Are you ready for another round of YA design changes? Here’s a look at seven books — eight, actually, since one is a series redesign — that will be getting new designs in their paperback incarnations. Some of these are great redesigns and others aren’t as great as the original looks.
Sick by Tom Leveen is getting a new look in paperback that doesn’t do it better nor worse than the original. This is a zombie apocalypse story, set in a high school. The original cover on the left gets at that pretty well. I love the fact it’s only black, red, and white. It’s stark, and at the same time, it’s a little bit funny (because this book is a little bit funny, even though it’s horror). The font for the title works, and I dig how the “C” is in a different font than the rest of the letters, and the three boys wielding weapons are centered within it, somewhat protected but somewhat vulnerable, since a “C” isn’t a closed letter. This cover skews on the younger end of YA for me, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and for younger teen readers who want a zombie story, I think this one is fine. This cover works.
The paperback, available August 26, takes the look in an entirely different direction and yet, it still contains a lot of the original elements. This cover is more stark but still has the red, black, and white as the only colors. Rather than feature the zombie hordes, it features a lone, disgusting zombie at the top. The zombie’s mouth is dripping blood right into the “I” of “Sick,” which is kind of a neat effect. But I wonder: why is the zombie wearing nail polish? That’s not blood; that’s polish. Would a once-alive, now-zombified person’s nail polish look that good? I have some doubts about that.
I appreciate that the cover kept the “C” the same as it was on the original image, with the boys in the middle. The tag line stayed exactly the same, though the paperback features a pull quote from one of the trade reviews: “Gore and action will leave enthralled readers thrilled.” I think that quote actually grounds the cover a bit, giving it — and the bloody letter — an older and edgier look than the paperback. What really separates the two covers, though, is that the original doesn’t give a huge indication this is a zombie story. It tells you something bad is going on, but the figures aren’t perfectly clear in terms of what they are; you could guess, but it’s not super obvious to the casual reader or browser. In the paperback copy, you know pretty well that the sick creatures are zombies.
Neither cover does it better for me. They’re built for different readerships: the first probably for those who’d want a lighter zombie romp and the second for those who are seeking a ZOMBIE STORY.
Leslie Stella’s Permanent Record is a book I talked about a little over a year ago when a few of us did a read along to Robert Cormier’s The Chocolate War, as it’s a great read alike. The original cover, though, would not tell you that, nor would it tell you anything, really, about the content of the story. Is it a book about tagging? Graffiti? About paper bombs? Explosions? Even the blurb on the cover indicates nothing: “A smart, funny, complex novel . . . Leslie Stella is a brilliant writer.” To the average browser, this means nothing. To even the more well-read, that blurb tells you nothing except it’s supposed to be a smart, funny, and complex book. But what is it?
While I think the cover doesn’t say anything, it’s still an attractive cover. I think it almost works in making someone pick it up because they’ll be compelled by the image to find out what it is about. It’s ultimately a story about fitting in and about bullying, and it’s contemporary realistic. The paper bomb on the cover fits with a part of the story, and the title, Permanent Record, is about Badi, the main character.
The paperback edition of Permanent Record, available August 14, is a slight improvement on the original in that it grounds the story a bit more with a genre. You know it’s going to be a realistic novel because it features the lower-half of a trio of real people. It looks like so many other realistic YA titles out there that use stock images of people. I’m not entirely sure, though, I understand this particular stock image. The kids look like they’re going camping, not attending school deep inside Chicago proper. What’s interesting, though, is it looks almost like the two boys in the picture are people of color — it’s interesting because that’s a rarity but, unfortunately, we don’t get to see their faces to know if they really are. And since this is a story about a person of color, it would have been awesome to see that head-on. The font for the title, as well as Stella’s name, are a marked improvement from the hardcover. It looks like the blurb is gone from the paperback, as well.
For me, the winner is the paperback in this round. It looks more polished and tells a little more about the book itself.
Maureen McGowan’s “The Dust Chronicles” series, which is a trilogy comprised of Deviants, Compliance, and Glory, got easily one of the best makeovers when the third book was published last month. Gone are the somewhat cheap, young images of the original look. They’ve been replaced with covers that look fancy and much more like a compelling dystopian world. I really don’t have a whole lot to comment on beyond saying that this is a marked improvement in cover design and it actually piques my curiosity in the series.
All of the redesigns of this one are available now.
Interestingly, this series, as well as Permanent Record, are titles published by Amazon’s YA imprint. Part of me wonders if when they began this publishing arm, they didn’t quite have a grasp on cover design. Because now that they’re a little deeper into the territory, they’re doing a better and better job (have you seen this great cover for Gwenda Bond’s forthcoming Girl on a Wire? It’s outstanding).
I read Bill Konigsberg’s Out of the Pocket way back when it came out in 2008. I loved this book then and it’s still one I think about all the time. It’s about a football player in southern California who also happens to be gay. No one knows that yet, except his best friend. But when his best friend doesn’t keep a lid on it, the story leaks and suddenly, he’s in the spotlight not just with his team, but with the whole country. It’s a well-done story about sexuality and football and what it means to be a gay football player when that’s far from an easy place to be because of what football is culturally.
