Hello, Sabrina here! You’ve probably read the title of this post, so you know what I’m talking about today: book covers with people on them and how my feelings toward them have changed over time. I’m sure we all have cover trends that we love and loathe – and plenty that we are indifferent towards. I used to hate people on book covers, and now I don’t. Actually… now I love them. Let’s talk about why that is and how it happened.
IN THE BEGINNING
Let’s rewind to 2011, the year I started to discover YA. I was particularly looking for a new series to fall in love with and I was directed towards The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare. And I loved TMI. There was just one problem (…that I was aware of back then) – I hated the covers. I was in early high school at the time, and I wouldn’t say there was a certain image I was trying to project, but I can say that toting around a book with a bare-chested, no-faced man, in my mind, was projecting an image I didn’t want. I thought the cover was downright cringe-y and made it seem like I was reading a steamy romance (which, to be perfectly honest with you, I thought was beneath me*). It was particularly bad, I thought, because the image was a manipulated photo rather than an illustration. I guess it boiled down to me worrying what people would think of me and what I was reading – and honestly, I do remember some lighthearted teasing from friends when I was reading that series simply because of the covers!
* I was a bit judgemental as a teenager, but I think that’s a discussion for another day. Just know my thoughts have changed now – thank goodness, lol.
There were plenty of other books I read during this time with people on them too, and I thought almost all of them were ugly. In the end, it didn’t even matter if they were illustrated – I decided I did not like them. Here’s some notable examples:
WHAT CHANGED AND WHERE I AM NOW
The shortest part of the answer is: I think the designs have just become better, especially in YA. For a lot of books, I think a lot more attention is being paid to their cover design. There are so many books being published all the time and the cover is one of the first things people are going to see. Of course, I don’t actually have any facts here, it’s just what I believe based off my own experience.
Another part to that answer is that my perspective started to shift in 2017, when Sabaa Tahir’s series, An Ember in the Ashes, got a cover change with the release of the third book, A Reaper At The Gates. I was at first annoyed about the change, because as I’ve mentioned a million times now, I hated covers with people on them. Then I saw this interview on Mashable where the author explained how she “really wanted a to see a brown girl on these covers…in a position of power.” She goes on to say that the new cover designs were “everything [she] wanted to see as a kid in [her] fantasy book covers — but never did.” It got me thinking and I realised that even if I didn’t like these covers yet, at least I could appreciate them.
The final piece is that my taste and my self-consciousness has changed. I do in fact love the An Ember in the Ashes covers now! Also, I used to claim that contemporary romance was my least favourite genre, but I unabashedly enjoy that kind of fiction now – and I’m not afraid of covers that clearly indicate that’s their genre. And truly, some of these covers are works of art. Here’s some examples of books I’ve read:
I also have a lot of books on my TBR like this. Here’s some examples:
WHERE I WANT TO GO
I still admittedly have some reservations about picking up books with bare-chested men on the cover and historical fiction with women in fancy dresses. I’m much more likely to read these books if I can find them on Libby, so I can read in public (or, these days, in front of my family) without displaying the cover. I struggled to feel relaxed reading Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh around the house – though I guess that was also in a big part due to the title, lol. But I did do it! And I am hoping I will do it again with other books.
What do you think?
Are you a fan of book covers that feature people on them? Are there any cover trends that you’ve changed your opinion on over time? Can you think of any books with covers I should challenge myself to read a physical copy of based off what I mentioned? Let me know!