Over the past week I’ve read a few blogs about YA covers, and how many are gender-biased and geared for girls—thus excluding boy readers. Maureen Johnson posed an interesting challenge in an article for the Huffington Post asking authors to re-imagine non-gender specific book covers, and the results are quite thought provoking.
I was surprised, though, that in all of these articles, no-one took objection to the caliber of covers now gracing many of our YA books targeted for girls. I can’t help but notice that nowadays there seems to be a trend for “girls’” books to have the prerequisite saucy supermodel glaring at me from the cover. A perfect Revlon face, airbrushed to the nines, billowing hair, pouty lips straight from a lipstick ad. And the dresses! (or level of UN-dressed, as the case may be.) I mean, I can appreciate a pretty dress as much as anybody, but enough already. (I considered posting some of these covers for illustrative purposes, but decided against it. My purpose is not to single authors out. Besides, you know these covers when you see them. Suffice it to say, Frances Hodgson Burnett would be shocked.)
Do we really need to fill our young girl’s minds with these unrealistic images? Aren’t they bombarded enough as it is with this ideal of the perfect female form in every movie, commercial and magazine ad? I thought books were supposed to expand the mind, not brain-wash readers into society's warped idea of perfection. My twelve-year old reads these things, fer Cripe’s sake! And more and more often, I find myself leaving my YA book face-down if I find myself reading one of those books in public. It’s embarrassing! Writers put their hearts blood into developing a main character and in the end it's all reduced down to a hot girl in an awesome dress. Not to mention--what types of lasting impressions do these images leave with young minds? This surface-level selling of the female form has a name, and the twenty-dollar name for this practice is “the objectification of women”. Sex sells. On all levels, it seems.
So I leave it to you, my (wanna be) published comrades, let's consider well the future covers we choose to grace the labors of our pen and heart. Represent our story well--and leave the booty-call to those who lack an imagination.~Just Jill