Something juicier than reviews today- I’ve been tagged to share some covers that could be better by Marija, who is the reigning queen of Judging Books By Their Covers content! At least two of her choices in this tag were the first titles that came to mind for me as well, so be sure to check out her spot-on answers! And for more Could Do Better cover fun, you can check out this youtube video filmed by the creator herself: CJ Reads.
And as an added challenge, I’m going to try to find books for each of these prompts that I’ve read and rated highly (4 or 5 stars), because while I do believe we can get useful information about whether or not we’ll like a book based on its cover appearance, sometimes a perfectly adequate and lovable book falls victim to subpar cover art and I want to focus on a few of those books today. So without further ado, the prompts:
Say it Don’t Spray it: cover with the most offensive use of type
10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World by Elif Shafak
Something that I tend to dislike in title appearance is when the words are broken up so that the reader has to assemble it. I also do not like curved titles (and these curves are not uniform- why?!) or people on book covers in general (but that’s another matter). It’s got black AND white typeface but they’re close to the same size so the eye (my eye, at least) doesn’t know where to go. This title is also using the most obnoxiously boring font imaginable (it’s ranking right up there with comic sans for me). Furthermore, why are we highlighting the eye with that title placement? If this face is supposed to represent the MC… well, she’s dead, so a staring eye makes no sense, and the fact that the eye is YELLOW is making it impossible to ignore whatever weird orange washing is going on with the photo. An artful title might have gone some way toward making this cover more palatable, but alas.
She’s Serving Reese’s Book Club: cover with the most commercial book club energy
Actress by Anne Enright
When I think of book club covers, I think of images that are pretty in perhaps too obvious a way; often they seem to have contrasting colors, sort of abstract or symbolic images, something that maybe looks nice enough but really doesn’t give any hints as to what the book’s about. So, Actress. The only image we get here is half of a head, presumably the actress in question. Her red hair provides the color contrast with the green background, her expression is maybe supposed to entice us, but ultimately it doesn’t give us anything the title isn’t doing already (and again, people on covers just don’t work for me. They interfere with whatever image I might create in my own head of the characters). And then, that nebulous green background. What is that. My best guess is blurry background trees, like in portrait mode. It’s a nice enough color, but why are blurry trees 90% of the cover image? Just for the sake of the jewel-toned cover catching the most possible eyes on the shelf.
Yes Girl, Give Us Nothing!: cover with seemingly no energy put into it
Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
I actually really like this monochrome color scheme and have no beef with the font. But this cover gives us… nothing. A line between the title and the author’s name, and that generic YA book snake that has starred on so many covers it really deserves a proper name at this point. It is our pet, whether we like it or not. Admittedly it’s been at least half a year since I read this, but are there even any snakes in the book? There’s so much worldbuilding going on in Ninth House, with magic and secret societies and ghosts, and the dismantling of Harvard traditions is pretty enticing in itself; the design team really missed an opportunity in putting literally ANYTHING interesting on this cover. And sadly, as the first book in a series, I suspect that there will be some attempt at matching going on with future volumes so it’s especially disappointing knowing we’re doomed to more of this nothingness in the future, as well.
A Face Only a Mother Could Love: a cover that is so hideous, but the book is so good, you can’t help but keep it around
Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
Perhaps a controversial opinion? This cover just does not work for me, but I want it to! It’s so close! And yet, for over a year I had this book on my shelf and could not even tell what the cover image was- I thought it was a floating red party dress, a bit disheveled, with a green snake coiled around it. What? It’s actually the musculature of a neck, with a green ribbon. I get it now. But it took me three stories beyond the green ribbon one in the book for me to figure it out! Probably I’m just dumb, but even knowing what it is, the skinniness of the green ribbon looks snakelike and repulsive to me, I’m sorry. Why is it not wider. Why is it floating. Why does the musculature just end at the collar, where are the shoulders. Why is the title divided into individual words and why is it directly on top of the only imagery we’re given. I don’t know. But I loved these stories, so it’s here to stay.
Take One Thing Off Before Leaving the House: cover that could use one less element
The Bass Rock by Evie Wyld
This is another one that I want to love. I like the color scheme a lot, and the cutouts in the black background. The face is striking, and I want to make an exception for it in my strict ‘no people on covers’ stance. Even the animals, fine. Except all together, it’s too much. The title and author hardly even seem to fit, like they’re an afterthought, and it bothers me that the background scenery is continuous in all of the cutouts but the people and animals don’t extend past individual cutouts. I get how that fits with the premise of the book, with so many lives layered on top of this one unchanging place, but it doesn’t work visually for me as well as it works thematically. I keep thinking the girl is just a head with a whale tail and the fox is growling at her and the rest of the whale (or shark? I believe there’s only a whale in the book but the image looks shark-like to me) is just flying through the air, disembodied. There’s just too much going on to really appeal.
Hypebeast: cover that is clearly going for all the trends at the same time
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate this one. But it just screams “I want to be popular!” It’s got florals. It’s got print. It’s got a person, in that recently popular way where some part of the face is obscured or out of frame. It’s got a vintage dress. It’s got contrasting colors, managing to be simultaneously dark and bright. It’s got a blurb right on the front so you can be reassured that people are loving this one. It mentions more of the author’s work under her name, to draw you in with another title you might’ve heard of and maybe even already enjoyed. It just really doesn’t want to be overlooked! And it hasn’t been, evidenced by that “New York Times Bestseller” line stamped proudly across the middle, so clearly adhering to cover trends works. Apparently we really are that easy to please.
My Bonus: No Explanation Necessary!
Because I’ve run out of prompts before bad covers, here are a few extras I’ve disliked in the last year (including some with lower personal ratings) that I think speak for themselves, for your viewing displeasure!
Tagging: anyone who wants to participate! I’ve got another book tag coming up soon so I’ll leave this one open-ended, but if you decide to join in the cover-judging fun please link back to my post so I can see the covers you’ve hated!
And just a reminder that this is all in fun and completely subjective; if you’ve loved covers I’ve mentioned disliking here, it’s totally your right to do so and I’ve got no complaint against it. Let me know below if you agree or disagree about any of these covers!
The Literary Elephant