In this week's Y.A. for Grownups column, I'm paying special homage to the oft under-applauded but always important art of the books; specifically, the cover art that's appeared on books published for teens and middle-grade audiences this year. With the help of a few friends—Molly Templeton of WORD bookstore in Brooklyn, Brooklyn children's librarian Rita Meade, and Margot Wood, who takes photos inspired by her favorite Y.A. novels—here are 25 of our favorite (gorgeous, awesomely weird, amazing, moving, just fantastic) book covers of 2012. In no particular order, as they are all gems. Feast your eyes. *(This post has been updated; see below)
1. Every Day by David Levithan. Published in August by Knopf. Levithan's love story has a fitting, beautiful cover that combines the surreal and the photographic, corporeal and atmospheric elements, and shades of black, white, neutral beige, and grey. (Jacket art by Adam Abernathy)
3. The Selection, by Kiera Cass. Published in April by Harper Teen. Just look at the texture in the gowns! Wood tells me this one "wins my award for prettiest Y.A. cover 2012. This cover is so decadent and feminine and fits the story so well. As far as pretty covers go, this one outshines them all." (Design by Sarah Hoy)
4. The Diviners, by Libba Bray. Published in September by Little, Brown. So 1920s cool, just like what's inside. Bonus: Adults ashamed of carrying around teen books won't have their reading proclivities exposed. (Design by Gail Doobinin; illustration by I Love Dust. Photograph courtesy of the Library of Congress)
5. Son, by Lois Lowry. Published in October by Houghton Mifflin. These seem almost soothing, belying the dystopian societies within. Bonus points for the cohesive-yet-individualized cover redesigns of each of the other three books in The Giver series. (Design by Charles Brock, Faceout Studio)
6. Small Damages, by Beth Kephart. Published in July by Philomel. This dreamy, evocative cover captures the book's contents down to the smell of citrus that pervades the Spanish ranch where the teen heroine is sent to have her baby so it can be adopted (not a spoiler: a lot more happens). (Design by Semadar Megged)
9. The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There, by Catherynne M. Valente. Published in October by Feiwel and Friends. As Templeton says, it's "particularly lovely in that the art and design are so well suited to the story (and the purple background cover looks so nice next to the red of the first book!)." (Design by Rich Deas; interior illustrations by Ana Juan, interior design by Elizabeth Herzog and Barbara Grzeslo)
10. The Forsaken by Lisa M. Stasse. Published in July by Simon & Schuster. Wood gives this her award "for most striking and daring Y.A. cover of the year ... something no has ever done before. It's one of those covers that makes your bookshelf cooler just by having it on there." The cover is the product of an in-camera technique that produces a double exposure, per an interview with Stasse at That Cover Girl. "The credit for this cover goes completely to the fabulous designer Lizzy Bromley (as well as the photographer Dan Mountford and my editor Courtney Bongiolatti at Simon & Schuster). This is what they came up with on their own," says Stasse. (Book design by Hilary Zarycky)
12. The Broken Lands, by Kate Milford. Published in September by Clarion. This is a book I have on my shelves at home, and the illustrations inside are wonderful, too. But the cover, especially, is one of those that you stop and look at for a while each time you pick up the book, since it tells quite the story on its own. (Design by Sharismar Rodriguez, illustrations by Andrea Offerman)
14. The Peculiar, by Stefan Bachmann. Published in September by Greenwillow. Meade says, "I thought this one was pretty cool (and the book is great)! It's a steam-punky fantasy for kids." Wood seconds it: "Steampunk for the win! This cover just looks fun and adventurous, something my middle-grade self would be freaking out over." (Design by Paul Zakris; jacket art by Thierry Lafontaine, Imaginism Studios; display type and hand lettering by Ryan O'Rourke)
15. Under Wildwood by Colin Meloy. Published in September by Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Children’s books. It "appeals to me because I've always liked Carson Ellis' art," says Templeton. Wood adds that the Wildwood series (this is the second one) has "the coolest middle-grade covers I've seen in a long time. These covers are like little jigsaw puzzles ... you have to take your time and look carefully at each piece until you're ready to view the whole image at once." (Illustrations by Carson Ellis)
