Young adult author Jessica Verdi has written about a teen living with HIV (My Life After Now) and a girl going to a “reparative therapy” camp to learn how to like boys instead of girls (The Summer I Wasn’t Me). Needless to say, Verdi doesn’t shy away from tough situations in her work—and her upcoming spring 2015 novel, What You Left Behind, is no exception. At left, an exclusive cover reveal of the forthcoming work. “The book is written from the point of view of a boy, so I knew I wanted the cover to appeal to boys as well as girls,” explains Verdi. “Which meant no pictures of girls, no hearts, nothing too cutesy.” Here she is with the full story:
I’m pretty much in love with this cover and am so thrilled to finally share it! This is my third published novel, and the first where I really didn’t have any preconceived ideas for what the cover should look like. So when my publisher asked for my input on cover brainstorming, I ended up giving them more sweeping, tonal ideas rather than specific imagery.
I told them I was hoping for something cool and hip and eye-catching, that would appeal to both genders. The story is also pretty heavy (Ryden is a single teen dad struggling to understand what being a parent means while battling guilt and grief over the death of his girlfriend), so I knew I wanted the cover to have a ‘raw’ feel, depicting that mood, but also not be TOO dark because the book is also filled with JOKES! and ROMANCE! and TEEN BOY ANTICS! The cover designers probably wanted to kill me when they saw that vague, completely contradictory request.
Another idea I had was to make the cover text-heavy. I love the current text-based cover trend in YA—far preferable, in my opinion, to the ‘nonspecific photo of a girl in a ball gown’ trend. (And yes, I’m aware of how ironic that is coming from me, since the cover for My Life After Now featured a girl in a dress. Haha.)
I also gave the designers some examples of ‘boy book’ covers that I really love. These included It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini (the head map thing) and Paper Towns (the pushpin) and Looking for Alaska (the smoke), by John Green.
I honestly have no idea how the cover designers took all these random, half-formed ideas and came up with the gorgeousness that is now the What You Left Behind cover. They captured the tone of the book PERFECTLY, did some super-cool things with font and color scheme, and included so many details that are specific to Ryden’s story. I love that he’s standing on a beach—there are several scenes that take place on the beach in the book, including some major moments. I also love that it’s not just any beach—it’s clearly a lakeshore, since you can see land across the water. Ryden’s beach is at Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire. I love that he’s alone in the cover image, with nothing to distract him from his thoughts, his sadness, his helplessness. Even though Ryden is surrounded by people in the book, he’s very much alone. And finally, I love that the font is handwritten, because handwritten journals play a huge role in the story.
The first time I saw the cover I knew the design team had nailed it. This is my favorite cover of all my books so far, and I can’t wait to see it on the bookstore shelves!
What are some of your favorite YA novel covers?