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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In Defense of YA: We Need a Rebellion of Our Own

I promised myself a while ago–like, when I started this blog ago–that I would never write a response blog post. I have never wanted to get caught up in any drama. Lord, the drama on the internet, am I right? But two things have happened in such quick succession that I am finally using this blog to say some things.

The first was during the episode of my book club, Bibliomancy for Beginners, that aired last Tuesday. Head over to this link and watch the last six minutes or so. Starting at about 1:04:00 I just … blow up. Seriously. I scare my co-Bibliomancers. Because enough of them have taken enough jabs at the YA genre over the three years that we’ve been doing this that I just broke. (Warning: I say some choice things about John Green. While I stand by my opinion, I recognize that this is my opinion and not some cosmic rule.) So I start shouting in defense of it. Enjoy.

Continue reading

Perusing Poetics: 50 Shades of the Sublime and Other Stupid Trends

Before you freak out: yes, I’m going to be mentioning 50 Shades of Grey in this post. No, it’s not because I like it. Get ready.

BUT FIRST, time for my poetical entrance into this topic. This week, one of the readings was from On the Sublime by this Greek guy named Longinus. (This is hopefully the last Greek guy I will be blogging about.) What he actually means about the definition of the sublime is something I’m still not 100% clear on (I’m like somewhere between 70-80) but where I am up to speed is what is NOT sublime. Specifically, this quote:

“All these ugly and parasitical growths arise in literature from a single cause, that pursuit of novelty in the expression of ideas which may be regarded as the fashionable craze of the day.”*

Ugly and parasitical growths coming from stupid, crazy trends? Of course I’m thinking 50 Shades of Grey.

To be fair, I’ve never read these. I’ve read sections online. I’ve watched the movie trailer. I’ve read the criticism. I’m on Tumblr. I’m not sad that I’ve never read these, and I never plan to. I DO know, however, that the author got her original idea from Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series and this is actually a really bad riff off that.

I hate to agree with Plato, but this kind of imitation is really annoying. What’s ever worse is that it’s something that I, as a reader of primarily YA, have to deal with ALL THE TIME. One of my most popular blog posts was actually on this, specifically about the amount of love triangles that popped up after Twilight (otherwise apparently known as the root of all evil).

Okay, that last parenthetical statement is a lie. Twilight did cause a lot of crap to come out onto the market, but it’s hardly the only one. How many wizarding school books followed Harry Potter? Did you, like me, get hellishly sick of dystopians after The Hunger Games? And yes, of course, there were all those vampire books that erupted after Twilight. More than any other genre, YA is full to the brim of trends that produce a handful of good gems around a bunch of hastily and/or badly filler.

Where I have to disagree with Longinus, though, is his use of the phrase “a single cause.” For him, I admit, this was probably true: writers followed the examples of other popular texts because they, too, wanted to be popular and “fashionable.” These days, the attempt to be “fashionable” is a side note. After all, if we wanted our literature to be “fashionable,” 50 Shades of Grey wouldn’t exist.

The push towards trends in YA has nothing to be with anything else but money. Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Twilight–they’ve made a lot of people very rich. These books have ranged the spectrum to books written exceedingly well to flat and dead inside (I’m looking at you, Twilight). There literally isn’t one particular thing that has worked as a formula to create the huge fan bases around these books, so the book world is constantly scrambling. Trends you see on the shelves now were decided months or even a year ago by publishers trying to create the next big cash cow.

Again, I’m not going to say that everything inside a trend is terrible. Some of them are really, really good books that deserve to be published on their own merit, and there are books being published against the trends. (I even wrote a post about love triangles done right for those curious.) This is a large, generalized observation that is, unfortunately, true more often than not. (And I haven’t even touched the trends of book covers. “Girl in dress” or “half close up of girl’s face” anyone?)

I guess the reason it makes me so angry is because I feel like there are certain books that have love triangles shoehorned in or otherwise being forced into a “trendy” mold that actually does their book a disservice. There are also books I’ve read where I wish the editors had taken a bit more time with them, at least, instead of shoving them out while the subject matter is hot. Also, as a writer of YA, I want to feel like my book(s) could be published someday because they are good, not because I magically managed to line up with tomorrow’s trend.

