The Judging of YA Literature Covers

It is often said in the world of English majors to not judge a book by its cover. Although I have personally read many novels that are great reads but have horrible covers, I want to bring to light the reality and purpose of book covers. Book covers are created to be judged, picked-apart and also appreciated. Authors work with cover designers for their novels so that readers will pick their books off the shelves before another novel, to aim at a certain aged reader and types of readers. So instead of saying “don’t judge a book by its cover” I would to argue and declare that we should take into consideration how a books cover interests us the readers. Covers are just as important as the novel itself. The purpose of a cover it to depict what the novel is going to be about. Misrepresenting the text can be done by a book cover. A great example of the misrepresentation of book covers is by a novel in our class Blink and Caution, which displays this misrepresentation very clearly. The novel shows multiple bullet holes, but yet the novel deals with issues of youth homelessness. WHHHHAT! I know that I am not the only one that felt tricked by the cover of that novel, did it not anger some of you readers as well? Just as the actual text creates feelings and thoughts, so can the cover of a novel. Although this blog posting is short, I think that we as readers need to reconsider how we approach the cover of a novel and not feel guilty when we hate the cover, felt that the cover is childish or way to adult like.

If you are interested in reading more about the purpose of covers you can refer to this article: Judging a book by Its Cover:Publishing Trends in Young Adult literature. Written by Cat Campbell

– Casey Canning


10 thoughts on “The Judging of YA Literature Covers

  1. Kae says:

    I do agree with you that covers are meant to be judged – that’s basically what they are there fore – but I don’t know about needing them to literally represent the book. I can’t remember who exactly said it but they pointed out that there are 5 bullet holes on the front of Blink and Caution because she fired 5 shots on the day that she accidentally killed Spencer. Also, she fires a bunch of shots when she is trying to protect Blink from Tank (seriously, this sounds like I’m talking about an episode of Transformers). That is not to say that I enjoyed the cover but just that they are trying to hook people into believing this is a fast-paced story about dangerous stuff!


  2. Yeah I agree to some extent! Book covers are important, and they reveal something about the novel. However, I also think that covers are designed with a target audience in mind so they can attract a certain group of readers; this means that the cover of a YA text may not be marketed to someone my age, but I might still enjoy the book very much. Or vice versa. So in that sense, book covers do not wholly represent the story. They are a marketing tool, and authors sometimes have no control over the cover. I do agree with you that in some cases, the cover can be picked apart to reveal important details about the text. But I’m not sure if this is always the case.
    – Julie Buoy


  3. I’ve always hated that saying! I think the saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is more applicable to people than to books because book covers ARE what you’re supposed to judge books by. There are millions of books out there and you can’t just read all of them. You need to discern from the cover and maybe some reviews or referrals whether you think you’ll enjoy reading a book or not. Telling somebody not to judge a book by its cover is like telling somebody not to judge a movie by its trailer. What else are you supposed to judge it by?
    That being said, covers and trailers can both misrepresent, as others have said. I don’t know if anybody’s watched “The Imitation Game,” but the movie trailers made it look like a romance between Benedict Cumberbatch and Kiera Knightly, but Cumberbatch’s character is gay and that’s not what the movie is about at all. Still a super good movie though. And I also felt that “Blink and Caution”‘s cover was a might mismatched with the text, but it makes sense to me that the publisher/author would try to make the book seem action-packed in the cover because the book was essentially a failed attempt to discuss issues of homelessness and depression wrapped up in an action-packed (and illogical) plot.
    I think the problem of this saying is that it’s older than the literary industry we live in. Back when it became a saying, the speaker may have just been referring to the condition of the cover. A book can be old and torn up but still be a really good book. I think this whole idea of marketing books is somewhat new, or at least it wasn’t done to nearly the degree it is now. Most of the old books I’ve seen have just had a blank cover with the book’s title on the front and spine and only newer editions of the book have illustrated covers.
    Covers nowadays are meant to grab the attention of the intended reader. But since covers can be misleading, it’s never a bad idea to look up a review or two, especially if you tend not to fit into the target audience you’re generally placed or like books outside of your target category.



  4. Katelyn Perlich says:

    I also would have to agree that there is a certain level of judgement that goes into choosing a book to read based on its cover. I would never buy a book solely on the cover without at least reading the back. But I think in today’s society where there is a lot of focus on the visual the cover is very important to the book. Should we judge a book by it’s cover, no, but I think if you want your book to be read by a population who sees thousands of advertisements a day, it’s going to have to be catchy which is what Blink & Caution is doing.


  5. I would be lying if I hadn’t made a decision on whether I was likely to be interested in the material of a novel or not based on the cover.
    That being said, I also do not think that the cover should explicitly tell you what to expect, and that abstract covers may work for some. For instance, Catcher in the Rye hosts (in most cases) a carousel on its cover. The book is not about carousels, but it IS a major symbol in the story, and so I feel that while the cover may not direct you to the plot, it does pay tribute to an important theme of the novel.

