I love looking at the changes in cover designs between a hardcover YA book and its paperback edition. What compelled the publisher to make a change? Who does the book seek to reach now? I love to think about whether the book is now angled more (or less!) toward a teen readership. In some cases, the change is a real upgrade, while in others, it’s not. In yet other cases, the change in design leaves a big ole question mark.
For all that’s said about not judging a book by its cover, it’s actually a pretty powerful skill to have. You’re looking at so many elements to convey what a story is about, who it’s written for, and what books it might be similar to in order to have it reach potential readers. It’s art, after all, and considering the power of art to depict a story is not being superficial.
Authors have little to no say in their cover art, which makes the entire process more complex. How the story is marketed, its first impression to readers in stores and online, is pretty much out of their hands. And given how more and more marketing of books is online and less in-store, it’s no surprise design has taken into consideration how a cover will look when the size of a thumbnail.
Interestingly, there have been more cover redesigns in the last few months than in recent memory, and it’s hard not to wonder if slower mid-list sales of YA books because of the pandemic are causing panic for publishers, leading to trying to give a book a facelift in hopes of reaching audiences who may have literally missed it amidst a global upheaval.
Find below seven YA books that are getting new designs in paperback. Original hardcover designs are on the left, while the new paperback editions are on the right. I’d love to know which you prefer and why.
Descriptions of the books come from Amazon. Note that I have not indicated the cover designers or artists on any of these covers, as I’m not attempting to critique their work; often, they don’t have the final say, meaning that some of the choices I may highlight could have been out of their hands entirely.
New YA Paperback Book Cover Redesigns for Early 2022
A Taste for Love by Jennifer Yen
This cover redesign is one of my favorites because as much as I’m not really a fan of illustrated covers — they all sort of blend together for me — the change for A Taste for Love is far more accurate to what the book is about. The hardcover made me think about this being a cute dating-themed rom-com, but that’s not really the crux of the book. That’s there, but it’s a book about a teen baking contest, and the inevitable couple is in competition with one another. None of that is really present in the hardcover; it’s more apparent in the paperback, even though it, too, only conveys so much.
One of the things that I don’t like about the cover change, though, is that while we know the main characters are Asian, the use of a photo on the original cover featuring two Asian teens offers a clearer face for representation. There are so few Asian cover models, and that doesn’t translate as easily or neatly onto this paperback.
The font choice isn’t the same, but they are quite similar on both editions of the book. I love the use of multiple colors on the hardback, though the spacing between the title and the models left space that was filled with a tag line: “Can these star bakers win each other’s hearts.” That, I suppose, gets to the idea of a bake off, but it doesn’t connect with the image itself. The paperback ditches the tag line, and instead, fills the background space with an ombre color palate, along with images associated with baking.
I like both of these designs for different reasons, but I think the paperback gets the book a little better and sells it to readers in a more accurate way. The paperback for A Taste for Love hits shelves January 11.
To her friends, high school senior Liza Yang is nearly perfect. Smart, kind, and pretty, she dreams big and never shies away from a challenge. But to her mom, Liza is anything but. Compared to her older sister Jeannie, Liza is stubborn, rebellious, and worst of all, determined to push back against all of Mrs. Yang’s traditional values, especially when it comes to dating.
The one thing mother and daughter do agree on is their love of baking. Mrs. Yang is the owner of Houston’s popular Yin & Yang Bakery. With college just around the corner, Liza agrees to help out at the bakery’s annual junior competition to prove to her mom that she’s more than her rebellious tendencies once and for all. But when Liza arrives on the first day of the bake-off, she realizes there’s a catch: all of the contestants are young Asian American men her mother has handpicked for Liza to date.
The bachelorette situation Liza has found herself in is made even worse when she happens to be grudgingly attracted to one of the contestants:the stoic, impenetrable, annoyingly hot James Wong. As she battles against her feelings for James, and for her mother’s approval, Liza begins to realize there’s no tried and true recipe for love.
