Thursday, May 31, 2012

Trends in Young Adult Book Covers

Inspired by THIS (a visual analysis of movie posters) I immediately knew I had to make something similar for young adult literature. I often see book covers and think "I've seen something like that before, yeah?" It isn't necessarily a bad thing, there are marketing geniuses at publishing houses who study what teens like and what makes books sell. And they must be on to something because many of the books I featured here are bestsellers. So they're clearly doing something right -- they've made these books fly off the shelves and into readers' hands. (Of course, it's the writing too! Can't give the cover all the credit!)

But trends, nonetheless, are interesting. Here are 9 trends of young adult book covers I've identified.


MY METHODOLOGY: I scoured the Goodreads list of books for young adults that were published in 2010, 2011 and 2012. That made my search very select since I'm focusing on a sampling of books from the past 2.5 years. (I also included the Twilight cover, because, well, I wanted to.) This visual is by no means comprehensive, it's only meant to show a small sample of a trend and not every book that falls into the category, of course many are missing. It also doesn't show the percentage of the books published, aka "20% of books featured dead girls." Nothing like that. This is just a small visual to quickly illustrate a trend.

(Please note: This is in no way intended to imply that these covers are in any way bad or flawed, I enjoy a good many of them! This is simply to point out a trend and in a humorous/light-hearted manner.)


For this post I focused only on covers that feature people. I'm planning a later post that analyzes non-people covers. (Maybe.) On to the good stuff....!

TREND 1: The Beheaded

Ah yes, a good torso shot. Where are the heads of these leading ladies? Oh, don't fret, here they come...

TREND 2: The Big Head

Full face, half face, it doesn't matter, the trend is IN YOUR FACE. And if you thought it was only females who got all up in your face, you'll occasionally find a male or two who does also.

TREND 3: Baby's Got Back

These gals are going somewhere. Often it is staring out into the distance, sometimes it is running off into the wilderness. Either way, they're showing off their backsides.

TREND 4: The Mope

How does one pull off this look? Wear a really pretty long dress and look really sad. Don't make eye contact with the reader, stare off into the distance. Stand by the ocean or near a mountain, or else somewhere scenic. *Tear* (Also, is anyone else really jealous of these outfits? I am.)

TREND 5: The Dead Girl

Often found floating in water (Ophelia?) with their vacant eyes and swirly hair, these girls all look pretty dead.

These next three trends speak for themselves:

TREND 6: What Big Eyes You Have...

TREND 7: What Big Lips You Have...

TREND 8: What Big Hands You Have...

TREND 9: Kissy Face

Everyone loves a good makeout session.

* * * 

It's too bad I finished my master's degree last year, there must be some kind of criticism paper in here somewhere. Stay tuned for an analysis on non-people covers. Cheers!


  1. Oh my goodness! Look what you did here, what an amazing resource, I love it! I'm tweeting this, and will most likely refer back to it in one of my future blog posts if that's okay.

  2. Glad you enjoyed it Karen! Definitely go ahead and share! :)

  3. Hi Jillian! I really enjoyed this post and am grateful that you allowed Racialicious to use one of your visuals with my post on YA covers. This was a lot of work and it was excellently done! Thank you!!

  4. What a great project! I love it! Eagerly awaiting the non-people one (my fave kind of covers!)

    There's for sure a paper topic in why none of these young women appear to wear anything large than a size 8. Not even the pregnant girl in #1! And The Mopes look no bigger than a size 4...

    The only title I can think of within your time-frame is The D.U.F.F., and they chickened out by going with the "Big [Pretty] Head" option. (And that's another thing - none of these girls get zits?)

  5. This blog is providing beautiful news about trends in young adult book covers. Thanks for providing the information. Cover for Facebook

  6. Great compilation and analysis! Love it. Working with a designer on the cover for my second book. Thanks for keeping me up on the trends!

  7. This was a great compilation of images! Good job for thinking of this!! :)

    I shared it on my fb fanpage :3 I hope that's okay

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  10. Great post! I love how you broke down the various trends into categories. The compilation was wonderful. It's interesting how similar they are.

    Are there any current covers that don't fall into any of these categories, perhaps something with an average-looking protagonist, or only things with no skinny over-acting models?

  11. Awesome compilation! YA sure loves its cover trends, hating the one were they change covers in the middle of a series.

  12. This is by far the most accurate cover trend analyzation I've ever come across. Kudos on this. I've noticed that most covers are based on the appearance of characters, except in the event of whitewashing.


  13. AWESOME!!! Such a great resource for eye-catching book displays! Thanks so much for sharing :)

  14. It's always finding the trends in covers. It's so easy usually to identify the YA books from adult books in that way.

  15. Love these collages! Just linked to this post on my blog (crediting you, of course). Brilliant work--hope you do get extra credit out of it somehow :o)

  16. let's not forget the most obvious "trend" of all- they're all white

  17. Thanks for sharing these huge collection of books displays.

  18. Just saw this - hilarious and true - did you ever do the article on non-people covers?

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