It was Tirzah, covering the Book Riot YA newsletter for me during my leave, who finally put to words the YA book cover trend I kept seeing over and over. But more than putting words to the trend, her roundup of montages on YA book covers made me understand precisely why these covers seem to blend together for me. Illustrated covers have that impact on me to begin with, but when so many also utilize the montage effect, they are really difficult for me to distinguish.
I suspect I’m not alone, and I’m curious how this plays out for readers seeking a book they know only by cover (“It’s blue and has a couple on it,” could be so many recent titles).
Tirzah’s roundup in the YA newsletter is a great one, and while there will be some repeats below, her look includes one I’ve not added here.
I’ve limited to YA montage book covers for books published in 2020, 2021, and those that are on the docket for 2022. I’d love to know if you can think of others that fit the pattern. Drop ’em in the comments. Descriptions are from Goodreads, though I have read a few of these books.
As you’ll notice: not all of these are illustrated, either!
Montages on YA Book Covers
This Australian YA has a fun montage to kick off this (alphabetical) list. I dig the color story here, too. The US cover for this one looks quite different. No designer or illustrator information could be found for the Aussie cover.
Luca is ready to audition for the Australian Ballet School. All it takes to crush his dreams is one missed step . . . and a broken foot.
Jordan is the gorgeous rowing star and school captain of Luca’s new school. Everyone says he’s straight – but Luca’s not so sure . . .
As their unlikely bond grows stronger, Luca starts to wonder: who is he without ballet? And is he setting himself up for another heartbreak?
How meta is this montage of montages? Genius. The cover illustration is by Liz Casal.
Liz Buxbaum has always known that Wes Bennett was not boyfriend material. You would think that her next-door neighbor would be a prince candidate for her romantic comedy fantasies, but Wes has only proven himself to be a pain in the butt, ever since they were little. Wes was the kid who put a frog in her Barbie Dreamhouse, the monster who hid a lawn gnome’s severed head in her little homemade neighborhood book exchange.
Flash forward ten years from the Great Gnome Decapitation. It’s Liz’s senior year, a time meant to be rife with milestones perfect for any big screen, and she needs Wes’s help. See, Liz’s forever crush, Michael, has just moved back to town, and—horribly, annoyingly—he’s hitting it off with Wes. Meaning that if Liz wants Michael to finally notice her, and hopefully be her prom date, she needs Wes. He’s her in.
But as Liz and Wes scheme to get Liz her magical prom moment, she’s shocked to discover that she actually likes being around Wes. And as they continue to grow closer, she must reexamine everything she thought she knew about love—and rethink her own perception of what Happily Ever After should really look like.
A lot of the elements of this cover montage remind of the hardcover of Eric Smith’s Don’t Read The Comments. Like the previous cover on this list, the illustration is by Liz Casal.
By day, Emilia is a field hockey star with a popular boyfriend and a mother obsessed with her academic future. But by night, she’s kicking virtual ass as the only female member of a highly competitive eSports team. Emilia has mastered the art of keeping her two worlds thriving, which hinges on them staying completely separate.
When a major eSports tournament comes to her city, Emilia is determined to prove herself to the male-dominated gaming community. But her perfectly balanced life is thrown for a loop when a member of a rival team—Jake—recognizes her . . .
From an exciting new talent, this sweet and charming YA romance will win the hearts of gamers and non-gamers alike.
A photographic montage, this time featuring people jumping from a cliff over the sea, ending with just a single person in the last scene. Dana Li is the cover artist.
Jude’s life is upended when his mother loses her job and moves them to a little town by the sea to live with Henry Lake–an eccentric old man with rooms to rent. Henry is odd, the town is dull, and worst of all, Jude feels out of place and alone.
So when Novo turns up in the house across the street, dressed all in black and looking unbearably handsome, Jude’s summer takes an immediate turn for the better. But Novo isn’t all that he seems to be–or maybe he’s more than Jude can possibly understand. Novo is a time traveler, someone who wakes up in different places and at different points in time with utter regularity. He knows that each Now is fleeting, that each moment is only worth the energy it expends on itself, and that each experience he has will be lost to him before long.
