback edition. Both still feature the tag line — and neither image really captures the idea of needing to kill to protect. In a lot of ways, these feel like safe images for what sounds like a murder-y type read. Although the cliched nature of the paperback bothers me, there’s something about the black background that works much better than the odd, bottom-of-the-river green on the hardcover.
I can’t say I love either of these nor feel they’re particularly fresh. That said, I suspect teen readers might feel differently, especially those who know what kinds of covers to look for for the types of books they love to read. What’s cliche to me as an adult can, and does, often not feel that way to teens, in part because they haven’t seen it enough to be tired by it. If I had to pick one cover doing it a bit better, I’d go with the new paperback, though I really hope that title font gets fixed. Kirkus called this a “PG-13 version of Gone Girl” and I think we get that more with the paperback, too.
Unnatural Deeds will hit paperback on November 1.
I don’t think I have a cover change I like more in this round-up than this one. Gae Polisner’s The Memory of Things is a 9/11 themed YA novel, and the hardcover made that super clear. The “I” in the title there was masked as the Twin Towers, kind of, if the Twin Towers were uneven in their size. The color of the original was a bright baby blue, and the image in the background of a white angel absolutely popped. But, aside from the small use of the Towers in the title font, the cover didn’t say much other than maybe it’s a book about angels. Despite having enjoyed Polisner’s previous books, there was nothing about this cover that really spoke to me, other than appreciating that it’s pretty sparse.
It’s interesting how much a YA book cover not filled with blurbs or tag lines can stand out for that alone.
The paperback edition of the novel doesn’t make the 9/11 connection clear, and in a lot of ways, that’s of service to the book. The yellow color pops and is fresh, and the image we see is that of a cityscape. As a non-New Yorker, this image doesn’t exactly place me in that city, though it does place me in A city; I think this is a hugely positive thing, as it will appeal to a larger range of readers who, like me, can tire of the same New York City story (I tend to think sometimes New York City publishing forgets that not everyone cares about NYC….growing up, all anyone ever wanted to do in my town was get to Chicago, and though we’re seeing more Chicago-set books now, they’re still few and far between). The almost generic feel of the city here, though, works really well, and I appreciate how the color and saturation of the image actually work against the yellow background. More, that font! The font itself tells a story in a way that the original didn’t. Like the hardcover, the paperback is clean, clear of extra text, and I think it literally pops from the screen and will pop from shelves.
No question, the paperback is the big winner here for me. It hits shelves on August 29.
Finally, here’s the paperback makeover for Ruta Sepetys’s Salt To The Sea. The original cover tells a pretty powerful story. It’s clear, at least to me, this is a historical fiction read, and there’s something to be a big element of survival to it. The color saturation and the lines in the image itself are powerful. It has a cold feeling to it, and there’s always something neat about a book cover that makes you feel a sensation just by looking at it.
What the original cover has that’s kind of annoying: so much text. Not only do we have the blurb from the Wall Street Journal review, we have a note that it’s by an international bestselling author of another book and that the book itself is a New York Times Bestselling novel. Do teen readers care? I don’t think that they read those blurbs and are suddenly moved to pick up the book. But alas, I’m curious about how much the teen appeal is in consideration.
I say that because the paperback book is not, at least in my mind, for teen readers. The cover is very adult historical fiction, and it also tells absolutely no story except that there might be people who died, as represented by shoes. I think the tag line also conveys that, and it’s a tag line that isn’t on the original hardcover. But at least we lost the other text in this rendition.
As noted before, notice how the paperback edition of this book is two-fold: there’s the cover, and then there’s a bigger cover beneath it, like with Kids of Appetite. This isn’t a particularly library friendly style, though it is a style that really screams Literary Fiction Adults Will Like. In this case, we lose the cool of the blue water and we now have a green hue to it. Though it is, without question, a pretty and appealing cover, it doesn’t tell nearly the story the hardcover does. Nor, do I think, does it care about reaching teen readers. None of those shoes even look like they’d belong to a teen (we have children’s shoes, as well as what appear to be a pair of shoes from an adult couple).
Hands down, for me, the hardcover does it better. I wish it had about half the text it has on it, but it gives so much more feeling and emotion, and I think it appeals far more to the audience for whom it was published (if YA is for teens, of course, which is in and of itself a debatable suggestion).
Salt To The Sea hits paperback on August 1. Interestingly, as I looked up the pub date on Amazon for this one, it was quoted as being great for readers who loved All The Light We Cannot See…another adult-aimed read.