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I’m going to try something a little out of character here. I’ve had my mind on a cover-related issue for the past two weeks…Yes, I actually think about these type of things. For weeks. Rather than post a bunch of covers illustrating my annoyances with this cover-related issue, I figured I’d just post some paragraphs about it instead.

This is how I feel about faces on covers. And I’m interested in your opinion, too.

I try to keep up with new titles coming out, while keeping my eye out for the new-old covers I’ve never seen before. I’m seeing some really interesting premises and titles coming out in the spring from various publishers, and I’m seeing even more and more faces gracing their covers. Beautiful-looking girls. Broken-looking girls. From extreme close-ups to medium shots.

I feel a bit suffocated by them.


This feeling was magnified when I went into the bookstore the other day. A lot of the outward-facing titles had pictures of girls on their covers. I’ve made the point before that my major beef with faces on covers is that we as readers are instantaneously robbed of using our imagination. It’d be a different story if we had a brief look at this face, a sort of tease that gives you a momentary glimpse and wipes away. But covers are permanent. We’re stuck with this image, and every page within this story is relatable to only that image. This is the way I feel, at least.

After the bookstore, I looked into some covers of upcoming YA titles online. I read their synopses on Goodreads, YA bloggers’ sites, authors’ websites. I read multiple reviews about titles I’m excited to read, titles I’ve thrown on my Christmas and birthday wishlists. And while a good chunk of the YA titles I’m looking forward to are female-protagonist driven, this has little to nothing to do with me actually wanting to know what they look like.


What really draws you in to wanting to read a novel? For me, the cover is a hook. The synopsis is the line and sinker. (Reviews & other reader friends’ opinions also bear their weight) And after I read a book that grabs me from beginning to end on multiple levels, I think back to the little things that originally hooked me, like the cover. Sometimes even the title. I think about how the words written across each page relate to its physical image.

I feel like there are so many novels that are richly layered with characters, motives, dialogue, themes, and emotions that can’t simply be captured with only a picture of a girl’s face. I understand that emotion, feeling, and mood can all be displayed in someone’s eyes. I get that. But on more than one account, I’ve finished a book with a (good) sigh, looked back to the cover, and thought, Was this the only thing the art director thought this book was about?


I’m sure that some of the reasoning behind a lot of the faces on covers is directly tied to a publisher’s marketing initiative. Perhaps there have been studies on how teenage girls perceive faces. Perhaps faces are simply more relatable, more alluring and intriguing. Perhaps seeing another human, realistic face provides a connection that I clearly have some sort of disconnect with.

It goes without saying that just because you have a face on your cover doesn’t mean it’s going to be a horrible book or ill-received. It’s obvious that it’s the innards that count. It’s the labor of love of the actual novel itself that matters. But does all of that sum up to an image of a girl, drowning in a sea of other faces?

You tell me. I’m curious to hear.

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Bryan Williams