But Jude and Novo form a bond that shifts reality for both of them. Unlike anything he’s ever experienced, Jude begins to question what forever really means–only to find out that Novo knows that forever isn’t real. And when things go horribly wrong, he and Novo are faced with an impossible question that may change both of their lives irreparably–what is worth sacrificing for love?
I dig the characters hanging out on top of the letters, as though they are seats. There’s less of a cohesive story here — maybe there’s not one at all — but the design certainly feels like a montage. Cover designed by Erin Fitzsimmons and illustrated by Mariana Ramírez.
Noah Ramirez thinks he’s an expert on romance. He has to be for his popular blog, the Meet Cute Diary, a collection of trans happily ever afters. There’s just one problem—all the stories are fake. What started as the fantasies of a trans boy afraid to step out of the closet has grown into a beacon of hope for trans readers across the globe.
When a troll exposes the blog as fiction, Noah’s world unravels. The only way to save the Diary is to convince everyone that the stories are true, but he doesn’t have any proof. Then Drew walks into Noah’s life, and the pieces fall into place: Drew is willing to fake-date Noah to save the Diary. But when Noah’s feelings grow beyond their staged romance, he realizes that dating in real life isn’t quite the same as finding love on the page.
In this charming novel by Emery Lee, Noah will have to choose between following his own rules for love or discovering that the most romantic endings are the ones that go off script.
The polaroid photos tell the story in a clever take on the montage. No cover designer found — this is turning into a major pet peeve of mine. If it’s on the inside flap of the book, it could be put right on the publisher’s information page for the book.
JJ is having the worst prom ever… over and over again.
All year, JJ’s been looking forward to going to prom with his best friend, Lucy. It will be their last hurrah before graduation—a perfect night for all their friends to relax, have fun together, and celebrate making it through high school.
But nothing goes according to plan. When a near-car crash derails JJ before he even gets to prom and Lucy can’t figure out what happened to him, things spiral out of control. The best night of their lives quickly turns into the worst.
That is… until JJ wakes up the next day only to find that it’s prom night all over again.
At first, JJ thinks he’s lucky to have unlimited chances at perfecting the night of his life. But each day ends badly for him and Lucy, no matter what he does. Can he find a way to get the perfect prom he’s always wanted and move forward into the rest of his life?
Here’s another prom-themed YA with a montage cover, though this one takes it in a very different direction. The colors and style here make it stand out a bit more, even though it does a really similar thing to the others. No designer information found.
It’s the night of senior prom, and eighteen-year-old Julia has made a pact with her friends. (Yes, that kind of pact.) They have secured a secluded cabin in the woods, one night without parental supervision, and plenty of condoms. But as soon as they leave the dance, the pact begins to unravel. Alex’s grandmother is undergoing emergency surgery, and he and his date rush to the hospital. Zoe’s trying to figure out how she feels about getting off the waitlist at Yale–and how to tell her girlfriend. Madison’s chronic illness flares, holding her back once again from being a normal teenager. And Julia’s fantasy-themed role play gets her locked in a closet. Alternating between each character’s perspective and their ridiculous group chat, The Night When No One Had Sex finds a group of friends navigating the tenuous transition into adulthood and embracing the uncertainty of life after high school.
The montage on this one flips around as you move down the cover, and the way that the title is built into boxes with space between them really gives your eye the ease in seeing how the relationship plays out. Cover design and art direction by Hana Nakamura.
Caleb has always assumed that when she was ready for romance, Evie would choose him. Because he is her best friend, and he loves her, and he has almost kissed her 17 times…
Seventeen-year-old Evie Beckham has never been interested in dating. She’s been fully occupied by her love of mathematics and her frequent battles with anxiety (and besides, she’s always found the idea of kissing to be a little bit icky). But with the help of her best friend and her therapist, Evie’s feeling braver. Maybe even brave enough to enter a prestigious physics competition and to say yes to the new boy who’s been flirting with her.
Caleb Covic knows Evie isn’t ready for romance but assumes that when she is, she will choose him. So Caleb is horrified when he is forced to witness Evie’s meet cute with a floppy-haired, mathematically gifted transfer student. Because Caleb knows the girl never falls for the funny best friend when there’s a mysterious stranger around, he decides to use an online forum to capture Evie’s interest. Now, he’s got Evie wondering if it’s possible to fall in love with a boy she’s never met.