    As far as Blink and Caution goes, I would argue that the cover is neither especially good nor especially awful. Lazy, maybe, just like the novel itself, but nothing more. The cover doesnt say anything about the plot or characters, and doesn’t really have any symbolic benefit, but it would be hard to misinterpret. A teen could see that cover and think that it was a gritty realistic novel, and they wouldn’t be too far off at least for the genre.


  6. Peyton says:

    Just for fun I am going to play devils advocate and say don’t judge a book by its cover. Most authors do not have a lot of say on the cover and are stuck with what they get. Looking around my room at all the books I can say that the covers had not affect on the book, because they are so inaccurate. I stopped looking at covers when I was young because they very rarely gave me an accurate indication of what the book would be about. When I look at a book I look at the size, font, length, etc. to see if I would be comfortable reading it. Then I look at what it is about, but even the back of the book I hardly trust. Yes it is a summary, but I find even that does not accurately portray the book. I find that I can never know what to expect in a book until after I have read it, and sometimes even then I have to read it more than once. I understand that covers are a way of advertising and trying to sell a book, but they are so unreliable. I do believe that the saying ‘don’t judge a book by the cover’ could be written in stone to live by because the cover is so false. I have read and seen documentaries and videos on covers and how they were made and why, but I still cannot accept them as a reliable source to determine the contents and enjoyability of the book. You make a good and valid argument, I just disagree with it.


  7. Alyssa D. says:

    This is mostly in reply to Peyton. As great as it would be if we could all judge a book by its content rather than its cover that is unrealistic. When I’m looking for a book to read my first impression is based off of the cover, and then my second by the short abstract of it. Finally, if I pick it, I then judge it by its content. I think this is pretty common. I know there are many who insist not to judge a book by the cover, but I know far more people who are similar to me. I have found that every book I’ve picked, after judging its cover first, I have liked. The only books I have not liked, even hated, have been assigned to me to read. In short, I really do agree with Casey. The cover is just as important. Maybe authors should fight to have say over their covers. I’m pretty sure if JK Rowling said she would publish elsewhere unless she got an opinion on it that her publishers would not say no. (Excluding all legal stuff and such).


  8. Jabin says:

    I definitely judge the book by it’s cover and not on purpose but just because it’s the first thing I see. I know the saying and I do believe in it in a lot of cases but it’s hard to look at the book cover and not hate it or love it. I think it should have something to do with the book and it should capture the audiences attention. In the end I will look at the cover several times because it will be sitting on my book shelf and it will be there when I close the book and open it. I guess I think the cover should be a grabber and that we should be able to judge the cover a little. I think authors should have a say in the cover because they wrote the book and would have an idea as to what it should be


  9. A lot of what I was planning on saying has already been said, but I also wanted to point out the aesthetic appeal of the entire book, not just the front. I agree with whoever said that judging a book by its cover actually applies more to people than actual books. What turns me off of a book cover is if there are people on it, because it often times make it seem like a romance book or a heart-to-heart kind of book. Another type of cover I strongly dislike (and I’m sure a class full of English majors will agree with me) is when the cover is the movie version cover and not the original book cover. Truly ticks me off! That’s my rant about the cover.
    The description on the back is usually what I tend to really judge to see if I’ll actually like the book. Sometimes if I like the author though, I won’t even read the back because they are written quite poorly, either give something away or make the book sound super cheesy.
    Another thing is the size of the book. I’m a very picky book buyer but I will not buy a square book or one that’s oversized (like Blink and Caution). Usually it just makes the print bigger inside and I feel like I’m either an old person or a little kid. That’s just my preference; not important though.
    Confession: If I like how the book looks but I already own it (in an uglier version), I’ll sometimes buy the more attractive one so it will look nice on my shelf…I know that is super awful but I’m very proud of the way my bookshelf looks. The spine is the other important element to me. I judge hardcore on spines. If an author wants me to buy their book, they better be very aesthetically pleasing.
    In relation to the books of the course, I think the most appealing to me is The Lesser Blessed, because the texture of the book, how it feels when I pick it up and the spine are all good drawing points. The font though and cover picture are questionable, but if I was a young adult, I probably would have chosen it over the others. Swimmers is probably the next best, then The Shore Girl (although the font is horrible). The colors for One Year in Coal Harbour are so lovely but I would have definitely picked that one up because I loved the first book so much 🙂 This One Summer has great texture but the cover, spine and back definitely turned me off. I’m not even going to discuss Blink and Caution…Enough said about that one and it’s faults.
    This has become more about my preferences as a book buyer but I agree that we CAN judge books by their covers (if not more!).


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