Book Covers to Love and Hate

Last week I did a post about questions to ask before creating a book cover. Now, let’s talk about specific book covers and why I love or dislike them (hate is such a strong word). For this post, I chose book covers from the YA speculative fiction genre because that is what I write. Most of them were traditionally published and are well-known, popularly read books. Obviously, in these cases the covers served the books well, despite my humble opinion concerning them.

Finally, a disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog post are my opinion and only my opinion. If I hate a cover you love, or love a cover you hate, feel free to comment and argue your point. Just remember that cover appeal is subjective. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Cover I Love #1- Wake by Lisa McMann

Not only did I LOVE this book’s insides, I loved the cover and here’s why. It perfectly sets and matches the mood and tone of the book. Wake is about a girl who gets sucked into other people’s dreams, and it is not a pleasant experience for her. How this cover designer managed to make a pillow and some blankets look foreboding, I’ll never know, but they did. Plus, I love how the text of the title runs off the edges of the page, just the way reality blurs with dream in the book and the main character can’t control that bleed between one and the other. Brilliant, simple and with a great tag-line at the top.

Cover I Hate #1 – Wake by Lisa McMann

Same book I love, different cover and Ugh! What was this designer thinking? Wake is not whimsical. They totally missed the mark on the mood and tone of the book with this. And the “All Dream are not Sweet” tag line has so much less impact, both visually and emotionally.

Cover I Love #2 – Angelfall by Susan Ee

Confession time; I haven’t read this book, but when I came across the cover I decided to go look for it.  I tend to love covers with a single, striking image- covers that aren’t literal, but speak symbolically to the themes and content of the book. The designer could have gone for a literal image of an angel falling from the sky, but nstead they chose these grungy, metallic wings that look like they’ve been smeared on the surface of the book. Love it. Want it.

Cover I Hate #2 – Hush Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

Confession time #2: I don’t actually hate this cover. However, I wanted to contrast it to Angelfall because they could easily be covers for the same book.  Both are about fallen angels, but the covers are so different. This cover is literal- an angel falling from the sky. I love the subtleties of Angelfall so much that is sort of makes me hate this cover for its obviousness alone.

Cover I Love #3 – Stained by Ella James

I usually don’t like books with characters on the front because I like to imagine the characters myself. However, when I saw the cover of Stained, I was in love. First, the girl has her back to us. She isn’t glancing over her shoulder enticingly as so many YA heroines do (urgh!). She isn’t even interested in us, the reader. She is staring at the weird pyramid in the distance and now so are we. Second, I love the vulnerability of the girl. The flimsyness of her shirt, her bra openly showing, the approaching bank of dark clouds. This cover is full of mood and tone. And I even love the font for the title, though I generally don’t like stylistic fonts for book titles. This book covers takes all the elements I usually don’t like, and turns them into something I do. That is good design.

Cover I Hate #3 – A Need So Beautiful by Suzanne Young

Insert random pretty blonde girl and you have designed a book cover indistinguishable from about 50% of YA covers. This cover says nothing about the book. It has no mood or tone (unless vague, mundane or vacant counts). It looks more like the cover of a teen magazine that an interesting fiction book. Me don’t like. Yuck!

Cover I Love #4 – Marysvale by Jared Southwick

First, I have to say I don’t like the title font of this book. I think it could have been much stronger and more legible. As I said before, I don’t generally like title fonts that are too stylistic, and the author name overpowers the title in my opinion. However, besides that, I love this cover. I love the single, striking image of that weird flower coming out of very inhospitable ground. It makes me think the book is going to be about struggle, growth despite difficult odds, and maybe loneliness and isolation.

Cover I Hate # 4 – The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Love the book. Hate the cover. Here is where a single image can fail because it has to be a striking image, not just an image. The insides of this book are so chocked full of emotion and mood and tone, but I don’t feel any of that in this cover. The cover is flat. It doesn’t tell me anything about the inside of the book. It is more like a logo than a book cover. Legend by Mary Lu is in the same boat to me- more of a corporate logo with no feeling to it, instead of a book cover meant to usher you into the insides of a character and another world.

Cover I love #5 – Fracture by Megan Miranda

Love the book. Love the cover. Now, usually, I don’t love covers with layers of imagery and this much going on because it feels cluttered or busy to me. In this case, though, it has been done very carefully and thoughtfully. It feels like the images go together, rather than a girl pasted onto a lake pasted onto a wintery night. I love the unique perspective of the girl on her back looking up (which draws the reader’s eyes up). When you understand that the book is about a girl who drowns in a frozen lake and is revived after being dead for eleven minutes, the cover takes on even more beauty and subtlety. And I LOVE the tag line. If you haven’t read this book yet, run out and get it.

Cover I Hate # 5 – City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

Remember when I said I don’t like clutter. Well, this cover has it all. Giant shining pectoral man with his head cropped off. Swirls. Tattoos. A dark city. There is so much going on and none of it particularly impactful because there is so much of it. Plus, what is with the proportions? And why did they put the blurb right between his giant nipples? This feels like a cheesy romance collided with a dark fantasy. And I haven’t managed to read this yet because honestly, I just can’t get past that god-awful cover.

Now that I’ve shared mine, why don’t you share yours. What covers do you love, and which do you hate. And don’t forget to post why.

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Ripley Patton lives in a 22-foot camper in the woods of Southern Illinois with a cat named Lemmy. Her two young adult children, a daughter and a son, are her favorite people. When Ripley's not out exploring nature and getting her hands dirty, she's usually reading or writing a book.

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