Laura G Judges Ten Books by Their Covers

Of all the lessons my mother continues to try to teach her twenty-something daughter, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is usually highest on the list. This is mostly in regards to dating (and by mostly I mean entirely), but it’s applicable to many other parts of my life, namely, my job.

As the book buyer for kids and teens, I physically cannot read every book on the shelf. So it is with a small amount of shame that I admit I do judge books by their covers in my decision making process for what to bring into the store and what to leave out. 

Book covers are both the joy and the bane of my existence. I’m thrilled when a fantastic book gets the amazing cover it deserves, and equally devastated when a phenomenal book gets a mediocre cover that I know will keep people from buying it. So for my Holiday Top Ten List, I’ve decided to judge ten of my favorite books by their covers.* Do I have any credentials, other than an Art History degree, with which to judge these book covers? Arguably not. Am I going to have a fun time doing it anyways? Yes. Yes I am.

*Note: These are all just my opinions. It’s totally fine (even exciting) if you don’t agree with me. Different opinions are what make the world go round!


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Wilder Girls Cover Image
ISBN: 9780525645580
Availability: NOT ON OUR SHELVES. Usually Arrives in 4-7 Business Days
Published: Delacorte Press - July 9th, 2019

We begin with one of my favorite covers (and books) of the year. WILDER GIRLS a raw, speculative debut filled with stunning prose and a brutally fierce story. It absolutely devoured me, which is why I was so thrilled when the cover design was revealed. 

As a principle, I dislike books that have faces on the cover. I’m not quite sure why this is, perhaps I’m a bit of a snob (it just seems like a lazy choice for many YA titles). But this face. This cover. The artwork is done by one of my favorite digital artists, Aykut Aydoğdu. It’s eerie, and enigmatic, and incorporates small nods to the plot. Basically, it does everything a cover should do: draws in the reader and makes them pick up the book.

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Dig Cover Image
ISBN: 9781101994917
Availability: NOT ON OUR SHELVES. Usually Arrives in 4-7 Business Days
Published: Dutton Books for Young Readers - March 26th, 2019

A.S. King is a fairly divisive author. You either love her ground-breaking stories or find her just a touch too avant-garde for the average palette. DIG is a powerful story about white teens coming to terms with their family’s racist history. 

Now, you can’t tell all that by looking at the cover, but it sure is aesthetically pleasing. The sketched out roots give it a natural, historic feel while the bright red and blue palette add a hint of modernity. This cover is perfect for what we call “crossover titles,” or YA books that can be sold to adults who don’t care for YA. As a case and point, when I brought out the ARC for this, many of my coworkers who don’t typically enjoy YA were immediately grabbing for the book (yes, we are impolite heathens behind the scenes).

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Days by Moonlight Cover Image
ISBN: 9781552453797
Availability: NOT ON OUR SHELVES. Usually Arrives in 4-7 Business Days
Published: Coach House Books - April 2nd, 2019

Lyrical, existential, and above all accessible, Alexis’ latest novel is filled with enchanted pastoral scenes juxtaposed by violence and death. DAYS BY MOONLIGHT is a joy to read, perfect for lovers of Saša Stanišic’s rich provincial worlds or Claire-Louise Bennett’s poetic prose. 

The cover works perfectly for this. It’s got a hazy filter, like an afternoon laying in a hot sun. I also love the mystery of the letters disappearing into the foliage. It’s just the slightest bit sinister, all accomplished by some skilled and subtle layering.

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Crown of Feathers Cover Image
ISBN: 9781534424623
Availability: NOT ON OUR SHELVES. Usually Arrives in 4-7 Business Days
Published: Margaret K. McElderry Books - February 12th, 2019

We now come to one of the two books on this list for which I didn’t like the covers. Trust me, it breaks my heart. CROWN OF FEATHERS is a fierce and fiery tale of sisterhood and betrayal set in a world rich in magic and deception. I actually finished it in one day because I couldn’t put it down!

But the cover! It just doesn’t draw me in. Maybe this is more of my snobbery, but it looks like the cover of a mass-market fantasy novel.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a well-worn paperback fantasy (and have many on my shelves at home), but there’s a time and place for those. It gives the book a dated, nostalgic feel, and this is a fresh story in need of a sleek, epic cover. 

The art itself is beautiful, and the color scheme is bright and eye-catching, but I wouldn’t personally use it as a cover. Our customers generally aren’t looking for the type of book this cover evokes, so it takes a lot of leg work to convince someone how incredible this book truly is. I hope you give it a chance, though! (You can always take the dust jacket off when you read it).