The original cover for this one depicts that it’s a football story. It’s quite similar to another book that came out around the same time: Tim Tharp’s Knights of Hill Country. It’s not a bad cover by any means, and it speaks to those readers who like a good football book — and Konigsberg’s book fits that bill.
But I have so much love for this paperback cover. Released earlier this year through a different publisher than the hardcover, the paperback gets at not only the fact this is a book featuring sports and athletics, but it really nails that it’s a story about one boy who happens to be an athlete. He looks rugged and tough, but there’s something in his expression that also renders him a bit sensitive, like there’s something beneath that surface begging to be drawn out.
The paperback looks like the kind of cover that would speak to a much wider range of readers than the hardcover because it’s not limiting itself to readers who want a book about sports. It still says sports story to me, but that’s not all that it says. It’s a winner.
I used to ask my teen readers about book covers a lot as a means of finding out whether what I was thinking about covers and cover design was in line with what they were thinking. One particular cover I asked about a few years back was Siobhan Vivian’s Not That Kind of Girl. It was a cover my girls in particular disliked because it didn’t fit the story at all — to them, it said this was a romance, rather than a feminist novel about a girl who happens to experience a little romance in the story. The “just about to kiss” was a trend then, and Vivian’s cover looked quite a bit like the one on Sarah Mlynowski’s Ten Things We Did.
During a lock in one night, I had my girls redesign covers of books they read and they thought were misleading. Vivian’s was one they chose to redesign, and what’s most interesting to me now is how close their imagined design was to the newly repackaged cover of Not That Kind of Girl, coming out July 29. Rather than play up the romance, the new cover plays up the fact this is a story about a girl who doesn’t see herself like the other girls around her (and yes, that annoying aspect of “not that kind of girl” is purposeful and undermined in the story because this is a whip-smart feminist novel). This new cover captures that to a T, with one girl singled out among the ranks of her classmates who appear to be the same, even though they are the same only in clothing.
While I think the outfits may make the girls in the background look a little corporate and maybe a little beyond high school age, the girl at the center is one of the rare times I’ve seen a model on a YA cover that screams teen girl to me. Often, they look like 20-somethings, rather than teens. This girl, though? She’s a teenager.
I love, too, how this cover fits nicely with Vivian’s cover for The List. It’s a really strong repackaging and I hope when Vivian’s other two novels are recovered, they follow in this trend. It’s a good one.
The original print run for Katie Cotugno’s How to Love surprised me when I looked it up. It was much bigger than I thought. This is a book I’d heard about and have a review copy of (still) but it’s one that I saw few reviews of that compelled me to pick it up. I actually saw few reviews period, though I have been fascinated in the publication journey of this particular book, since it’s a partial Alloy product.
The design for the hardcover might have been one of the first font-driven, image-only covers to publish before the trend took full-hold of the YA world. It’s clean, but it’s not particularly unique nor compelling. It’s the kind of cover that tells you there’s romance — the title and the heart alone would do that — and it looks like the kind of cover with great crossover appeal to adult readers.
But maybe the font-driven, image design isn’t for all books, since this is going the opposite direction in its paperback makeover, due out next March. The paperback returns to the stock image, this time of a couple not just kissing but in full-out holding each other mode. I have to say I’m not really paying a lot of attention to the couple though (which, they don’t look like teenagers, do they?). I’m too distracted by that obnoxious wallpaper in the background of this cover. Where are they? Who made that wallpaper choice?
Does this girl have really long arms, too? The way her hand is able to reach around his neck and clasp onto her opposite shoulder makes me think she has the longest arms in the world. Or maybe that guy has the world’s smallest neck.
Neither of these covers really does it for me, though I think if I had to pick one, it’d be the original cover. The paperback, save the wallpaper, is really generic.
The last cover in this roundup worth talking about is the one for Vikki Wakefield’s Friday Never Leaving, a book that came out last year and not enough people talked about (I enjoyed it a lot and am sad more people have not picked it up).
This is an Australian import which got a new look in America in the hardcover on the left. It’s a girl underwater, but unlike a lot of books that have the girl underwater look going for them, that’s actually an important part of the story. But as it’s done on the cover here, I don’t know that it’s compelling, and I don’t think the very thin, very spread out font for the title helps much. The whiteness of the title fades out, and more, Wakefield’s name is very easy to miss since it’s so tiny. While I think the cover says it’s a literary novel — and it is — I don’t think the cover is particularly appealing. It’s understated to a point where it just fades into the shelves and every other book out there.
The paperback of Friday Never Leaving will be available September 9 and . . . it looks like a cover that missed the “girls laying in water” trend from a few years ago. It’s dated. But what’s worse is that it’s also really unattractive in its color palate. It looks dirty, rather than polished. The girl would actually melt into the water if it weren’t for her odd placement on the cover, just below the bottom of “Leaving.” The font here is still not great, as it’s too thin and too easily overlooked, and while Wakefield’s name got larger in the paperback, it’s still very easy to miss, as it fades into the image.
It looks generic and forgettable.
What’s interesting is that the original cover for Wakefield’s novel from Australia, as well as the UK edition, are so good:
These covers stand out, they’re fresh, and they’re relevant to the story itself. They’re much more eye-catching than what’s been created in the US. I can’t help but wonder if the bland designs have been part of why I haven’t seen more talk about this book — it’s easy to overlook and easy to write off.