Top 10 Badass Spring 2018 Book Covers — And The Stories That Go With Them

If you’ve read even one sentence of an author’s acknowledgements at the end of a novel, you know that there are plenty of unsung heroes in the publishing world. From editors and agents to marketing teams and beta readers, more work goes into writing, publishing, and selling novels than one might originally believe. Writing may be thought of as a solitary art, but writing for publication is anything but lonely.

If you’ve read even one sentence of an author’s acknowledgements at the end of a novel, you know that there are plenty of unsung heroes in the publishing world. From editors and agents to marketing teams and beta readers, more work goes into writing, publishing, and selling novels than one might originally believe. Writing may be thought of as a solitary art, but writing for publication is anything but lonely. But what sells a novel? What catches your eye when you walk into a bookstore or library?

The cover art. The first thing a reader sees when they pick up a book for consideration, covers have to convey mood, subject, and entice the reader. Everything from word spacing and font size to that exact shade and that precise image works to sway readers. And this job is one that, while important, goes largely unacknowledged.

That considered, here are ten badass book covers to look forward to in Spring 2018 – and oh, yeah, the stories that go along with them are pretty intriguing, too.

  1. Chemistry Lessons by Meredith Goldstein, cover art by Whitney Leader-Picone, Leonello Calvetti, and Connie Gabbert.

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Debuting on June 19th this year, Chemistry Lessons is Goldstein’s third book – and second one expected this year! (Can’t Help Myself: Lessons and Confessions From A Modern Advice Columnist, a memoir and collection of Goldstein’s Boston Globe advice column, hits shelves on April 3rd.) Romance meets science in this upcoming novel, making it a can’t-miss for 2018. Just see for yourself:

For seventeen-year-old Maya, the equation for happiness is simple: a dream internship at MIT + two new science nerd friends + a perfect boyfriend = one amazing summer. Then Whit dumps her out of the blue.
Maya is miserable until she discovers that her scientist mother, before she died, was conducting research on manipulating pheromones to enhance human attraction. If Maya can finish her mother’s work, maybe she can get Whit back. But when her experiment creates chaos in her love life, she realizes that maybe love and loss can’t be understood using the scientific method. Can she learn to trust the unmeasurables of love and attraction instead?

This YA novel features a poppy, vibrant cover, a perfect combination of sweet romance and the science side of the story, designed by Connie Gabbert, Leonello Calvetti, and Whitney Leader-Picone. Its simple yet unique design is sure to turn eyes! You can find Connie Gabbert and Leonello Calvetti’s work on their respective websites (Gabbert) (Calvetti), and read up on Whitney Leader-Picone, senior designer at Mifflin Harcourt Books, here.

  1. A Thousand Beginnings and Endings by various authors, edited by Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman, cover art by Feifei Ruan
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If you’re in the publishing industry, you’ve heard of We Need Diverse Books, an organization whose goal is to diversity children’s literature and put the spotlight on minority authors. If you’ve been in the publishing industry for longer than five seconds, your first thought was probably, “Finally!” Get ready for your excitement to skyrocket, people: A Thousand Beginnings and Endings is a young adult anthology of East and South Asian short stories! Take a moment to breathe, and read on:

Star-crossed lovers, meddling immortals, feigned identities, battles of wits, and dire warnings. These are the stuff of fairy tale, myth, and folklore that have drawn us in for centuries.
Fifteen bestselling and acclaimed authors reimagine the folklore and mythology of East and South Asia in short stories that are by turns enchanting, heartbreaking, romantic, and passionate.
Compiled by We Need Diverse Books’s Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman, the authors included in this exquisite collection are: Renee Ahdieh, Sona Charaipotra, Preeti Chhibber, Roshani Chokshi, Aliette de Bodard, Melissa de la Cruz, Julie Kagawa, Rahul Kanakia, Lori M. Lee, E. C. Myers, Cindy Pon, Aisha Saeed, Shveta Thakrar, and Alyssa Wong.
A mountain loses her heart. Two sisters transform into birds to escape captivity. A young man learns the true meaning of sacrifice. A young woman takes up her mother’s mantle and leads the dead to their final resting place. From fantasy to science fiction to contemporary, from romance to tales of revenge, these stories will beguile readers from start to finish. For fans of Neil Gaiman’s Unnatural Creatures and Ameriie’s New York Times–bestselling Because You Love to Hate Me.

A Thousand Beginnings and Endings’ intricate, elegant cover captures the eye and pulls one in. A wondrous homage to traditional Asian art and seems to pull the sky into its background. You can find Feifei Ruan at her websiteand don’t forget to check out We Need Diverse Books while you’re online! The anthology is expected June 26th.

3. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, cover art by Rich Deas

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Do you ever look at a book, put it back onto the shelf, and a few months later you kick yourself for not hopping on the train earlier – because now, the series has taken off and there are spoilers everywhere? Take this as a sign to pick up Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone, the first instalment in the Legacy of Orïsha series. Slated to hit the big screen in the future, this novel is not one to miss. Take a look:

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zelie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.
But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.
Now, Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.
Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers—and her growing feelings for the enemy.

The cover design by Rich Deas, readers are immediately met with an intense, regal, and magical impression of the story to come. The use of simple black and white colouring, with pops of red and blue, make this cover stand out like no other. You can check out Rich Deas at his websiteThis book hits shelves March 6th.

  1. Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed, cover by Shehzil Malik

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It takes a lot for me to look beyond my little cave of SF/F/horror/mystery. Few are the books on my shelf that lack swords, magic, and creatures that belong in a Dungeons and Dragons campaign. But upon finding Amal Unbound, I found I couldn’t resist featuring this book. Its plot is compelling, its themes relevant, and promises to be an excellent read. Debuting May 8th, you don’t want to miss this:

Life is quiet and ordinary in Amal’s Pakistani village, but she had no complaints, and besides, she’s busy pursuing her dream of becoming a teacher one day. Her dreams are temporarily dashed when–as the eldest daughter–she must stay home from school to take care of her siblings. Amal is upset, but she doesn’t lose hope and finds ways to continue learning. Then the unimaginable happens–after an accidental run-in with the son of her village’s corrupt landlord, Amal must work as his family’s servant to pay off her own family’s debt.
Life at the opulent Khan estate is full of heartbreak and struggle for Amal–especially when she inadvertently makes an enemy of a girl named Nabila. Most troubling, though, is Amal’s growing awareness of the Khans’ nefarious dealings. When it becomes clear just how far they will go to protect their interests, Amal realizes she will have to find a way to work with others if they are ever to exact change in a cruel status quo, and if Amal is ever to achieve her dreams.

The cover art by Shehzil Malik is vibrant, warm, and hopeful. These days, black covers with harsh, angry illustrations are the norm. It’s refreshing to see something tranquil and earthy. You can find more of Shehzil Malik’s work on here and check out the process of fleshing out and finishing the design for Amal Unbound here.

  1. The Brightsiders by Jen Wilde, cover art by Becca S. on Swoon Reads

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Bisexuality is so rarely seen in books these days. Either the characters are purposefully ambiguous about their sexuality, or readers are queer-baited into an almost-progressive story. Seeing a novel that puts bisexuality in the spotlight right out of the gates is more than refreshing.

As a rock star drummer in the hit band The Brightsiders, Emmy King’s life should be perfect. But there’s nothing the paparazzi love more than watching a celebrity crash and burn. When a night of partying lands Emmy in hospital and her girlfriend in jail, she’s branded the latest tabloid train wreck.

Luckily, Emmy has her friends and bandmates, including the super-swoonworthy Alfie, to help her pick up the pieces of her life. She knows hooking up with a band member is exactly the kind of trouble she should be avoiding, and yet Emmy and Alfie Just. Keep. Kissing.

Will the inevitable fallout turn her into a clickbait scandal (again)? Or will she find the strength to stand on her own?

This being my first time truly researching cover artists for books, I was surprised and delighted to find that the cover artist for The Brightsiders is one Becca S, a designer on Swoon Reads. The cover is bright, outlandish, and coquettish, proudly featuring the colours of the bisexual flag. The placement of the title is so interesting. It’s bound to attract readers to this book. You can check out Becca’s profile on Swoon Reads here Make sure to get your copy on May 22nd.

  1. The Beast’s Heart by Leife Shallcross, cover art by Jo Myler, Fleur Clarke, Kate Sinclair, and Daren Newman

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Who doesn’t love a good retelling? Take an old classic and turn it on its head, make it something new. In The Beast’s Heart, author Leife Shallcross tells the story of Beauty and the Beast from the Beast’s view. Check it out:

A sumptuously magical, brand new take on a tale as old as time—read the Beast’s side of the story at long last.

I am neither monster nor man—yet I am both.

I am the Beast.

The day I was cursed to this wretched existence was the day I was saved—although it did not feel so at the time.

My redemption sprung from contemptible roots; I am not proud of what I did the day her father happened upon my crumbling, isolated chateau. But if loneliness breeds desperation then I was desperate indeed, and I did what I felt I must. My shameful behaviour was unjustly rewarded.

