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Friday, January 13, 2012

Rant: Paranormal Teen Books

My favorite genre was paranormal fantasies. Now I'm not so sure. Do you know why?

First I'm going to point to this review on GoodReads. And yes, I do know about the drama and the hoopla surrounding the review and the author. I do have the book, got it before the drama, and am I tempted to the read the book even now? Yes because the review is hilarious and no because I'm not a huge fan of the author.

Now that you read the review, let me ask you this question. Has the last PNR book you've read or saw reminded you of another PNR book? Because it happens to me all the time. All the freaking time.

So I'm going to tell a short little story that sparked this post.

A few days ago, some friends and I went to Barnes and Noble because we were near the general area and they know about my love for books. A friend wanted to know my opinion about this book so I asked for more details since she couldn't remember the title:
"What was it about?"
"Something to do with the paranormal."
"What did the cover look like?" (because I'm addicted to covers.)
"It had a girl on it. She was wearing a dress."
"Anything else?"
"I know it's by a female author and the book is a series*. Trilogy maybe?"
"That about narrows it down to every paranormal teen book I can think of."
And because I love book covers (hence the name of my blog), I ALWAYS judge a book by its cover. It's what initially draws me to the book. I know my YA book covers (at least the ones published after 2009) so I thought if my friend could tell me about the cover, I'd get it immediately. Nowadays, 90%** of the PNR covers are the same. Pretty girl in really pretty dress***:

What do they have to do with the actual book? 95%** of the time, NOTHING. Out of the 9 books, I read 3: After Obsession, Fury, and Always a Witch. The cover for Fury relates to the actual novel. But After Obsession and Always a Witch? If you squint really hard and tilt your head a bit and skim through the book, you might find a connection.

In Everneath, does the girl wear a frilly red dress while walking on smoke? In Endlessly, does she wear a purple dress and is in a scene where she overlooks a sea of purple flowers? In A Beautiful Dark...I don't even know what she's doing. Sacrificing herself? Chances are the answers to the questions are no. Are they gorgeous covers? Definitely, but they're irreverent to the story so why is it even there.

Without reading the synopsis I would have no clue what the book is about. Before the onslaught of pretty girls in pretty dress covers, I would have stopped and picked the book up. Now, I don't have the urge.

Sometimes it's not even the author's fault that their book becomes not THEIR book, but as part of a mass of books within a genre. They hardly have any say in the cover. Sometimes it's the way their book is pitched:
  1. collectively with a bunch of other PNR books such as Breathless Reads or Dark Days campaign
  2. compared to other popular PNR books coughTwilightcough
  3. at a really bad time when I'm overloaded with other PNR books
Tell me it's the next big thing ever since "INSERT A NYT BESTSELLING SERIES" and it's automatically off my want-now list. Tell me the basic skeleton of the book--general plot line with no names and no details--and I wouldn't have a clue as to what makes your book so great compared to everyone else's. Maybe I know which book you're talking about or more likely, I'll give you a list of books I think you're talking about and maybe it's one of the them.

What I hoped to read in PNR books is like Emma Watson: differences that are easily detectable. What I find is Kristin Stewart: the same thing over and over again.

I used to believe the hype and FALL HARD for the covers. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me a third time, fuck it. I'm abandoning my PNR books for contemporary books until the reviews start coming in then maybe I have a better understanding if it's as good as the pitches say they are.

*I'll do a rant post on series later.
**These statistics are completely made up. It's probably highly exaggerated.
***I initiated raided HarperTeens's catalog then I realize my post got too long.

And in a rare chance, there's a book I loved that has a pretty girl cover, is compared to a big series, with tons of hype backing it up. I fall in love with the paranormal genre all over again.

Then I dig around and devour paranormal books left and right trying to find another one of the amazing, spectacular, jaw-dropping, I-am-in-love, books.

But I can't and I get disappointed again. Then I curse myself for falling prey to the hype and the pretty covers.

