Thesis Thursday: Babbling about YA Book Cover Trends

Thesis Thursdays is a weekly(ish) feature where I rant, love and talk about young adult books I’m reading because I’m conning my college into thinking this is all for academia! Find out more here!

After getting out of my thesis meeting today, it turns out that I have too many thoughts about YA book covers. I want to say too much about them, in too many angles, in too many ways. I could write a million papers about YA book covers.

So, while that is not productive to me, I’m going to talk about a few things that came up for me and see if you guys think I’m crazy or if you’ve noticed this too. I’m going to make a serious effort to stay quick and to the point–and not get my professorial lecturing on–so many of these ideas will stay surface level. Tell me what you find interesting!

  1. Book cover trends in general – like, literally, what is going on with this? Books that 51ocax0kjxl-_sx326_bo1204203200_are all different genres–dystopian, fantasy, paranormal, realistic–they all look the same. Each one of them was just as likely to have a “girl in dress” or “half girl face” cover as the next. That doesn’t help you figure out what the book is supposed to be about? Sure, those were some pretty dresses, but do we care? I’d rather see actual content related covers, if you don’t mind. Of particular concern to me:
    1. Book covers that partition the female body – Why do we need book covers that focus just on female torsos? Why not give them heads or full bodies? Fragmentation of the female body has been long studied in advertising as a way to help objectify it. Which is doubly weird, since most YA books are marketed towards female readers.
    2. the selectionGirls in dresses – Okay, on some overs this is fine. Like, for instance, Kiera Cass’s Selection series. That makes sense. But on books where we’re supposed to get a strong female character, why are they shown in inactive poses in dresses that will not be very helpful in a fight? Or, at the very least, they never wear in the actual book?
  2. Book cover changes mid-series publication – Am I
    insane, or did this never used to happen? I never used to have to flip out because I bought one book in hardcover,

    Throne of Glass

    The original ToG cover.

    but by the time the next book came out, the covers had completely changed. Now, oftentimes this change IS for the better (I’m looking at you, Throne of Glass), but … it’s annoying if you want your covers to all look the same. But seriously, help me out here. This is a rather new phenomenon, isn’t it?

  3. Book series repackaging through the years – This is more of a pet peeve with a related example. I will never forget standing in a Barnes and Noble with Tamora Pierce as she lamented about the new “Twilight covers” of her Alanna series where it looked like her characters were wearing clothes “from the Gap.” I understand that the Alanna series is older now, but packaging it to look like Twilight doesn’t seem to be the best marketing strategy. It’s a very different book series. Have you seen other books that have be repackaged in weird ways?Song of the Lioness
  4. The Immortal RulesBook cover white washing – this is very much a last but certainly not least moment. I know that this is a long and storied tradition of publishing, but it really hit home with me when Julie Kagawa’s Blood of Eden series came out. Why would you use the half face of a white girl on the cover of a book about an Asian-American character? Okay, I know the annoying answer to that question, but seriously. Then, after the uproar, the books got new covers–but not of an actual Asian-American half faced girl. No, the books went the route of the symbol covers instead. Yes, that’s a new fad, but I’m also going to add an eyebrow raise to that movement. What are some other whitewashed covers that have annoyed you guys?

I think I want to say something along the lines of how YA book covers have become really 9780547959214_hresfrustrating, because they–like the inside flaps of the books they contain–are starting to all look the same. Don’t get me wrong, there is some FABULOUS cover art out there, but there are also books that just seem so … samesie. I’m really not a fan of the new symbol art thing. It seems like too many books are trying to be The Hunger Games. At the very least, it seems the symbols are leading back around to more artsy designs than the half-girl faces used to give us.

26114463Can you see how my ideas are flip flopping all over the place? I understand that books can’t all be fabulous pieces of art like the Throne of Glass redo covers or literally anything written by Jay Kristoff, but …sigh. There is SO MUCH IMPORTANT INFORMATION tucked into these covers. I want to talk about it all with my scholar cap on, but I can’t cover all this stuff with the breadth it deserves in the same paper.

Sigh. I need to decide soon. Fingers crossed.

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Review: “The Elite” by Kiera Cass

The EliteThe Elite (The Selection #2) by Kiera Cass

Goodreads | Amazon

Thirty-five girls came to the palace to compete in the Selection. All but six have been sent home. And only one will get to marry Prince Maxon and be crowned princess of Illea.

America still isn’t sure where her heart lies. When she’s with Maxon, she’s swept up in their new and breathless romance, and can’t dream of being with anyone else. But whenever she sees Aspen standing guard around the palace, and is overcome with memories of the life they planned to share. With the group narrowed down to the Elite, the other girls are even more determined to win Maxon over—and time is running out for America to decide.