My Isabeau. She opened my eyes, my mind and my heart; she taught me how to be human again.

And now I might lose her forever.

Lose yourself in this gorgeously rich and magical retelling of The Beauty and the Beast that finally lays bare the beast’s heart.

The cover, design by Jo Myler, Fleur Clarke, and Kate Sinclair, and type/illustration by Daren Newman, is pure Victorian aesthetic. Deep blue and copper designs like wrought-iron gates set the stage for an intricate and marvellous tale ahead. Shadows play lattice to creeping florals, the perfect combination between dark and harsh metallics, and a gentle, blossoming pop of colour. You can see more designs by Jo Myler here, as well as check out Daren Newman’s exceptionally minimalistic website here. Kate Sinclair can be found here and Fleur Clarke on Twitter. The Beast’s Heart comes to a bookstore near you on May 3rd.

  1. Evangeline of the Bayou by Jan Eldredge, cover art and illustrations by Joseph Kuefler

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Coming to shelves on May 1st, Evangeline of the Bayou is a promising Louisiana tale by Jan Eldredge featuring the gorgeous artwork of Joseph Kuefler. And as most children’s books go, I predict this tale will be for everyone of all ages to enjoy. Read on:

Twelve-year-old haunt huntress apprentice Evangeline Clement spends her days and nights studying the ways of folk magic, honing her monster-hunting skills while pursuing local bayou banshees and Johnny revenants.

With her animal familiar sure to make itself known any day now, the only thing left to do is prove to the council she has heart. Then she will finally be declared a true haunt huntress, worthy of following in the footsteps of her long line of female ancestors.

But when Evangeline and her grandmother are called to New Orleans to resolve an unusual case, she uncovers a secret that will shake her to the soles of her silver-tipped alligator-skin boots.

Set in the evocative Louisiana bayou and the vibrant streets of New Orleans, Evangeline’s is a tale of loyalty and determination, the powerful bonds of friendship and family, and the courage to trust your gut no matter how terrifying that might be.

If the cover is any indication of the story to come, we’re all in for a treat. It shows a monstrous tale of adventure, bravery, and terrifying creatures. With a shadow quite literally foreshadowing a monster right on the cover, it was a no-brainer to add this book to the list. Check out more of Joseph Kuefler’s work here.

  1. The Queen Underneath by Stacey Filak, art by Rosie Gutmann

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I cannot compile a list of books without including fantasy. Even if it’s a list of mystery or sci-fi books! I will slip one in there. The Queen Underneath was an easy pick for me. Being Stacey Filak’s debut novel, I predict this one is one to watch out for. Challenging gender roles, a female protagonist, LGBTQ+ themes… Just check this out and see what I mean:

The Above and the Under have a tenuous truce that is shattered after the death of both their respective rulers. Gemma, the new queen of Under, must throw history aside and team up with Tollan, the heir to the Above throne, in order to take down a power that seeks to rule them all.
Their group of rebels is comprised of an assassin, a sex worker, and a palace servant from Above, and we follow their unique perspectives as they are forced to question previously held beliefs. But even with war looming, romance still grows. Challenging gender roles and the expectation that every prince must have a princess, Tollan discovers love with Elam—a young man, a sex worker, and one of Gemma’s closest friends.

Rosie Gutmann did a phenomenal job on the cover art. Lustrous twilight backs a black city skyline, flanked by thorny golden vines. From the intricate symbol at the cover’s centre and the gorgeous type for the title, this book practically grabbed my eyeballs and held them in place. No doubt this will intrigue many readers to come. Check out Rosie Gutmann’s blog (she’s a book reviewer, too! Hi! -Waves-) here. The Queen Underneath is expected on May 8th.

  1. Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson, cover art by Corina Lupp and Michael Frost

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This book has been on my TBR list for awhile. I am beyond excited to list it here as an upcoming spring debut, because that means I can finally get my hands on a copy! Lily Anderson, author of Not Now, Not Ever and The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You, dives into 2018 with Undead Girl Gang, a young adult novel equal parts fantasy/mystery. And let me just say, as someone who actually does practice witchcraft, seeing this movement of modern witches and magic in the literary world is so much fun. This books hits stores on May 8th, but here’s a little blurb to tide you over for the next few months:

Mila Flores and her best friend Riley have always been inseparable. There’s not much excitement in their small town of Cross Creek, so Mila and Riley make their own fun, devoting most of their time to Riley’s favorite activity: amateur witchcraft.

