In any visual medium, it’s extremely difficult to not compare trends — to avoid comparing them is simply unhealthy. Our eyes tend to view and take notice of how ideas and concepts are different, similar, unique, attention-grabbing, and just…same ol’ same ol’.
Unfortunately, such is the case of the Pretty Dress/Sad Girl on a Paranormal Cover. If you’ve read any sort of paranormal YA, you know exactly what I’m talking about, and visual aids are entirely unnecessary.
During mid-November of last year, I saw my first “girls underwater” cover that made me pause what I was doing at work, and really examine it for awhile. I had one of those squint-your-eyes, tilt your head, and say “Ohhh” kind of moments.
As Nova Ren Suma’s second novel and first YA, I’m sure she’s pretty proud of her experience with knockout covers. (Her MG novel, Dani Noir, is awesome as well) Imaginary Girls’ cover art captures a small mixture of emotional tones, but the first that hits me is sadness. It’s the kind of cover that makes you hold your breath a little, but its artistry gives you enough relief to take a moment to understand how beautiful it is.
The cover art comes from the collaboration of two talented individuals, underwater photographer Elena Kalis and Penguin art director Linda McCarthy. What you see here is a subtle take on reality — a redheaded, red-ribboned girl who appears to be floating downward in the water. It’s poetic and serene. Rotate 90º counter-clockwise and you have a girl who’s floating gently to the surface. A different image altogether with a slightly different tone.
The red-on-white, punchy blue, and floating white tagline come together to create quite an intriguing cover. And you know I’m an absolute sucker for all caps/all lowercase.
Speaking of all lowercase.
I’ll admit that seeing The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer’s cover several weeks after Imaginary Girls made me pause, but mostly for the wrong reasons. (Remember that trend thing?)
But that’s precisely when I decided to change my mind. Both Mara and Imaginary Girls accomplish a lot of visual storytelling at first glance. The tone of Mara may be darker, murkier, and far more romantic, but both covers leave me equally intrigued. (And I can’t wait to see what the finished prints look like!) Both covers are manipulative in the sense that you want to believe the story at (pretty) face value — but behind each face you hope there will be arresting revelations that will pull you in much deeper than their covers.
Pun totally intended.