Analyzing 6 of My Favorite Recent YA Covers

Posted August 17, 2020 by Amber in Bookish Things / 6 Comments

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Hey y’all!

It’s been a minute since I did a top list, so I thought I’d share with you some of my personal favorite book covers from recent / upcoming YA releases!  We talk about cover love all the time, so today, rather than just window shop for pretty covers, I thought I’d holler out to the artists and designers that made the covers possible and dig into the art itself.

Obviously, my favorite covers will change from time to time. In the interest of keeping things contained and also promoting some newer books, I wanted to keep this list to recent and upcoming YA releases. There are so many YA books that dropped / will be releasing this year and so many have striking covers, so it’s really a matter of taste.  Nevertheless, I hope you enjoy this curated list!

All The Stars and Teeth by Adalyn Grace

Designed by N. C. Sousa and Gemma O’Brien

When this cover was revealed back in 2019, my heart surged.  Already everyone was talking about All The Stars and Teeth, but a good cover can really make the difference.

There’s a couple different things I love about this cover.  First of all, the deep rich blue is really alluring and a great color choice, especially if you’re going for a sort of haunted vibe.  Because I have a copy of this book in hardcopy, I can also tell you that the digital image really doesn’t do justice for the vibrancy of the ink.

Secondly, there’s the border design.  At a quick glance, this looks like maybe a nice undersea-themed border, yeah?  But the closer you look, the more apparent certain details become.  The spines on the left and right borders stand out to me in particular.  Without even reading the synopsis, you know this will be a book about the sea, and about death.  It will be dark and haunting.  Gorgeous cover.

Skyhunter by Marie Lu

Designed by Aurora Parlagreco

My immediate thought upon seeing the Skyhunter cover was that it called back immediately to the sort of science fiction covers of the 1980s with its single figure and bright colors in a wasteland expanse.  I think I noticed the artistic elements on the cover before I noticed even the title of this book, it’s that good.

If I needed to pick just oneSkyhunter is my favorite cover on this list.  This is a piece of art I’d hang in my home.

Breaking down the elements, you’ve got these strong lines stretching across the cover.  Graphically, lines like that are used to simulate movement.  As a result, there’s a sort of speed and tension to the cover design, evoking an emotional response in the viewer as the figure seems to be walking against the grind.  Their struggle can actually be felt just by looking at the image.

The figure’s shadow, as well, evokes questions.  Is it a metaphor? Is it foreshadowing?  Can this character transform into a bird-like creature, or an angel?  It creates a sense of curiosity for the reader who now needs an explanation for the design.

Then, of course, there are the colors.  These bright blues and pinks are often used to show space (as we’ll see again later) and not only are they beautiful together aesthetically, but the boldness the color also draws the eye.  Bright, neon colors like this demand attention.  Although as far as color goes, my favorite part is the sunset gradient on the ground.  Or maybe sunrise gradient?  Is this the beginning or the end of things?  I need to know.

Harley in the Sky by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Designed by Heather Palisi-Reyes and Sarah J. Coleman

I actually talked a little in my review how much I like this cover, and I’ve also discussed it a little on Instagram, but once more for good measure… I really, really enjoy the cover for Harley in the Sky.

Yellow is such an underused color in most covers, being relegated to either the younger markets or to romance novels.  Which is well and good, but finding it in YA was a treat.  Here, the burnishing, almost bronziness of the yellow makes a lot of sense to the general feel of the character and her story… something beautiful, but worn and tired and needing polish.

My favorite part about the Harley in the Sky cover is an aspect you can’t see online, and that’s the gold foil on the edges.  It’s a unique use of foil – a material usually saved for text and bold accents – rather than put on the edges of things.  It was eye-catching.

Like with Skyhunter, we see the use of a silhouette in action on this cover.  I really enjoy the use of silhouettes as opposed to fully illustrated (or photographed) figures because I feel it allows for imagination – that character could look like anyone.  Also, I find silhouettes are great for movement, which is apparent here as the character is an aerialist.  Once again, we see the bold lines being used to simulate movement and background – in this case, there’s a sort of spinning motion, but it’s also the traditional design of a circus tent.  Both elements serve a purpose to the story.

Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore

Designed by Liz Dresner

Without question, Anna-Marie McLemore’s books have some of the more gorgeous covers in the genre.  I was first captivated by Wild Beauty and haven’t looked back since.

Once again we’re got the silhouette on the cover, and since I’ve already gone through why I like silhouettes twice, I won’t do it again.  What I do want to look at is the character profile, which is always something I find interesting in design.  The use of the shape as a secondary canvas can be nothing more than… this is a secondary canvas, but it could also be implying that this is a world inside the character’s mind – fantasy, memory, or dream.  Having not read Dark and Deepest Red, I can’t tell you the real significance of this artistic choice, but I enjoy it.

Another aspect of the art here I want to draw your eye to is the placement of the profile and the full moon.  Full moons are a symbol of transformation, but the alignment of the two shapes is interesting to me because it evokes images of wolves howling to the full moon, a symbol of strength and becoming (especially in werewolf mythology).  Generally speaking this is a really powerful design.

