When it comes to polarizing design motifs, nothing gets people as riled up as the use of models on book covers. A captivating close-up or an artful use of the human form immediately engages some of us. But for others, it can feel like an intrusion into the reading experience. If you’re going to tell me what this character is supposed to look like, what the heck is my imagination supposed to do?
Whatever side of the debate you fall on, it’s true that there are both beautiful and heavy-handed ways of putting models on book covers. We’d like to think that the eight designs below are some of the best in the biz, but tell us your thoughts: vote in our poll below, and let us know in the comments if we missed your favorites! And, if your design sensibilities are inspired or incensed, you should try your hand at creating your own book cover through Hyperion’s cover design contest. The winner gets a flesh-and-blood (okay, paper-and-glue) version of the book they designed!
Deadly Little Lessons by Laurie Faria Stolarz
This book cover should both satisfy lovers of book cover models and appease those who hate the motif. The figure here is mysterious: partly obstructed by her hair, the girl’s gesture implies some kind of shock or surprise. Combining a hidden face with a shot-of-adrenaline pose, the cover implies that there’s more going on here than meets the eye. In short, it’s pretty ideal treatment for a novel that’s part mystery, part coming-of-age story.
Out of Reach by Carrie Arcos
The cover of Out of Reach is equally expressive and engaging as Deadly Little Lessons‘s, but for completely different reasons. Instead of being obscured, the model on the book cover is fully visible. However, her smallness, coupled with the viewer’s unusual vantage point, paints her as disempowered and exposed. It’s a fitting look for a story about disappearance.
The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour
By contrast, here’s the brilliant, sun-drenched cover of The Disenchantments. In this case, the model’s face takes up a big part of the cover real estate, and immediately draws us in. We get an idea of the character’s appearance, but more than that we get an indication of the book’s vibe: hopeful, youthful, and quixotic.
Wither by Lauren DeStefano
Wither‘s cover stands out not just for its model but also for her rocking outfit: those folds of her dress are certainly eye-catching (and a touch reminiscent of Alexander McQueen). This isn’t a story about fashion, though: it’s a dystopia that imagines a world in which women die at 20 and men at 25. Reminiscent of Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale, the book explores darker issues surrounding youth and femininity, and the use of the model conveys that effectively.
Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley
The figures on the cover of Graffiti Moon are hard to make out–in fact, the models are cast in dark silhouettes, so we can’t tell much about their appearances. The use of the models here is not meant to fully detail what the characters look like, but rather to hint at the book’s central love story (not to mention its thing for street art).
The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
Described by reviewers as haunting and dreamlike, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer boasts a cover that certainly hints at the surreal. Like Wither‘s cover, the model’s dress is one primary visual focus, but more interesting is the fact that most of her head is missing. Who is she? And, maybe more important, who is the even more obscured male figure hidden behind her? At once sensual and sinister, this cover’s magnetism is enhanced by its mysterious models.
Dead to You by Lisa McMann
The intense zoom treatment on Dead to You‘s cover makes it hard to decipher. We see a huge eye, the bridge of a nose, and skin that appears to be covered in water, but not a whole lot else. In fact, it’s even uncertain whether the model is male or female. This is certainly one instance when less visibility means more intrigue.
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