Joy Preble’s previous young adult novels include a fantasy series (Dreaming Anastasia) and a guardian angel duet (The Sweet Dead Life and The A-Word). Her first contemporary YA outing, Finding Paris, draws on a more contemporary tradition—the road trip—as we meet a girl named Leo who must follow a trail of mysterious clues to discover what happened to her sister, Paris. “So much in American literature is about that constant east to west movement, because that’s the history of the country, really—we’re always in motion, always looking for a way to get our dreams,” says Preble.
But how to capture the vastness of an American road trip mystery in a book cover? That was left to the team at HarperCollins’ Balzer & Bray. “My input was rather minor, mostly on things such as what text to include, particularly which of Paris’s notes to put in the script that winds across the cover,” says Preble, and that minimal involvement suits her just fine. “The cover designers are the experts,” she says. Still, authors have strong feelings on their covers—here’s Preble on the process and outcome:
My editor, Alessandra Balzer; brilliant cover designer, Sarah Kaufman; and I were looking for a set of visuals that would convey both the road trips of the novel as well as the sense of journey in general, of going somewhere. Because the story is set largely in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, both such iconic cities with enormously iconic imagery, it was very important to all of us that the cover establish a sense of place. Of course, that isn’t always easy to do when so many of those places have trademarked images that can’t be used! But in the end, I think Sarah and the team got it just right.
For me, it was cover love at first sight. Both literally and metaphorically, this is a very American novel, taking place largely in cars, and largely while moving from one place to another. The lovely, generous, and very talented writer Adele Griffin recently blurbed Finding Paris as a “drive or die novel” and mentions in that same review that the story is in part about a “family long exiled and devastated by secrets.” Which I love because it very much nails what’s happening with Leo and her family. Here’s this smart, amazing girl who has had no stability in her life, whose mother has moved them from place to place and guy to guy. And now, one night driving around Vegas, her older sister Paris disappears, leaving her a series of cryptic notes to follow and the admonition that Leo needs to find her. Of course there’s a cute boy named Max involved as well, but the farther Leo and Max travel on this enforced road trip in search of Paris, and the more they get to know each other and fall for each other, the more layers and dark secrets peel away.
At one point later in the novel, a scene takes place with Leo and Max standing on the Santa Monica Pier. Which is fitting for many reasons, not the least of which is that the pier is actually the end of Route 66, the great Mother Road that stretches from east to west across the entire continent. You can’t go any further, really, unless you wade into the Pacific. So having a winding road headed out of Vegas on the cover is this wonderful reflection of moments like that, because here are Leo and Max on this quest to find Paris and now their backs are literally to the ocean.
If you think about it, a large part of the American story is one long road trip! Often with this hopefulness that when we get there, things will be okay. Although you can’t think about classic American lit and not think about stuff like the “So we beat on, boats against the current” last line of Gatsby. (I just read that Scott and Zelda’s daughter, Scottie, had that etched on her parents’ tombstone. It struck me as rather sad!)
The cover is evocative in that way, too, because there’s this underlying implied tension of whether or not any of Leo’s dreams will come true, combined with this great visual device of putting one of Paris’s notes on the cover in this winding script that becomes its own sort of scavenger hunt/journey that parallels Leo’s actual journey in the novel. And the book’s action is happening in these two places that we’ve all come to associate with both dreams come true and dreams corrupted—Vegas and L.A. That’s why I love that we were able to use the famous Vegas sign on the cover.
Beyond all that literary talk, which assures you I was a nerdy English major in college, let me just say that it’s an awesome cover and I am delighted with it!
Finding Paris is available for preorder now.