Add to that the choice of colors and the layered background.  I don’t know about you, but the way the clouds appear behind the trees reminds me of smoke, and the soft reds and pinks feel like fire.  It gives the whole cover a sense of urgency and destruction and ruthless becoming and I’m here for it.

The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow

Designed by Erin Craig and Mary Luna

When The Sound of Stars first came out, I was flabbergasted that the book didn’t have more of an instagram presence.  I mean, look at it.  Is that not one of the most aesthetically exciting covers you’ve ever seen?  I fell in love with it immediately.

Once again, we’ve got these neon blue and pink shades that are done absolutely zero justice on a computer screen.  They pop bright and bold and beautiful in actual ink.  And, as I mentioned with Skyhunter, these are used to show the suggestion of “outer space” as The Sound of Stars is a story about an alien invasion.

Some things I really like about the design here are both the font and the use of distance.  First, the use of distance in the design.  The reader sits at the edge of a lake and beyond, there’s a city.  This city is clearly under attack and there’s a lot going on over there.  But.  It’s far away and the reader has time to feel the urgency of the situation, but also the safety of distance.  And that’s good, because this book is less about the invasion itself, and more about a couple of people during the invasion.  You want that expectation of distance.

Finally, the font.  I haven’t really spoken about font yet, but I really want to draw attention to the title font in The Sound of Stars, because it reminds be of old-fashioned radio tubes.  The way letters connect to the next line, and the balls of light that appear to be moving along the font.  It’s really clever, because the book is about two people who connect during the end (?) of the world and that allusion to moving communications is great.

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

Designed by Johnny Tarajoshu

Listen, I know The Gilded Ones was intended for May and delayed until next year, but COME ON YOU GUYS how could I possibly not draw the spotlight to this cover?  Because… wow.

Sometimes, simple covers are the way to go to get across the most powerful message.  The way the character is posed is interesting to me – she is clearly looking into the distance at something.  And not just looking.  You get a sort of sense that she’s not looking at something tangible – she’s envisioning something.  The way her eyes are drawn suggests that there’s so much more beneath the surface, layers of emotions and motivations you’ll have to read the book to learn.

The illustration is incredible as well.  Another piece of art that, frankly speaking, deserves to be in a frame.  Tarajoshu’s work is truly incredible and I recommend checking out his portfolio because holy wow.  I don’t have much to say about the style because I’m honestly just jaw-dropped impressed.

Finally, just a small discussion on the use of space and colors.  Because Deka is so resplendent in her armor, I think it was a strong choice to put her up against a simple background.  I like the teal – it’s another one of those colors rarely used, and when it is, not in this genre, so it makes the book stand out.  One thing I’ve been puzzling over is the yellow stroke in the upper right of the book?  It doesn’t reflect quite like light to me, and it’s not textured quite right to be burnishing.  I’m not sure why it’s there when a full teal wall backdrop would have been fine.  Maybe it’s just the gradient.  Anywho if y’all have theories, I’m game.

Alrighty, in the interest of keeping the post at a reasonable length (too late?) I’m going to cut off the list there.  I could analyze the art of book covers all day long.  I really appreciate the artistry that goes into the cover of a book and like to kind of look at them and think about them sometimes.  Especially while I’m reading the book!  It’s like secrets are woven into them, especially the illustrated covers.

There have been a lot of really beautiful YA covers lately, so it’s so hard to choose which one!  If y’all enjoy this post, be sure to let me know in the comments!  I have a lot of other covers I love, so if this goes over well, maybe I’ll do another one in the future. 🙂

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Do you analyze book covers?  Or are you the sort of person who experiences the cover, then moves on?  I’d love to hear your take, so please let me know in the comments how you feel about book covers!

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6 responses to “Analyzing 6 of My Favorite Recent YA Covers

  1. I particularly love Skyhunter and Sound of Stars because I love rainbow colors and pinks and purples together. Hahaha but the use of foil with the yellow sounds dynamite. I haven’t seen that book in person. Covers that are attractive just give such added appeal to a book. ♥️

    • Amber

      I agree on both Skyhunter and Sound of Stars – the space-themed neons are just so pretty, I’m glad they’re making a comeback this year. 🙂 Visual appeal does so much for a book – in the nicest way possible… humans are simply shallow creatures that like pretty things. A plain cover definitely turns me off of a book, even if it’s a good book. XD

    • Amber

      I love picking apart art at a technical level and understanding how it works! <3 The Skyhunter cover is absolutely fabulous - definitely my favorite on the list.

  2. Wow I loved how you went so in depth with these analyses! They make so much sense!! Perhaps I’ll try to analyze book covers more…hee hee! Ooh it’d be so cool if you turned this into a blog series 😄

    • Amber

      Thanks Eleanor! I’ve considered it and I have a couple different covers with designs I really like this year. It’s in my extended “Blog Ideas” list! <3