Lather, rinse, and repeat.

  • Eyes Like Stars: more fantasy than actual PNR I really did enjoy this book with its pretty cover, which is incorporates many of the elements of the books. Love this artist's work.
  • Unearthly: though short of jaw-dropping, spectacular, I-am-in-love book, I liked Unearthly. Enough to give it 4 stars :) Also pretty girl with a pretty dress on the cover (which, by the way, is kind of irreverent to the story so aside from the purple, I'm eh on the cover). 
Books that I recommend with a different kind of cover (there's a couple of more books, but they fall under thriller or action and adventure better, plus I ran out of room):

P.S. I have a couple more rant post scheduled every Friday heh


  1. You had me laughing out loud a few times. I totally get what you're saying; I feel the same way sometimes. I've been burned by pretty covers more times that I care to count.

    The last paranormal romance book I read was I Heart You, You Haunt Me by Lisa Schroeder, which doesn't really fit in with what you're talking about here because 1) it was a novel in verse, and 2) it wasn't part of a trilogy. But the PNR before that was Ice by Sarah Beth Durst, which had the icky let's-knock-up-the-heroine storyline and arrogant know-it-all men... and before that it was Tempestuous by Lesley Livingston, which I only finished because I'd read the first two books in the trilogy, and not because I was actually interested in the story anymore. (It should really be called Tedious instead of Tempestuous...)

    I think the last stereotypical PNR that I actually enjoyed was Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver... but I haven't read the next two books yet, so my opinion of the trilogy could still change. If a sequel really stinks, it tends to colour my view of the whole series.

    I wonder whatever happened to stand-alone titles in young adult fiction...

    1. Thank you! I try to be somewhat funny is this post ;)

      Don't get me started on ICE. It was a very strange book. Gave me the willies.

      LOL @Tedious. I heard that the series got worst, which is another reading pet peeve of mine.

      The Shiver series, I know, has so many unanswered questions that I fail to see it as an "ending". I hate it when the writer tries to be poetic and vague. Just get your shit together, put it on paper and let the mass decide of your ending and not just some uppity crap like "life is full of unknowns". Some readers will love and some readers won't.

      The stand-alone titles I seem to find more in contemporary, which is why I'm starting to crossover. My wallet and attention span can't deal with too many series.

  2. This is a very interesting post! And very relevant to my life, since right now I'm reading Supernaturally by Kiersten White, which is a paranormal romance and the girl on the cover is in a pretty dress. Luckily, I like these books so far, but I agree with that the Paranormal genre is getting bogged down with similar content that isn't all that great. I haven't read The Carrier of the Mark yet, but now I'm a little afraid to.

    1. I'm expecting the PNR books not to lighten up anytime soon. The NYT Bestsellers list for YA books/series last year was filled with PNR books. Once a series hits it big, the other publishers/agency jump on the train.

      I found the review to be hilarious.

  3. Word. I am kind of bored of paranormal teen books, but then good ones come around and I begin reading them all over again -- like Unearthly.

    1. Ditto; then I bang my head on the desk. However, all these bad books make reviewing easier for me ;)

  4. I dislike the cover for Vampire Academy. They don't do justice. :3

    1. Same here. It's practically fugly. The companion series is a smidgen better, but not all that great either.

  5. I thought the cover for Everneath conveyed the book pretty well. Since in the Everneath they are surrounded by these shadows that wrap around them and feed off of them. I thought it was pretty similar to what was going on in the cover. The shadows coming up to suck her back under. Not too sure about the red dress but I really don't remember much about her clothing in the book. =P.

    1. Woot! Score one for designers. I never read Everneath so I wasn't sure if the cover matches the book or not. I'm just disappointed in the overall trend and with the PNR books I've been reading.

  6. 1) I have a blogger crush on you after reading this. Just sayin.' ;)

    2) Thank you for posting that Goodreads link. I've been hearing so many rumbles about an author freaking out after a bad review and now I'm glad to get the chance to read what all the hoopla is about.

