Everyone has heard the idiom “don’t judge a book by its cover,” and, metaphorically speaking, that’s sound advice. However, when we’re speaking literally about book covers, let’s be honest. EVERYONE judges books by their covers. I am a librarian, and I don’t want to read a book with an ugly or dated cover. I want a book that is as aesthetically pleasing on the outside as it is on the inside. The problem with this is that art is so subjective - I imagine adult tastes are different from those of young adults and so on. And yet, there still tends to be trends in cover art - for a while, it seemed like every young adult book (of various genres) we received in the library had a picture of a girl’s face on it - which does not particularly appeal to me. I’ve also noticed the addition of texture to book covers. I have a student who is legally blind, and he feels the covers of everything in the library; having met him, I have become much more interested in raised lettering and images, such as the raindrops on Becca Fitzpatrick’s Dangerous Lies, as well as metallic/holographic covers, such as David Levithan’s Hold Me Closer. Now, I find myself running my hands over book covers as much as I look at them. Taking these new elements into consideration, I am excited to see how the trends in YA book covers evolve.
Having come across an image of My Friend Dahmer’s cover in a recent issue of Booklist, I was reminded how exceptional an example Derf Backderf’s graphic novel is of a book with an artistic and evocative cover. The cover art captures the essence of Dahmer and the tone of the graphic novel. Dahmer is central, staring, blankly and directly, at the reader, challenging and unfeeling. He is spotlighted, and yet, the shadows under his eyes and near his mouth render him ominous. Moreover, his classmates in the periphery appear unconcerned and oblivious to his presence, reflecting his triviality. I can’t imagine a more haunting image of a man who grew up to commit unspeakable crimes. To this novel’s credit, the author and cover-artist is the same person; so, he had an opportunity to capture the sense of foreboding that emanates throughout the text. I would love to see more covers with art that so successfully evokes the essence of the literature, as well as can stand as art in its own right.