Friday, June 4, 2010

cover story

Some of you may remember back when I wrote a series about why I hate YA (YI H8 YA), which was a tongue-in-cheek look at some of the obvious warts and frailties of the genre. Of course I don't actually hate YA. I just sometimes wish that the people who spend so much time writing about YA would grow up and stop being so closed-minded.

You know who you are.

So, I've been looking at the Goodreads list for Best YA Covers of 2010, which has now grown to nearly 200 covers (with Rich Deas's incredible artwork for The Marbury Lens at number 35 last I checked), and, with the help of some friends who analyzed the images, we broke down the components of YA cover art and found some... eh... predictable trends.

Here's what we did:

We looked through the first 130 titles on the list and broke down the images depicted on the book covers. We could only do the first 130 or so because we ran into a rear-guard of semi-porn showing bedded couples and we started laughing so hard we gave up digging any deeper. But, once we arrived at our breaking point, we got these fairly interesting totals:
  • Of the covers whose main image was an independent, single character, 66 depicted solitary girls. 66 independent girl covers.
  • Not all the covers depicted characters. Some of them had only "things" on them. Often, these "things" were dripping with blood, which, most definitely, boys would like. Also, one cover had a jellyfish on it, which was cool. We agreed that a boy would probably pick up a book with a jellyfish on the cover. Jellyfish are commonly hermaphroditic. One independent hermaphrodite cover.
  • Of the covers whose main image was an independent, single character, 3 depicted solitary boys. One of the covers, we couldn't tell whether it was a girl or a boy. That could be a good thing, who knows? We argued about the manliness of the hands. So we didn't count that one either way. Also, the jury was kind of "hung" over the cover of Michael Grant's Lies. We argued about the idea of independent and single characters. We were pleased Sam changed his shirt finally, and that he was wearing one at all, and also not making out with Astrid. 3 independent boy covers.
  • And, speaking of making out, we found 18 covers with boys and girls suggestively tangled up together in one way or another. If you're a boy, and on the cover of a YA novel, you're 6 times more likely to be "getting some" than standing on your own. If you're a girl, you're much more likely to be on your own than making out. Boys are cover sluts.
  • And, speaking of sex, there were 8 covers that showed boys with their shirts off. Some of them were making out, too. Alas, none of the covers had girls with their shirts off. And you wonder why boys don't read? If you can't afford a shirt, how are you going to buy a book? Get those poor kids some clothes.
  • Nine covers depicted boys -- or males -- as some kind of monster or non-human creature. Boys are more likely to be monsters than independent characters. But they are more likely to make out with a girl than be a monster, which they do about as frequently as losing half their clothing.
What does it all mean? I don't know.. maybe nothing. But if aliens ever came down and destroyed our planet in such a way that nothing was left at all except for a shelf of current YA titles in the burned-out husk of a brick-and-mortar bookstore (preferably indie), what kinds of determinations do you think the aliens would make about our culture and society?

And if any of you librarian, teacher, book-lover types out there are wringing your hands about the "dumber gender" and why boys don't read, take a good long look at what the aliens are going to find after the flames cool down.