50 Shades of Grey just makes me angry because it exists.

Have you noticed the latest trend in YA literature? Or has “trending” created a certain kind of book or trope you can’t read anymore? Let me know!

Top Ten Best/Worst Book to Movie Adaptations

toptentuesday

This is a late post, but I’m gonna do it! No preamble, here we go!

BEST

The Hunger Games – This one snuck up on me. I really didn’t think I’d like it, because I didn’t like the books. But wow this movie. I enjoyed it a lot.

The Harry Potter Movies – Okay, some of them. Certainly not all of them. But a lot of them. Some of them depend on my mood.

The Da Vinci Code – I just enjoy the National Treasure esque feel it gives. But, you know, for adults. 😛

Pride and Prejudice – Only seen the Keira version, but wowza. I enjoyed that one.

P.S. I Love you – ALL OF THE TEARS.

MIDDLE OF THE ROAD

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief – I never read the book, but I heard some fans were unhappy about it. I enjoy it solely as a movie my brothers and I laugh at together.

WORST

Twilight – Nuff said.

The Host – Best part of this movie was ripping it up with Michaela from The Pied Piper Calls.

Nancy Drew – Hopefully, you don’t remember the Emma Roberts version of this. If you do, I feel your pain.

Avalon High – Just. No. And no.

Top Ten Books/Authors I’m Thankful For

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish!

So, this topic could just roll into one of my typical squealings about the same amazing books, but I want to make this one a little bit more serious. Like, actually books and authors that had an impact rather than books I just read and loved. So here we go!

1. Nancy Drew series

I cannot remember a lot of the books I read as a kid. Still, I remember these with clarity. I couldn’t stop until I rented out each book one by one from the library and finished the entire series. I guess you can say this is when I became a serial reader.

2. Tamora Pierce

A few years ago, she would have made this list just for inspiring me to become a writer and how much I love these books. Now that I’ve spent some time with her–two summers in a row!–I can also say that I am thankful she’s an awesome person and I’m so glad for all the things she’s taught me.

3. Christopher Paolini

Though I eventually grew out of his books–I never even read Brisingr–I have a lot to thank this guy for. I was 12 when I heard his story, and it was at that moment that I actually believed that I, at 12 years old, could write a novel myself. Eragon was also the book that got my brother into reading, FINALLY, and gave me someone to share my reading passions with.

4. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

There are few books that drive me to tears. This is one of them. I’m very thankful that a book as powerful as this exists.

5. The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa

This is the first major book I ever requested and received, even if it was only from NetGalley. I’m ever so thankful for that opportunity and the ones that followed.

6. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

There are few books that can make me laugh and cry every single time I read them. This one tops that list. It not only makes me fall in love with it every time I read it, but it also reaffirmed my faith in contemporary YA romance as a genre.

7. Cassandra Clare

I am thankful that Cassie is a wonderful person who is awesome and makes me laugh. I am thankful that she writes amazing, amazing books. I am thankful that even my brother likes these books, so we can share them and have quote-wars over the best quotes from the series.

8. The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks

No book of Sparks’s has ever hit me the way this one did. It reminded me of how much I love my little brother, and the cancer storyline hit way too close to home. I am thankful that I have a book so close to my heart.

9. The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling

Not for the reasons you might think! Yes, I grew up with them, but they weren’t the books that defined my childhood. Instead, they gave me close moments with my brother, before he could read, where I would sit and read to him. There is nothing like having a cute child in single digits run up to you with a book and ask if now is reading time.

10. The Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer

For giving me faith that if she can be published, so can I.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books That Were Totally Deceiving

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

“Totally Deceiving,” i.e., the covers or titles that don’t fit the book, books that were totally different from the summary, or books you thought were going to be fluff that turned out to be more serious etc etc

1. The Gathering Storm by Robin Bridges

I would like to first direct you to the cover. This book has EVERYTHING in it – vampires, fey, necromancy, zombies, you name it – but the cover has a girl in a snow storm. Yes, Katerina is the main character and all, but that’s all they could come up with? Also, I don’t feel like the blurb – either click the title for Goodreads or here for my review – covers the book at all.

