An Ordinary World

books, blabberings, and a life semi-common

A Conundrum of YA

I love Young Adult fiction. That shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. I may not fit the correct age bracket for the group but I’m not alone in my readings.

What I sometimes have a problem with, however, are the covers that grace YA novels. There seems to be a formula that works in the genre – pretty girl, lovely background. Occasionally, only the pretty girl makes it onto the cover.

It works.

But it’s sometimes annoying or aggravating that there isn’t more variety within the genre. I realize that it appeals to the younger audience in a way but I’m always waffling between liking them and hating them. The major problem for me is that I enjoy picturing the main characters in my head. I love being able to piece together the scattered details given (the eye color, the build, the hairstyle) and visualizing this amazing character in my head.

As an example, I’ll put up a few covers that I’ve seen recently (or remember). Keep in mind – I really love some of these covers. I think they are a beautiful representation of the words that are found within. Others, I could do without. In either case, the similarities between them are somewhat eerie and potentially lacking of creativity.

Of course, not all YA covers are similar but it must say something that the ones I did remember off the top of my head were ones that looked alike. So what does this mean? Is it more bothersome to have covers focused on the same details or should there be more differences to break free from the rest of the pack?

I realize that it’s not always the author who chooses their covers. Yes, he or she or they can say they may not like something but, in the end, a big portion of a book cover is whether or not it has selling capabilities. Unfortunately for those who enjoy the creativeness of covers, these covers – the single female focus – are the most popular in the bookstores. I don’t know if I agree with every title showcasing the same thing – only because I feel like even the slightest variation has the ability to stand out.

An example of this would probably be Ally Condie’s MATCHED series.

Even though a girl is still features, I personally don’t find her to be the main focus. My eyes are instead drawn to the fact that she’s in a bubble. I haven’t read the series yet though I have MATCHED on my ‘to-read’ list, so I can’t say for certain whether or not the cover matches the plot but I find these covers more interesting than some other ones that are on the shelves of bookstores right now.

What do you think? Do you think the slew of similar covers helps bind all the different novels in a genre? Are you sick of seeing the same thing over and over and over again?

Tell me your thoughts… Or tell me to shut up and just read.


4 responses to “A Conundrum of YA

  1. Jess 12 July 2011 at 11:14 am

    This keeps coming up this week and I’ll probably go off on a long blog entry about it sometime soon on my personal blog (if I can leave the Harry Potter blog alone for a few seconds…SO DIFFICULT to do right now), but I feel like I’m on a personal quest to banish the belief that anyone is in the wrong age bracket for YA.

    Maybe this is because I’m newly interested in YA (or re-newely interested in it, I guess is a more accurate way of putting it). Maybe it’s because I’m currently outlining my very own novel that just so happens, against my will, to fall smack dab into what we would consider YA (maybe I should curse more and change that…), but I honestly don’t believe there is an age where you’re too old for young adult fiction.

    I was a Literature major. It broadened my mind and screwed up my writing, because I came to believe anything worth writing had to be written at the literary caliber of the Brontes. Everything had to be dripping in symbolism, cleverly masked behind witty, flowery prose. Each chapter had to be destined for the New Yorker. And in the process of trying to find the absolutely perfect adjective to describe the utterly perfect noun, I lost my story.

    The great thing about YA is that your only job as a writer is to tell a compelling story. Teenagers are harsh critics. They don’t care if your sentence structure is something that can be studied by a 500 level Lit Criticism class. They care if THEY CARE. They want a book they shut off their phones for – a book they cart around in the school hallways – something they think about when their friends are talking about something else. They want a good story. And what more can a writer ask for than the opportunity to tell a really good story?

    I think adults want that, too. They’re just too embarrassed to admit it sometimes. I’m the first to judge someone for picking up a trashy romance novel or a junky mystery by a no-name author. You know what I’m talking about – those paperbacks they sell at CVS. My mother eats them up and tries to pass them along to me, telling me that they aren’t literature but they’re good stories. There’s a market for it.

    So if everyone wants a good story, why not just admit that it can be found in YA? Do we really need corsets thrown asunder and necks slashed to feel grown up?

    As for the covers, that’s all marketing. As a marketing associate at a publishing company (albeit not trade publishing, but the point still stands), I can tell you that your goal with a print piece is to intice someone to pick it up. Personally, I think taking your YA cover in a COMPLETELY different direction is how you can accomplish that these days. Do something crazy and readers will pick up your book, if only to see what the heck it is.

    (wow, why bother writing a blog entry – I think I just covered it all here)

    • Mary 12 July 2011 at 11:24 am

      Descriptive and sales-wise, I’m NOT the market for YA novels. It helps that I’m interested in it and will read it but when sales teams get together, they don’t think, “I wonder how many people outside of the 13-18 bracket we can get interested in this book.” Yes, there are more crossover aspects to look at nowadays from both sides of the age divide but it’s never the first thing in mind.

      Marketing may want something different but buyers and sellers are currently at a stage where similar covers are important. It’s what sells – much more than the ones way outside of the box. It’s a bit unfortunate but it’s why the slight differences are getting increasingly popular but covers that are too different isn’t what’s wanted right now. I really do hate it sometimes.

      • Jess 12 July 2011 at 11:38 am

        It’s worth considering that maybe the YA market should be trashed all together. Just write books – tell stories – and let people find what appeals to them, not what marketers tell them should appeal to them.

        I live in a dream world.

  2. Mary 12 July 2011 at 11:40 am

    As a sales girl… I am giving you the nastiest look ever.


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