As Far As You’ll Take Me by Phil Stamper
Sometimes in looking at cover redesigns, your thoughts change. Initially, I was really confused by the change for As Far As You’ll Take Me, as the cover seemed to nail the idea of starting over, of having that fresh start, of being able to lean fully into who you are as a person. The character has an expression of hope, paired with a stance that seems like he’s eager to move onward.
But the paperback captures something that the hardcover doesn’t: the loneliness of starting over and the truth of what happens inside when everything on the outside might tell a different story. This is the crux of the book itself, and the singular boy in blue amid a crowd of similarly-colored characters on the paperback just gets that feeling.
What doesn’t work for me on the paperback, though, is the shoving of a blurb in an awkward space and in such a way that it actually crowds out the character at the center. The shadow is covered by the blurb-giver’s name, as are some of the words in the blurb itself. Maybe it’s a way of compensating for the light source being inconsistent? If you look, you’ll see the shadow falls behind the boy at the center, but other shadows of the characters around him fall in all different directions. If the blurb were gone, that might be more obvious, but also, if the blurb were gone, the feeling of this cover would be much stronger.
The font choices aren’t especially worth commenting on, as both are ones that have been used numerous times on YA book covers. The paperback font fits the feel, and the same goes for the choice on the hardcover. In both, the author’s name gets a little lost.
Both of these are decent covers, though I lean a little toward the paperback — with the caveat that the blurb placement is distracting and does a disservice to the art itself (yes, even with the shadow inconsistency).
As Far As You’ll Take Me hits shelves in paperback on March 29.
Marty arrives in London with nothing but his oboe and some savings from his summer job, but he’s excited to start his new life–where he’s no longer the closeted, shy kid who slips under the radar and is free to explore his sexuality without his parents’ disapproval.
From the outside, Marty’s life looks like a perfect fantasy: in the span of a few weeks, he’s made new friends, he’s getting closer with his first ever boyfriend, and he’s even traveling around Europe. But Marty knows he can’t keep up the facade. He hasn’t spoken to his parents since he arrived, he’s tearing through his meager savings, his homesickness and anxiety are getting worse and worse, and he hasn’t even come close to landing the job of his dreams. Will Marty be able to find a place that feels like home?
Blood Moon by Lucy Cuthew
I could not be sadder that Lucy Cuthew’s Blood Moon is getting a paperback makeover. The original cover is absolutely riveting and boundary pushing — this is a book about menstruation, and the design, which is a creek of menstrual blood and a hand gently opening the representation of a vagina, is incredible (as is that small string of a tampon). It’s a bold cover, too, with use of only white, red, and black, and that tiny trail of blue. The title placement is awesome, and even though I’m not a fan of a blurb, the placement doesn’t distract from the brilliant image on the cover.
The paperback is….really inoffensive. And that’s not necessarily a compliment so much as being surprised how toned down it is. The title bond is fine, but the multiple red hues of the moons don’t have the same sharpness that the red on the hardcover does. The shadow girls walking together hand-in-hand has real Moxie vibes, which isn’t necessarily bad but is also not really special.
And the thing that annoys me most on the paperback? The hashtag t-shirts that make no sense. Why are they broken up? A hashtag is a single line, but one meant to be separated out like they are here: #Its Only Blood and #No Shame. Ditch the hash tags and keep the slogans if that’s essential. The paperback ditches the blurb but adds a tagline, which reads “An unexpected period sent Frankie’s universe spinning, and then she took a stand.”
I get what the goal is of the paperback, but it’s a real downer after the hardcover and more, the hashtag thing is going to read as adults trying too hard to any teen.
This one’s all about the hardcover for me, but you can grab the paperback of Blood Moon on March 15.
After school one day, Frankie, a lover of physics and astronomy, has her first sexual experience with quiet and gorgeous Benjamin—and gets her period. It’s only blood, they agree. But soon a gruesome meme goes viral, turning an intimate, affectionate afternoon into something sordid, mortifying, and damaging. In the time it takes to swipe a screen, Frankie’s universe implodes. Who can she trust? Not Harriet, her suddenly cruel best friend, and certainly not Benjamin, the only one who knows about the incident. As the online shaming takes on a horrifying life of its own, Frankie begins to wonder: is her real life over?
Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon
Off the bat, I want to say both of these covers are gorgeous and do a great job capturing the feel of the book. That said, I think my preference for the hardcover comes only because it’s a preference, not because of any design choices that don’t make sense or don’t feel like they offer insight into the book itself.
Both the hardcover and paperback have a gorgeous Black girl with tremendous hair, as well as a beautiful Black boy with stunning hair, and it’s clear on both dancing and love are at the heart of the story. The hardcover makes their facial expressions harder to read, but the shape of their bodies tells a story. The paperback turns closer to their facial expressions, which are serious, thoughtful, and also portray that they are digging each other.
The font choice for the book title on the hardcover is a little sweeter and more dance-y for me, where the one on the paperback feels understated.It doesn’t have the same flair or feel, and it doesn’t make use of script as part of the couple’s image (which I love on the hardcover). The color of the hardcover pops more, as does the use of pink flowers in the background. Both covers make use of a blurb, but in both cases, it’s pretty understated. Yoon’s name is much larger, as it should be, since she’s a well-established and beloved author.
The covers are both good, but I prefer the original. It just feels a lot swoonier than the paperback, which reads more intense (neither read is incorrect!). The paperback for Instructions for Dancing hits shelves May 3.
Evie Thomas doesn’t believe in love anymore. Especially after the strangest thing occurs one otherwise ordinary afternoon: She witnesses a couple kiss and is overcome with a vision of how their romance began . . . and how it will end. After all, even the greatest love stories end with a broken heart, eventually.
As Evie tries to understand why this is happening, she finds herself at La Brea Dance Studio, learning to waltz, fox-trot, and tango with a boy named X. X is everything that Evie is not: adventurous, passionate, daring. His philosophy is to say yes to everything–including entering a ballroom dance competition with a girl he’s only just met.
Falling for X is definitely not what Evie had in mind. If her visions of heartbreak have taught her anything, it’s that no one escapes love unscathed. But as she and X dance around and toward each other, Evie is forced to question all she thought she knew about life and love. In the end, is love worth the risk?
The Electric Kingdom by David Arnold
Aren’t both of these covers just stunning? They offer something really compelling visually, begging the reader to pause and take it all in. There’s a lot of layering and a thoughtful use of color on both. The hardcover gives us a disappearance of color through the hole at the center, while the paperback spotlights color in its use of font, as well as the image inside the helmet’s visual area. It’s clever, the way we go from color outside to color inside between the two.
It’s also clever that the girl with her blonde hair, red backpack, and black dog are on both covers.
But that paperback cover is a stunner. It definitely reads more adult to me than the hardcover does, likely because it’s reminiscent of a couple of other space-set books (The Martian and In The Quick come to mind). Though I’m a little distracted by the lack of consistency for the title font size — there’s no reason for the words Electric and Kingdom to be so disparate in size), it’s a much better font that the original, which does the same thing with size and also adds a strange element with the “o” in Kingdom, not seen in the O in Arnold’s name. The font size difference on the hardcover makes sense with the space needs but less so on the paperback.
That said, the color and composition of the paperback packs a punch. I wasn’t especially interested in the book with the original cover, but the new one makes me want to pick it up as soon as I can. I may need to wait, given it’s a book about a pandemic.
You can grab the paperback of The Electric Kingdom on February 1.
The Initial Insult by Mindy McGinnis
I’m not going to spend too long with this cover redesign, other than to say it’s not great. I don’t understand the Cruella Deville look going on with the paperback, nor its use of electric, disjointed color tones. This is a loose retelling of a number of Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories, meaning that the book is dark, creepy, suspenseful, and a little weird. The hardcover nails this, while also offering a design that is timeless: it’s font-driven, and we know the shadow animal on the cover has something to do with the story (it does — it represents a zoo). The paperback makes its nod to Poe with the bricks in the background, but those are a little challenging to figure out if you don’t read the description or immediately know this is a Poe-inspired book. It definitely doesn’t read well on screens.
