I had heard about this book and was interested in reading it before I ever saw its cover.
The colours are appropriately dark and reminiscent of a bruise. This makes me wonder if the dark atmosphere universally evoked by blue and black came about partly because of human pallor — with well-lit skintones and rosiness of hue evoking health, of course.
The black border allows a slight fisheye distortion, which is how the mother and son in this story see the world — through a skylight.
There is a single main image smack in the middle — a toy block with a handdrawn window on its roof. This skylight is obviously important to the story, and the handdrawn look of that window (and of the font of ‘Room’) reflects the inventiveness of the mother, who makes toys out of bits and pieces to keep her son amused while in captivity.
The textured overlay lends a shabby look to cover, and echoes the disrepair of the prison. I like this cover, and was drawn to it.
LOVE IS THE HIGHER LAW
I borrowed this book because of the author not because I was drawn in by the book’s cover. The story takes place in New York and starts at the time of the 9/11 bombing of the Twin Towers. For this story setting is crucial, so it’s appropriate that the front cover depicts a cityscape of New York City. Two beams of light shooting upwards serve to break up the almost uniform darkness of the sky.
This is a love story as much as it is a disaster story, so the ‘twin’ beams of light might also symbolise the two young men who fall in love, growing closer together as the story progresses — as do these two beams of light as they diffuse into the atmosphere. (On the other hand, I’m sure I’m reading too much into those beams of light now.)
While I don’t feel particularly strongly about this cover one way or the other, I’m glad to read a YA story in which the main characters are not depicted on the front cover. I prefer to imagine characters in a book without too much influence from the cover art.
BOY ON A WIRE
This was a bookclub book so I didn’t choose it myself.
The clothing of the character gives a sense of when the bulk of this story took place, as does the sepia toned colour scheme. That muted shade of red works well, and it’s fitting that the title and author’s name are separated by a line, to which barbed-wire ornamentation has been added.
I’m not sure what that man is walking on, however. Not a wire. For some reason I think it’s some sort of breakwater at the seaside, yet this story doesn’t take place near the sea.
For a novel blurbed as ‘triumphantly funny’ I’m not sure the cover depicts that. I didn’t find this book the slightest bit funny, however, so I found the cover design to be a more accurate representation of the story than the blurb.
This cover looks more like that of a YA novel than the David Levithan book above, with its grungy texture and primary red.
In a story about domestic violence, it’s easy to attribute the red to blood. The house keys, I suppose, symbolise the domesticity of this story, and the fact that the two brothers share different residences until the younger comes to find the older, at which stage being given a house key is symbolic of human warmth and brotherly love.
But my copy of the book is the one below:
I’d love to know why a single book comes out with different covers on it, because we’re always told that publishers are strapped for cash these days and I’ve heard a cover design costs several thousand dollars. I’m sure there’s science behind it, and I’d love to know what it is that makes one cover sell better in Britain and another sell better in America, and what publishers think of Australasians and our cover preferences. (Not a lot, I should think. There are not enough of us.)
The problem with this cover is that it gives away too much of the plot. It’s not until the reader is a few chapters in that we learn of the primate. I already knew too much about this book after hearing the author speak about it in a panel discussion about animals in literature. But I’d be interested to know the experience of someone reading this story with no inkling of its plot — maybe someone who listened to the audiobook rather than saw the cover.
So, on the one hand I don’t think a gorilla should be depicted on the cover of this book. On the other hand, primate relationships are central to this novel, and the reader deserves to go in knowing something about it. But I do wonder if a cover made entirely of text art might suffice, because surely readers are all different when it comes to how much we need to know about a story before embarking upon it. For Australian readers, at least, surely the author’s name was enough to sell this book.
This is the version I read. There are many other covers for this classic:
Not a fan of this cover, though it may have been trendy at the time of publication. It is part of a John Wyndham series and it looks good as part of that. Perhaps this appeals to the book collecting instinct in Wyndham fans.
On this cover, the boy looks significantly older than the boy above, even though he doesn’t age much over the main part of the story. Now that I’ve said that though, perhaps there’s more leeway in this than I give credit for, when the story includes flashbacks. There’s probably no real need to depict a character whose age matches that of the story that happened in the past perfect.
I’m drawn to the colours of this one, and I’ve also noticed that I’m a sucker for handdrawn font.
This graphic looks a bit crude by today’s standards, in which the most is made of Photoshop.
But the one thing all of these covers have in common is their creepiness, so they do achieve their purpose.
THE CHURCH OF DEAD GIRLS
This is the cover of the version I own (picked up from a second hand bookstore) but of all the versions, this is the one I like the least. I would prefer less red and more darkness, since this is not a fast-paced thriller nor an especially gory read, but rather an exploration into the darkness of human nature.
That’s why I prefer this one better:
And this even better:
(Or is it the same one? Funny how it photographs better in two point perspective.)
And so I’m learning that, with few exceptions, a single dominant image on a book cover is the safest bet for a layout that works. That’s not to say a skilful graphic designer can’t pull off a cover featuring many different images juxtaposed artfully, but it would seem I’m most drawn to simple designs no matter what.