2. Illuminate by Aimee Agresti

To be fair, the cover gives you more of a hint to what’s going on in this book than the book ever does for like 300 pages. However, I actually called out the blurb in my review because it promised us a fast paced, exhilarating ride that never, ever came until the last 30 pages. Of a 500-something page book.

3. Shattered Souls by Mary Lindsey

For the sake of everyone’s ears, I’ll try not to say too much about this book. I have already ranted so loudly about this book that someone linked to the post on their blog. But basically? Beautiful cover with a horrible, awful, toxic set of relationships in between.

4. The Help by Kathryn Stockett

I know, I know, this isn’t a YA novel! But I’m legitametly confused about this cover. Clearly it has deeper meaning that I don’t understand, but it’s so VERY bright yellow with … birds. Sure, this book screams HI HERE I AM on bookshelves in the bookstore, but otherwise leaves me befuddled. Also, on a purely design standpoint, I have never thought that yellow and purple should go next to each other like that. 😛 (In case anyone was curious, yes, I adored this book and yes, I adored the movie.)

5. Chain Reaction by Simone Elkeles

This cover really doesn’t cover this book. This IS a scene in the book, but it’s the epilogue and it doesn’t mean anything except for give you a closing scene. At least Perfect Chemistry tried to portray the book’s overall sweetness and Rules of Attraction used the biggest scene of the book. Chain Reaction? Not so much. Of all three of them, I also believe Chain Reaction was the least steamy, which the cover begs you to think isn’t true. I reviewed this book ages ago, so the minute details are slippery, but for certain this wasn’t the right cover for this book.

6. When It Happens by Susane Colasanti

Now, I understand that as a rule straight YA romance usually has cheesy covers, but I really didn’t get this one. There were several pivotal scenes in the book that could have captured the real message of this book that weren’t … this. It looks like an optical illusion picture gone wrong. Sure, it’s cute, but considering that the book tried to be real instead of cutesy, a cutesy cover image wasn’t the way to go.

7. City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

I am putting this one on here solely for the sake of a friend of mine, who won’t go near these books because there is a bare-chested man on the front. This is NOT a penny romance, person whose name I’m trying not to say. Every single one of Clare’s books are strictly PG-13 and most of that is for language. Plus, they’re as funny as all get out. Nevermind the bare-chested man!

8. Spell Bound by Rachel Hawkins

This one is basically here for kicks and giggles, because I need someone to answer a question for me: WHY is there a CAT on the cover? Did I miss this cat? Because I swear I don’t remember that cat, but it’s ON THE COVER. Anybody?

9. The entire reprint of The Song of the Lioness that was just released

As a Pierce megafan, these covers make me legitimately angry. These covers are just so wrong, especially The Woman Who Rides Like a Man. THAT’S A TWILIGHT MOVIE POSTER, not a cover for a Tamora Pierce book. Even Tamora doesn’t like them. 😛 Speaking of which…

10. Every Twilight book cover ever.

I’m not even going to put the pictures in – you know what they look like. There’s an apple and a ribbon and a chess set and a feather and none of it makes any sense. I understand that it’s supposed to have a deeper meaning, but not to me! I also didn’t like those books, so also that.

Review: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

4 stars

No one knows why Juliette’s touch is fatal, but The Reestablishment has plans for her. Plans to use her as a weapon.

But Juliette has a plan of her own.

After a lifetime without freedom, she’s finally discovering a strength to fight back for the very first time–and to find a future with the one boy she thought she’d lost forever.

 

Buckle in, ladies and gents. This is going to be one heck of a book review. Why? Because I have so, so much to say about this book–and, trust me, not all of it is good.

Shatter Me was a book I was dying to pick up. SEVEN DIFFERENT AGENTS went flying after this manuscript. Seven. And this is Mafi’s first novel. SEVEN. A regular author is lucky to find one. So, clearly, this book had to have something LIFE CHANGING in here. So of course I had to read it.