Both covers have a blurb, but in the tradition of newer YA paperback styles, the blurb on the new cover is tucked beneath the cover itself on a separate page. The green on it mirrors the green on the cover, whereas the blurb is integrated on the cover itself in the original.
I don’t like the paperback at all and think it’s a tremendous turnoff. It might be the thing that captures some readers, especially intrigued by the weird image of the person on it and its disjointed nature, but for me, that disjointedness makes me want to pass. The hardcover made me eager to see how they would treat the book’s sequel. The paperback’s design aesthetic is what carried over into the upcoming sequel, though.
You can pick up the paperback of The Initial Insult now. It came out January 4.
Tress Montor’s family used to mean something—until she didn’t have a family anymore. When her parents disappeared seven years ago while driving her best friend home, Tress lost everything. The entire town shuns her now that she lives with her drunken, one-eyed grandfather at what locals refer to as the “White Trash Zoo.”
Felicity Turnado has it all: looks, money, and a secret. One misstep could send her tumbling from the top of the social ladder, and she’s worked hard to make everyone forget that she was with the Montors the night they disappeared. Felicity has buried what she knows so deeply that she can’t even remember what it is . . . only that she can’t look at Tress without feeling shame and guilt.
But Tress has a plan. A Halloween costume party at an abandoned house provides the ideal situation for Tress to pry the truth from Felicity—brick by brick—as she slowly seals her former best friend into a coal chute. Tress will have her answers—or settle for revenge.
Attucks! / Unbeatable by Phillip Hoose
I almost never get to showcase YA nonfiction in cover redesigns because too often, how a nonfiction title is marketed or sold isn’t given the same level of attention as a paperback. But in the case of Phillip Hoose’s last nonfiction title, this cover redesign has a lot of incredible thought behind it, while offering a lot of the same exact elements as the original cover — peep the author name color on the hardcover and how it becomes the background for the paperback.
What’s most striking is what’s most obvious and likely what inspired the decision to make the change: the book’s title. Attucks! and Unbeatable could not be any different, despite the fact they represent the same thing: the 1955 championship basketball team, the Crispus Attucks tigers, who went from their Indianapolis high school court to win a state championship basketball game during this highly racially segregated time. The team was unbeatable, marking the first time an all-Black team won a racially-open US basketball championship.
While Attucks! makes sense in the context of the book as a title, one is going to immediately make sense to anyone browsing. The original title, though, is a little more challenging. The subtitle change isn’t as huge a change, but it, too, is worth noting: we get the explanation of the book title with Attucks!, the subtitle for Unbeatable offers what’s inside the book (the how of the story).
Though the coach isn’t in the image on the paperback, the team member raising his arm up with the index finger pointing makes the exact same shape for the image as the original. Again, a really clever way to keep the original while giving it a stronger sense of teen appeal.
The paperback makeover is excellent, building from the strongest aspects of the original hardcover. The title change, while always challenging for marketing, cataloging, and reader advisory purposes, is a smart one, as it will make this book more clearly “for” the readers its intended to reach.
You can grab Unbeatable on February 22.
By winning the state high school basketball championship in 1955, ten teens from an Indianapolis school meant to be the centerpiece of racially segregated education in the state shattered the myth of their inferiority. Their brilliant coach had fashioned an unbeatable team from a group of boys born in the South and raised in poverty. Anchored by the astonishing Oscar Robertson, a future college and NBA star, the Crispus Attucks Tigers went down in history as the first state champions from Indianapolis and the first all-black team in U.S. history to win a racially open championship tournament―an integration they had forced with their on-court prowess.
From native Hoosier and award-winning author Phillip Hoose comes this true story of a team up against impossible odds, making a difference when it mattered most.