So when Riley and two Fairmont Academy mean girls die under suspicious circumstances, Mila refuses to believe everyone’s explanation that her BFF was involved in a suicide pact. Instead, armed with a tube of lip gloss and an ancient grimoire, Mila does the unthinkable to uncover the truth: she brings the girls back to life.

Unfortunately, Riley, June, and Dayton have no recollection of their murders, but they do have unfinished business to attend to. Now, with only seven days until the spell wears off and the girls return to their graves, Mila must wrangle the distracted group of undead teens and work fast to discover their murderer…before the killer strikes again.

With a fresh, occultish cover repping this story, readers will be flocking to shelves for their own copy. The design moves witchcraft into modern era, featuring tarot cards, crystals, athames, and a pinky-swear solidarity between witches and undead. Oh, I do love some feminist necromancy. You can check out Michael Frost’s portfolio here, and with book covers such as Libba Bray’s Beauty Queens and Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen under his belt, I’m sure we’ll see plenty more exceptional cover art from Frost in the future. Corina Lupp is a designer at Razorbill, a branch of Penguin Random House Canada.

  1. The Astonishing Colour of After by Emily X.R. Pan, cover art by Sasha Illingworth

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I believe I saved one of the best covers for last. The Astonishing Colour of After, hitting bookstores March 20th, promises to be a magical, heartfelt, and emotional tale of loss, rediscovery, and forgiving oneself. Having been a co-creator of Foreshadow: A Serial YA Anthology, this is Emily X.R. Pan’s debut novel. Why do I think we’ll be giving Pan a standing ovation come award season? Take a look at the book’s description:

Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird.

Leigh, who is half Asian and half white, travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, she is determined to find her mother, the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life.

Alternating between real and magic, past and present, friendship and romance, hope and despair, The Astonishing Color of After is a novel about finding oneself through family history, art, grief, and love.

The cover design is just as astonishing as the title suggests, a deep red and purple ombre playing background to a crisp, white bird that carries the title and author’s name in its body. The entire design emits an aura of freedom and hope, the bright colours rich and evocative of deep emotions. This will definitely turn heads in bookstores. Check out Sasha Illingworth’s work here.

So, what’s your favourite cover art of 2018? Has it already been published? Are you looking forward to taking a selfie with it? Do you have any favourites for summer 2018? Do you have a favourite cover designer or artist? Let me know in the comments, or chat with me on Twitter!

Disclaimer: As with most unpublished novels, information on all the people that worked on these projects isn’t always readily available for researchers such as myself. I’d like to thank Meredith Goldstein, Lily Anderson, Liz Deadrick, Ellen Oh, Leife Shallcross, and Madison Taylor for taking time out of their schedules to help me name a few artists who deserve some credit. If I have missed anyone in this list, or you feel someone else deserves credit for a design featured here, please let me know and I’ll add their name and website (if they have one).

Image Credits: Goodreads

 

Dark and Deep

“When I was little I used to read before I slept at night. And I read by the light of a lamp clipped to my headboard. Stark white, and bright, against the darkness of my room. I dreaded turning it off. What if I reached out… just past the edge of the bed and SOMETHING, waiting there, GRABBED ME and pulled me down, into the DARK.” – Emily Carroll, Through the Woods

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(Photo Credit: Goodreads)

Title: Through the Woods

Author: Emily Carroll

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books

Genre: Graphic novel (horror)

Year: 2014

Pages: 208

Price on Amazon: $20.63 CDN

“When I was little I used to read before I slept at night. And I read by the light of a lamp clipped to my headboard. Stark white, and bright, against the darkness of my room. I dreaded turning it off. What if I reached out… just past the edge of the bed and SOMETHING, waiting there, GRABBED ME and pulled me down, into the DARK.” – Emily Carroll, Through the Woods

Kinsella, you may be muttering to yourself, why are you reviewing a graphic novel that came out in 2014? Honestly, what are you thinking, going beyond the invisible line drawn at 2016?

My reason for passing over that dreaded barrier is because Emily Carroll’s graphic novel, Through the Woods, terrified me so thoroughly that it’s remained with me throughout these years.

I have mentioned before that the two hardest genres to write in my opinion are comedy and horror. We can’t rely on a laugh track, eerie music, or jump scares to shake our audience. We write, and pray that what we find scary happens to be a universal phobia. Taking horror and creating a graphic novel is an even more admirable feat. A traditionalist will tell you that books with pictures aren’t books at all. That a graphic novel is the farthest thing from the “real, pure, virginal” novel, and therefore isn’t as good. These people have never read a graphic novel, and especially not one by Carroll.