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Wicked Saints: A Novel (Something Dark and Holy #1) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250195661
Availability: NOT ON OUR SHELVES. Usually Arrives in 4-7 Business Days
Published: Wednesday Books - April 2nd, 2019

WICKED SAINTS is lush and darkly romantic, filled with blood and bones. Perfect for fans of Maggie Stiefvater and Leigh Bardugo, Duncan's thrilling debut explores the ecstasy and heart-breaking tragedy of what it is to love a monster.

The cover takes this gothic feel and runs with it! I adore the blue and black toned artwork (and as a bonus, the blue is metallic! We all know how I feel about shiny things…). The splotch of red adds an understated sinister touch while aesthetically balancing the entire composition. Absolutely phenomenal!

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Paper Houses Cover Image
ISBN: 9781552453926
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Coach House Books - October 29th, 2019

PAPER HOUSES is a spinning coin of vulnerability, showing the fear and desire for human connection one moment and flipping to create boundaries the next. Fortier's vision of Emily Dickinson is luminous and loving and her understanding of the poet's soul shines through each page. This is a fearless exploration of self, isolation, and the painful hope and hunger for love.

The cover matches the book in both beauty and simplicity. And nothing says Emily Dickinson like pressed flowers; joyful and yet tinged with sadness. No one does simply beautiful covers like Coach House (the publisher of DAYS BY MOONLIGHT as well). This book may not grab your attention on the shelf, but once you find it, you won’t want to stop looking at it.

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salt slow Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250224774
Availability: BACKORDERED
Published: Flatiron Books - October 8th, 2019

Perfect for fans of Daisy Johnson, Samantha Hunt, and Carmen Maria Machado, SALT SLOW is beautiful, poetic, and dizzying. Once again, the cover does a great job of evoking the book. The cool color scheme is calming while the warm speckles of metallic gold and trippy peacock feather pattern throws the viewer off-kilter. 

There are certainly things I would change about the cover, namely the white border with the zig-zag edge. To me it’s a little too distracting from the overall effect. The white accent color is a great choice, but if there were just a half-inch less of it around the border, I would be very happy. Overall, though, this is a fantastic cover that I’d definitely pick up.

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The Cold Is in Her Bones Cover Image
ISBN: 9781481488440
Availability: NOT ON OUR SHELVES. Usually Arrives in 4-7 Business Days
Published: Margaret K. McElderry Books - January 22nd, 2019

This is the only other book on the list for which I didn’t like the cover. It’s got a face on it, and while it’s a bit more artistically done than a photograph, and there are fascinating details hidden in the grass, it’s still not entirely pleasing to me.

The book itself is a haunting tale of friendship and betrayal. It fearlessly explores the vicious fierceness that lives buried in all dangerous women. If you liked Madeline Miller’s CIRCE, I highly recommend this. And, to be fair, the cover has grown on me. It’s probably due to two redeeming factors; the pearlescent finish and the texture of the cover. It’s a perfect matte that feels wonderful in your hands. Next time you’re in the store, pick it up and take a look!

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Serpent & Dove Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062878021
Availability: NOT ON OUR SHELVES. Usually Arrives in 4-7 Business Days
Published: HarperTeen - September 3rd, 2019

Mahurin’s debut is brilliant - filled with dimensional characters, grey morals, and a fantastic romance! Just to show how much I love it, I put it on our holiday list!

Now, there’s something you may have gathered while reading through this list or talking to me at the store: I am a complete and total sucker for metallic accents and spot glossing, and this cover has both, along with a gloriously dark and intricate background. As much as I dislike fantasy mass-market covers on hardback books, I will always fall for a rich, detailed cover design for YA fantasy. And the final nail in my coffin? The cover is embossed, right down to the texture on the snake. I could - and have! - wasted countless minutes just tracing the scales in an infinite loop of pure tactile pleasure.

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Labrador: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781555978303
Availability: Unlikely to Be Available
Published: Graywolf Press - March 5th, 2019

Texture, texture, texture. If there’s one thing I love in painting, it’s impasto, when paint layers up to show dimension and brush strokes (See? I knew that Art History degree would come in handy!). There’s something so tantalizing about the texture, and it got me in trouble at more than one art museum as a kid because, well, how could you not want to touch it?

LABRADOR is a lyrical and haunting exploration of youth and sororal relationships. Davis weaves an unforgettable tale of two sisters: Willie, the stubborn eldest, and Kitty, the enigmatic yet isolated youngest. Their relationship really comes through in the cover (Willie on the couch, Kitty behind her). It’s domestic and artistic and wonderful.

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