Just when America is sure she’s made her choice, a devastating loss makes her question everything again. And while she’s struggling to imagine her future, the violent rebels that are determined to overthrow the monarchy are growing stronger and their plans could destroy her chance at any kind of happy ending.

3 1/2 stars

Alright, I’ll be totally honest. I read this book in 3 hours while my parents left me stranded in a two stories B&N, and I couldn’t afford to pile anymore books. After The Selection, I was really iffy on this book. I liked the first one, but I was really conflicted about the characters. This was more of the same.

To quote an internet meme, things escalate quickly when The Elite gets started. As far as I can tell, this escalation comes about strictly to create tension between Maxon and America, since she seems to be leaning pretty heavily towards him instead of Aspen.  The character that instigates this tension is forcibly introduced in the first chapter, and there seems to be no basis for anything that happens besides it moving the love triangle along (and eventually making it a love quadrangle).  This was a frustrating starting point that basically continued throughout the rest of the novel.

I love the character of America, I really do. When she’s on her own, she is a fiercely independent woman who fights for what she thinks is right and has real considerations for the consequences of her actions. As far as I can tell, the things that keep screwing up her character are Maxon and Aspen. When her decisions involve either of them, she becomes a simpering, indecisive Mary Sue who’s emotional reactions are the most poignant when she expresses jealousy. When she’s alone, she has serious debates about the two of them and makes up her mind which one to choose multiple times. But then she gets back together with the other one and her mind gets scrambled by their maleness.

At this point, I don’t like either Maxon or Aspen. Aspen, for most of this book, was once again a background character. I have a hard time remembering why she cares about him, simply because none of his qualities are ever given a chance to shine, negative or positive. Maxon, on the other hand, I can’t keep straight. The attempt to give his character more depth in this novel just made him seem completely bipolar. One minute he cares, one minute he doesn’t (or does he?).  He’s so wishy-washy I want to wring him out like a dish towel. I liked him the best after The Selection, but I’ve pulled away from that a lot now.

And his character wasn’t the only one that turned bipolar, either. There were several major players who seem to have woken up at random moments with no idea of who they were previously for the sake of the plot.

Except, that is, America’s maids. Can I get a whole book just with them, please?

There’s also the fact that I still understand nothing about the rebels everyone keeps talking about. This book also reminded me there’s supposed to be some kind of a war going on with New Asia as well. America herself blows off any attempt at getting any information about any of these conflicts, so we can’t learn anything through her. Anything outside the walls of the palace is shakily world built at best, and it leaves me feeling like the wars going on outside the palace and the attacks by the rebels really aren’t important or dangerous at all.

I am really just so torn about this book. On the one hand, America without Maxon or Aspen around is a great character, the kind I want as a best friend. Every time I get annoyed with the rest of the novel, I get a scene with her and it just makes everything better. But then Maxon or Aspen show up and she becomes this different person that just annoys me, and I just want to smack her. Every time she talks about how she loves them both equally I just want to hit my head on the desk, especially because at times she seems so sure about making a decision, but then backtracks on it just as fast. The characterization in these novels just keeps throwing me off, and that makes me really upset. Can these rebels that I still know nothing about just off Maxon and Aspen and leave America to lead the country on her own? Because that would be the best book ever.

Review: “The Selection” by Kiera Cass

The Selection (The Selection #1) by Kiera Cass (Click for Goodreads)

Four stars

For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn’t want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she’s made for herself–and realizes the life she’s always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

So I’m just going to go right out there and say it: If you can’t hold on past the first 10 chapters of a book before you pass judgement, you’re going to hate The Selection. Why? Because the first 90 pages or so of this book were absolute sugary horribleness. I adore America’s family well enough, but that was not enough to make up for America and Aspen’s interactions. I don’t usually pass judgement on girl’s and their boyfriends–I’ve been told I’m way too sappy in that regard myself–but ohmygod. America and Aspen were so sugary and ridiculous and over-the-top that I almost didn’t keep going.

But I did.

And I’m glad I did.

Once America gets away from Aspen, she becomes a MUCH more level-headed girl that I wouldn’t actually mind knowing. (Clearly, Aspen just brings out the worst in her, because she goes back to acting like an idiot when he comes back.) When he’s not around, she’s strong, she’s sassy and she cares. She really needs to quit having such bad moments of self-esteem issues when she clearly has no reason to have issues, but that’s a personal opinion and I digress. The book actually starts moving a little bit and–yes–I did fall in love with it a little bit. A lot bit, actually. I was furious there wasn’t more pages. But you know what? Given all the bad reviews people have been giving this book, I just want to say this:

What you see is exactly what you get with this book.