The beginning of the book didn’t disappoint me (my personal opinion is going to be part of something I explain later on, hence the constant repetition of this fact). All I could think at the time was, “Whoa. WHOA. GUYS. OHMYGOD WHOA.” This lasted until halfway into the book, when my pure and utter entrancement with her writing style gave way to the reviewer in me who watches for every little slip up a YA author can make. Mafi made a HUGE one, one that I’ve discussed before with fire–and now have to discuss again. But anyways, after that, I couldn’t get back into her writing style. I started to evaluate it clinically, and reading reviews on Goodreads made it clear to me why this book–this amazingly written awesomeness that wowed me into submission–is struggling to hold a 4 star rating.

Mafi’s writing style doesn’t belong on a YA shelf.

Okay, that sounds harsh on both her and YA readership, but in general that fact is true. I hate to bring back up Twilight but–whatever you think of the book–you have to agree that the writing style there is ridiculously simple. And it’s a worldwide phenomenon. Those two things are related. YA readers read YA because they don’t want to be bogged down in the complex, fantastical sentences that run amuck in, say, literary fantasy. One thing I’ve always heard said about writing YA is keep it to the point.

Halfway through the book, I remarked to my also writer boyfriend that I wanted to write down every one of her unique descriptors to steal for my own, but that would mean paraphrasing the whole book. It was upsetting to realize that that’s not a good thing. Shatter Me caught all this attention from ADULTS. Adults who read YA all the time and are just begging for something as refreshingly different as Mafi’s. Personally, as a writer myself, I would like to worship the pages her writing style waltzes over. But the typical young adult browsing the shelves that Shatter Me sits on just don’t have the patience for the way it’s written, and that makes me sad.

But now you are wondering, why is the book given four stars here? Why not five, if I love it so much? It’s because halfway through the book, Mafi violated one of the worst clichés every in YA literature, and I cannot forgive her for it.

Uh oh. I think I am going to rant after all.

Romance is one of the biggest things in YA books. Doesn’t matter what the genre, it is ALWAYS THERE. I don’t mind this; sometimes I even quite enjoy it. But I am still at a loss as to why adults think that 99% of females see some hot guy and instantly fall eternally in love with him. And you know? I’d be fine with it sometimes, because some girls are over dramatic, but ALL THE TIME? And WORSE, when the guy is also instantly like, “You are mine forever.” PEOPLE. SERIOUSLY. STOP. I literally can’t take it anymore. Shatter Me was one of the worst offenders of this I’ve seen in a long time. Juliette and Adam haven’t seen each other in THREE YEARS, since the NINTH GRADE, and they’re professing their eternal love for each other within five seconds, and it includes several speeches about how the other embodies all the strength, beauty and/or goodness that the speaker thought was no longer left in the world. Someone shoot me.

Granted, Mafi’s writing style has already given Shatter Me a otherworldly, unreal feel to it, so I would have honestly been willing to accept a little bit of that. But…the way they talk to each other? No. Nonono. I’ve had a boyfriend for eight months, and I STILL wouldn’t tell him, as he was dying, “You have to get better so I can memorize every inch of your body with my lips” (or at least that’s the general sense of the quote). Just…no.

You know what’s worse? I honestly don’t know what to think of this book. The thing between Adam and Juliette burns me something fierce, and sometimes I want to give it three stars. I won’t give it any less because of the way Mafi writes, and sometimes because of that I want to give it more. Sometimes, for brief moments, I can forgive Adam and Juliette because their love just adds to the overall exaggerated tone of the book. I just…honestly don’t know what to do with Shatter Me. I fell in love with Mafi, but I came to dislike the book. I didn’t know that HAPPENED. Half the reason I am so angry with it is because I love it just as much as I hate it and I can’t freaking pick a side. I will certainly be picking up the sequel because I can’t NOT, but I am going to send out this one wish: Please let Mafi write a book worth her. She could do SO MUCH and have writing that just blows the mind but…that’s all wasted on Shatter Me and it’s audience.