Trends in YA Book Covers by Olivia Rivers

Okay, time for a confession: I judge books by their covers. I know, I know, writers aren’t supposed to do that. But as someone who does a lot of digital design, I can’t help but give covers a close look-over whenever I see a new one. Having an awesome book resting on your shelf is always a satisfying feeling, but having an awesome book with an equally awesome cover is just… awesome-er.

Just like books themselves, covers have trends that come and go. A couple years ago, the YA trend pretty much revolved around gorgeous girls in fancy dresses. Then we had the mysterious forest covers, followed by the mysterious city covers. When The Fault in Our Stars hit it big, everything became loopy fonts with cute, illustrated graphics, even though main characters were suddenly dying in droves. (I’m still waiting for someone to explain the logic behind that one.)

Now, in 2015, we’re starting to see even more new trends emerge. There have been some great covers lately, and I thought I’d highlight some of these covers, along with some of the trends they represent:

Landscapes and Abstract Objects in Fantasy/Sci-Fi

For a while, the YA fantasy genre had covers that nearly always showed the main character (cue girls in very gorgeous and rather impractical dresses.) Now we’re seeing more and more covers that use landscapes as the focus instead of people. Personally, I enjoy covers like this, especially when the cover gives me a hint of a unique sci-fi or fantasy setting. There have also been quite a few recent fantasy YA covers that focus on a single, often abstract object instead of a human model.

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Turning Your Back

This pose is used on a lot of the “kickbutt” covers where the main character is just too cool to bother facing the reader. Personally, I love it, because it gives me an idea of the characters’ looks while also letting me imagine a lot of their features. It also adds a sense of mystery, which is always great for high-stakes stories.

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Bold, Simplistic Fonts

So it should be noted that I don’t use the word “simplistic” as an insult. It’s actually extremely difficult to design an eye-catching cover using “simple” fonts, but we’re seeing more and more of it in the YA genre.

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Okay, this one is pretty straightforward: There have been a ton of covers featuring legs this year, especially in the Contemporary genre. Why? Maybe because the fancy-dress trend is slowly dying down, or maybe YA readers just really like legs. I’m not sure, but it’s made for some interesting and quite pretty covers.

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A lot of recent covers feature models trapped in a fall of some sort, because apparently teenage girls spend lots of time flailing their arms around and hop-skipping places. As a teenage chick who uses a cane, this was news to me. But I can see why this flailing-falling-jumping-skip behavior is apparently so popular, because holy heck, these sort of pictures make for some truly gorgeous covers.

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Illustrated Covers

As I noted before, The Fault in Our Stars seemed to start this trend, and it’s continued to grow and become more popular. Some of these covers are just way too adorable, and my personal collection of them is rapidly growing. Illustrated covers used to usually mean fluffy chick-lit books, but now we’re seeing more serious Contemporaries that use illustrations.

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What trends have you noticed recently in YA fiction? Are there any you particularly like or dislike?

Olivia Rivers is a Young Adult author who writes in multiple genres, ranging from Epic Fantasy to Contemporary Romance. Her fascination with technology led her to become a hybrid author, meaning some of her works are independently published, while others are traditionally published. She has a passion for representing diversity, and you’ll often find disabled main characters in her novels. Olivia is represented by Laurie McLean of Fuse Literary.


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