The blurb should tell you all you need to know, really. This is a romance. This is a dystopian version of The Bachelor. This is what would happen if Disney decided to join the dystopian trend. The blurb TELLS YOU THIS. The cover SHOWS YOU THIS. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that every girl but America is pretty vapid, that the prince is a perfect Prince Charming and that the whole thing reads like a magical princess story straight out of a fairytale.

THAT’S WHAT THIS IS.

Yes, this book is listed as dystopian, but if you’re looking for another Hunger Games or Divergent I have no idea what you’re doing looking at this book. The Selection is filled with every little girl’s princess fantasy. It isn’t dark, it isn’t that deep and it isn’t action packed. It’s exactly what it looks like. It glitters. It sparkles. It makes the little girl in you swoon and remember how it felt to believe in fairy tales. It’s a light read that you can whisk through in a day.

I was a Disney girl. All I wanted to be was a princess when I grew up. Letting that little girl take over and enjoy this book is why I fell in love with it. But if you’re looking for a deep read, a gut-wrenching story, fast-paced action or a heart-wrenching romance, I don’t think you’ve got the right book. Someone once told me that some of the books I read are “sweet, fun, mindless fluff” and I’d be happy to put The Selection in that category. Because there is nothing wrong with that. I adore those books, just like I adored this one. But you just have to know that what you see is what you get.

Waiting on Wednesday: “The Selection” by Kiera Cass

Waiting on Wednesday is a feature hosted over at Breaking the Spine.

Title: The Selection

Author: Kiera Cass

Expected Publication Date: April 24, 2012

Summary from Goodreads: For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in the palace and compete for the heart of the gorgeous Prince Maxon.
But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn’t want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.
Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she’s made for herself- and realizes that the life she’s always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

Why I’m Waiting: Because this book has hooked me from day one. The cover, the idea–everything. I know that some people have said bad things about it. I know some people have said good things about it. I’m totally ready to forget EVERYTHING and just READ THIS BOOK. It is literally ridiculous how badly I want my hands on this. Don’t ask me WHY I’m so excited, but I just am. Plus, this is becoming a CW show. The CW has some of my guilty pleasures (VD? Nikita? I shouldn’t, and yet…) This could either go amazingly or horribly and I’m delighted to find out which!

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books On My Spring To-Be-Read List

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted over at The Broke and the Bookish.

Okay, I have to face it, my to-be-read list is SKY HIGH. Picking ten for the spring is going to be … death defying. Let’s give it a try! (All links will go to Goodreads unless otherwise noted.)

1. Spell Bound by Rachel Hawkins

In case you missed my Waiting on Wednesday post last week, I WANT THIS BOOK. If Amazon’s shipping department wasn’t the worst, I’D HAVE IT BY NOW. But I don’t. And the wait is KILLER.

2. The Gathering Storm by Robin Bridges

Really, as far as I’m concerned, you can’t go wrong with this book. It’s historical fiction in the fact that it takes place in Russia circa 1888. It’s fantasy because the main character is both a Duchess and a necromancer. This book’s blurb caught me on the first look, and I can’t wait to read it.

3. Die for Me by Amy Plum

Okay, Anna and the French Kiss maaaay have made me have an instant love of books set in Paris, which I discovered at line 2 of the blurb. Then I read the REST of the blurb and went DUDE. Let’s see if the plotline is cool enough to overcome the star-crossed lovers thing! You can bet you’ll hear which way this one goes as soon as I get my hands on it.

4. Balthazar by Claudia Gray

I’ll admit, my interest in the Evernight series continued to wane as the books went on, but it seems that this one is completley unrelated to the Evernight books and characters except for Balthazar, so sign me up! I was a huge sucker for this guy, and I’m not ashamed to admit it!

5. The Selection by Kiera Cass

Okay, this is one book where I read the blurb and I went I WANT NOW. NOW. I have no idea why, but I just fell in love right there. Plus, the CW is making it into a TV series so DUDE. I have to at least read the book so I can watch how much the series messes with the plot line. 😛

6. City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare

GUYS. GUYS. CASSANDRA CLARE. THAT IS ALL.

7. Insurgent by Veronica Roth

This is the sequel to Divergent, which I thought actually lived up to a lot of the hype it got. Enough is said.

8. The Golden Lily by Richelle Mead

MORE VAMPIRE ACADEMY WORLD. MORE ADRIAN. GIVE ME NOW. If you don’t believe the CAPS is pertinent, read my review of Bloodlines!

9. Grave Mercy by R. L. LaFevers

Girl escapes arranged marriage, becomes assassin. Seriously, do I need to tell you anymore? Also, for the life of me I can’t get this cover to actually show up here, so you’re just going to have to click the link to check it out. 😛

10. For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund

I am a horrible person who judges books by their cover–only literally, I swear! However, CHECK OUT THIS COVER. Then CHECK OUT THE BLURB. Really interested in getting my hands on this one!