Through the Woods consists of five short horror stories, all of them different in that they frighten the reader in a multitude of ways and convey different tones, but similar in artistic and storytelling style. Graphic novels are the height of horror fiction, simply because they can meet halfway between books and film. They not only rely on words and images, as writing and film do, but have their own unique facet: pacing.

That is what struck me whilst reading Carroll’s stories. The pacing between panels, the way she makes a single page without words or dramatically varying images go by at such an aching pace is nothing short of masterful. In truth, it may take me five seconds to read and register a single page of this book. But it feels as if the audience is walking through the story, or rather tiptoeing through it, trying not to disturb whatever lurks in the shadows. There’s an exquisite agony to Carroll’s stories, each one heart-stopping and lonely and hollow in a way only a dark and snowy forest can be. The stories are simple, but they are rich.

I first came across Carroll’s work online a few years ago, though I believe I may have repressed the exact date to some forgotten corner of my mind. The first story of hers I ever experienced (really, “read” is too light a word) was His Face All Red. The title, to the imaginative, is enough to send chills through you. I read it late at night, my eyes squinted against any possible jump scare or horrendous face that might rear up in the next panel. The story itself was told in a calm tone, the panels simple, the colours bright and the edges hard. But a simple flash of red. A simple turn of a head. All of it swirled together had me scrambling for the sheets to yank over my eyes.

You wouldn’t believe my shock, horror, and delight when I found this particular story was included in this collection. And I devoured it all in one long night.

I have two disappointments, just two grievances, with this collection of stories.

The first is regarding the stories themselves. When you pull a bunch of short pieces together, polished and lined up in a row, it’s inevitable that one seems to stand out from the rest, or your readers pick a favourite. Our Neighbour’s House and His Face All Red seem to be similar to one another in both tone and setting, which not only appealed to my personal tastes but, beyond that, made them seem out of place. I felt that they belonged in another collection, both of them too good for this one. Whilst the other stories are without a doubt spine-tingling, they don’t match up nor even come close to meeting the raw fear the others evoked in me. And whilst there is an obvious theme and thread running through each of the stories, they still feel a bit jumbled. There was no saving the best for last, in this case, and certain stories (My Friend Janna) fall completely from memory, as they didn’t seem to have the same tone when it came to what made them frightening in the first place. Murder, glaring corpses, bodies hacked to pieces, and wormy monsters are far different than ghosts, mediums, and apparitions. Perhaps there could have been a more thorough weeding out of what should have stayed and what should have been kept for another collection.

My second grievance is one that might sound like, on its face, to be a compliment. And truly, I do mean it as a compliment, but I don’t want a serious critique to be hidden behind it. Through the Woods was too short. Five stories are a fine number, yes, and they’re worth what I paid for the book tenfold. But the stories were all so short it made a thick book feel thin. If Carroll had included just one or two more pieces, perhaps I would have been more satisfied. Graphic novels are far too easy to read within a matter of hours. Perhaps the publisher should have taken this into account and decided to bulk it up.

All of that said, I am impressed by the art style. It calls to mind the hand of Noelle Stevenson (Nimona, 2015), the style a bit flecked and loose. Whilst I can tell these characters are human (uh… most of them), there’s a distinctly inhuman quality to them. As with The Simpsons lacking chins or various comic strips including wild hair or disproportionate bodies, Carroll’s style is modern and honest. Though it may sound crass, the characters and settings look realistic because Carroll doesn’t shy away from the ugly. Unafraid to show spit and snot and sneers, or flyaway hairs and wrinkles and eye bags. This is a step away from comic books, which so many people base their opinions on graphic novels around. These characters are real, and they look truly tired or frightened or dead.

Another part of Carroll’s style that I admire is displayed beautifully in His Face All Red. Carroll utilizes the negative space on the page between panels, carving holes in the ground and using the black page to describe the ground surrounding a character. It lends the entire story a claustrophobic mood. From snow fields and skies to the underground and wooded areas, Carroll uses her canvas to convey what words cannot. This is, undoubtedly, art in its truest form. Horrific, gut-wrenching, and terrifying.

I have recommended this book to comic book lovers and novel readers alike. This book will frighten you. Carroll has achieved not only a new level of graphic novel artistry, but brings readers on a journey through a new yet familiar area of horror. She proves that no matter the time period, or setting, or protagonist, there are monsters out there, waiting.

Emily Carroll, if you’re reading this, I dearly hope you’re working on another collection that will keep me up all night long. I look forward to reading more.

3.5/5 Stars

P.S. If you want to read His Face All Red or other chilling, thrilling comics by Emily Carroll, visit her website at http://www.emcarroll.com