The colors and energy of this cover are electric. It screams fun, flirty, and delicious! Even though I’m not usually a fan of mixed fonts for titles, especially when the cover is already busy, it works here. Justine Poulter is the cover artist.
Radha is on the verge of becoming one of the greatest Kathak dancers in the world . . . until a family betrayal costs her the biggest competition of her life. Now, she has left her Chicago home behind to follow her stage mom to New Jersey. At the Princeton Academy of the Arts, Radha is determined to leave performing in her past, and reinvent herself from scratch.
Jai is captain of the Bollywood Beats dance team, ranked first in his class, and an overachiever with no college plans. Tight family funds means medical school is a pipe dream, which is why he wants to make the most out of high school. When Radha enters his life, he realizes she’s the exact ingredient he needs for a show-stopping senior year.
With careful choreography, both Radha and Jai will need to face their fears (and their families) if they want a taste of a happily ever after.
Speaking of fun and energetic covers, this 2022 fits into the trend, too. I love the dancing, the skating, the enjoying a meal, and, of course, the motorcycle/moped ride going on. This is also a prom night rom-com, alongside a couple of other titles on this list. Illustrated by Salini Perera and designed by Jessica Jenkins.
Sunny G’s brother left him one thing when he died: his notebook, which he’s determined to fill up with a series of rash decisions. Decision number one was a big one: He took off his turban, cut off his hair, and shaved his beard. He doesn’t look like a Sikh anymore; he doesn’t look like himself anymore. He put on a suit and debuted his new look at prom, but apparently changing his look doesn’t change everything. Sunny still doesn’t fit there, and all he wants to do is go to the Harry Potter after-party, where his best friend, Ngozi, and their band were supposed to be playing a show tonight.
Enter Mindii Vang, a girl he’s never met before but who’s about to change his life. Sunny and Mindii head off on an all-night adventure through their city–a night full of rash, wonderful, romantic, stupid, huge decisions.
Take a moment with this one to find the montage (maybe they buried the lede here–ha!). It’s a clever take on the design trend, and the way the title font is woven into the cover image makes it really pop. No designer or illustrator information found.
Lisa Rives had higher expectations for sophomore year. Her beauty queen mom wonders why she can’t be more like other 15-year-old girls in their small Alabama town. Lisa’s Dad, well, she suspects he’s having an affair with a colleague at his top-secret job. Her friend Preethy seems to be drifting away, and Lisa spends her schooldays dodging creepy boys and waiting to graduate. Then she finds herself in charge of her high school newspaper, which is the last thing she wanted–school newspapers are for popular kids and club-joiners, not outcasts like her, and besides, the stories are never about anything you actually want to know. But after accidentally tipping the scales in the school election, then deciding to cover a real story–the upcoming execution of a local man charged with murder–and becoming a surprise news story herself, Lisa learns some hard lessons about friendship and truth-telling. As Lisa navigates the dilemmas, challenges, and unintended consequences of journalism, she finds her life–and her convictions–changing in ways she couldn’t have imagined. Tell It True is a sometimes hilarious, sometimes devastating, always relatable coming-of-age story about the importance of speaking the truth in a world of denial and fake news.
I love this one, especially for how well it ties into the story about a friendship breakup. We have best friends. We have a clear argument. We have just one girl remaining. The fonts for the tag line, the title, and the author are integrated smoothly, without taking away from the montage. Illustration by Bex Glendining and design by Angela Carlino.
You can’t rewrite the past, but you can always choose to start again.
It’s been twenty-seven days since Cleo and Layla’s friendship imploded.
Nearly a month since Cleo realized they’ll never be besties again.
Now, Cleo wants to erase every memory, good or bad, that tethers her to her ex–best friend. But pretending Layla doesn’t exist isn’t as easy as Cleo hoped, especially after she’s assigned to be Layla’s tutor. Despite budding new friendships with other classmates—and a raging crush on a gorgeous boy named Dom—Cleo’s turbulent past with Layla comes back to haunt them both.
Alternating between time lines of Then and Now, When You Were Everything blends past and present into an emotional story about the beauty of self-forgiveness, the promise of new beginnings, and the courage it takes to remain open to love.