    3) YES. I have totally noticed the so-similar-they're-practically-recycled covers coming out recently. It makes me gravitate toward the books with totally unique covers even more because I assume (and sometimes wrongfully so) that if the cover is unoriginal, the book might be, too.

    4) I don't mind when people say "Fans of ABC will like this book" because that helps me gage genre and character likes vs dislikes. But when someone says "This book is exactly like XYZ" then I usually skip it because originals tend to be better than knockoffs.



    1. 1) ahahaha THANK YOU

      2) There's actually another rumblings about an author and her agent (g): http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/231455953. I actually like the review since it's insightful and funny.

      3)Good point! I guess judging a group of books by their cover can make my weekly decision of what to read easy ;)

      4) What irks about "Fans of ABC will like this book" is that ~70% of the time, they're wrong. Just because the book is a dystopian novel does not mean that The Hunger Games fans will like the book. Just because the book is about vampires and werewolves does not mean fans of Twilight will like the book.

      But I do see your point. I'm just jaded having gone through so many of them.


  7. I'm fine with paranormal YA pretty-girl-in-dress books IF it's actually relevant to the story. I'm pretty proud to say that all of my favourite paranormals (of which there are few, to be honest) have an 'other' cover. As in, they don't feature a big dress.

    I'm more a fan of contemporary and historical. I have to be very choosy with dystopian now, since there are so many out there now! Let's all go back to 2010 when it wasn't over-trending.

    You should join in and add a cover-fraud bookshelf to your GR. If you haven't already. What happened to book covers that actually TELL you something about the product inside? BLERGGHHHH.

    Beautiful post. I especially liked that you included the Emma/Kristin thing. Spot on!

  8. oh my god, I LOVE YOU!!!!!! Every cover reveal, its yet ANOTHER girl on cover for a paranormal book and in NO way does it pertain to the book and everyone is like "OH MY GOD SO CUTE, I LOVE IT!" but I'm like, hell no. What is wrong with the people who make covers? what happened to covers having MEANING?! for example, there are expectations like the cover Anna Dressed in Blood (I haven't read the book yet) but from the summary it says:

    "She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, but now stained red and dripping blood."

    so obviously there SHOULD be a girl wearing a dress on the cover. It's directly related to the book! A girl wearing a dress does not be standard cover criteria -.-

    Daughter of Smoke and Bone is so pretty & simple and somewhat relates to the book (the blue) and wow look at that, no dress! Vampire Academy's cover is in no way spectacular but what's in the INSIDE is fantastic<3 Now, I'm going to be completely honesty I COMPLETELY judge a book by it's cover at first glance but geez, girls-wearing-dresses is not the only eye catching thing! Contemporary books are more diverse (thank you god) Take Never Eighteen for instance (I haven't read the book yet) but from the summary you know it deals with a road trip. The car is justifiable. Sarah Dessen's books, very simple covers but still cute and totally show a little about the book. I prefer Perfect Chemistry series racy covers (by YA standard) to girl-in-dresses. I just hate girl in dresses and I'm so beyond ECSTATIC to see I'm not alone in the subject! thank you for understanding<3

    Racquel @ The Book Barbies♥
    -thank you&come again.

  9. I hate when there's a Design of the Year that seems to encompass all the books of that genre that come out. Prior to the Girl in a Dress was the Close Up of One Eye With The Other Obscured By Hair Or Other. I hated that one. I much prefer the dresses. Then there was the Headless Women covers - which mostly fell to the adult Urban Fantasy books.

    I am so tired of all of the books in a year having similar covers. It's like how one year Vampires were the rage, then zombies, then angels and now.. now, what? Is it possible that we don't have a Paranormal Creature of the Year? I think we've skipped over that to dystopian. Hmm.

    Stop with the trends. Let people experience something new, if they don't want to accept change then let them suffer, many others of us will try something new.