16. The Secret Tree, by Natalie Standiford. Published in May by Scholastic. This childlike but clearly skilled illustrative quality just tugs at the heartstrings, for me at least. Plus: a tree that holds secret notes ... I'm intrigued. (Jacket art by Nathan Durfee, design by Christopher Stengel)
17. Chopsticks, by Jessica Anthony, Illustrated by Rodrigo Corral. Published in February by Penguin/Razorbill. This cover is kind of the epitome of romance; we're getting to look in at this intimate, lovely moment, as we do, in multi-media ways, over the course of the book. (Design by Rodrigo Corral)
18. The Dark Unwinding, by Sharon Cameron. Published in September by Scholastic. Gloomy and steampunky and Victorian cool. (Design by Elizabeth B. Parisi)
19. The Raven Boys, by Maggie Stiefvater. Published in September by Scholastic. For the texture and whorls and foreboding mystery in the raven wings alone. (Design by Christopher Stengel; illustration by Adam S. Doyle)
20. Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi. Published in in November 2011 by Harper Collins; paperback revision released in October of this year. As Wood explains: "The new paperback cover wins for best use of photoshop and digital design of 2012. What an improvement over the generic original cover! If you really look at the eye you'll be able to pick out so many tiny, hidden details like birds and trees. Someone took the time to build out an entire scene in the eye, that's incredible!" Mafi wrote on her blog of the new cover, "I know a lot of people hate it when covers get redone, but believe it or not, it's always done for a good reason. For us, it was no different. As much as we loved the original cover for Shatter Me, we felt like it wasn't properly reflecting the book and the feel of the story, especially as we moved forward in the series. so we tried something new." We like it. (Cover art by Colin Anderson; art inspired by a photograph by Sharee Davenport; cover design by Cara E. Petrus)
21. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, by Jesse Andrews. Published in March by Abrams/Amulet. I've always loved shoebox art and cross-sections that allow you to see inside something else. This quirky cover (for a funny book) is so cool and nearly 3-D. It's designed by Ben Wiseman; read about the process he went through here. Creative Director Chad Beckerman writes in that post, "The characters make many films in the book and create sets. These covers are meant to echo the sets that they created." (Design by Chad W. Beckerman; Ben Wiseman)
22. Liar and Spy, by Rebecca Stead. Published in August by Wendy Lamb Books. I like the combination of potentially ominous things to come (the word spy, for one) and images that are cozy, homey, and soothing (the blue, the stars). The mystery of that one light on in the window—a good sign? A bad one?—has you from the first look. And, what can I say, I like books about kid spies in New York City. This cover promises to deliver where Harriet left off. (Jacket art by Yan Nascimbene)
23. The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. Published in January by HarperCollins. Wood calls this "easily the cutest cover of 2012. I want to snuggle with this cover—that's how cute it is." Gahhhh—what she said. (Design by Sarah Hoy)
24. Cinder, by Marissa Meyer. Published in January by Feiwel and Friends. Such a cool, edgy riff on the Cinderella story. In this futuristic fairy tale, Cinder is a cyborg (with, from the cover, great taste in shoes). (Design by Rich Deas; interior design by Barbara Grzeslo)
25. The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green. Sometimes simple is the best policy, particularly given the challenges of depicting a love story between two teens who meet at their cancer support group. The chalk-styled typeface-based cover with blue beyond hints at what's inside but leaves much to the reader's imagination and impending relationship with the words within. In this case, that's perfect. (Design by Irene Vandervoort)
*Update: This post was intended to celebrate books and the people who work on them. People have pointed out that they would have liked to see credits for the book-jacket designers, and we have attempted to remedy that by adding that information in all cases in which it could be confirmed. Thanks to all who reached out to help supply these names.
Our hope with this, as with all of our book-celebratory posts, is that they entice people to read books—and in this particular case, more publishers to hire great designers.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.