There’s a great thrill in seeing that a book you like is being turned into a movie or has been accepted for a TV adaptation. And, along with that thrill, is a deep sense of dread: Are they going to do it right? How are they going to cast it? Are they going to make a new book cover?

Yes, they’re going to make a new book cover.

Ugh.

I am unafraid to say that I’m in the cohort of readers that absolutely loathe movie covers. They’re generally unattractive (photo images as opposed to artistic depictions) and take away from the one thing that really makes books special: imagination.

There’s no greater magic than imagination. As you read the book, you develop a personal sense of the characters’ looks and identities. Everyone’s mental cast is different; no two people will have the exact same character concept. Character descriptions influence these ideas, but that doesn’t mean that when an author writes “blonde hair and blue eyes” that everyone will think Charlize Theron. Someone else will think Sophie Turner and another person will think Amanda Seyfried. And it doesn’t matter that everyone “sees” someone else in their mind. They may not see an actor/celebrity at all. It may be some entirely new person that only exists in the imagination of the reader.

Movie covers take that away from readers. Sure, the movie itself does that too, but we can choose not to watch movies. And yeah, there’s an argument to be made of, “Well, just don’t look at the movie cover, then!” I get it. It’s easy to avoid. Doesn’t mean I don’t like it. Because the moment anyone sees a movie cover, the people they see on the cover become the dominant mental image.

image of divergent movie poster next to an image of the divergent book cover by veronica roth

When I was reading Divergent many (many) years ago, I had my own mental cast of characters. They looked in my head as they were described in the books. Easy as that. The cover gave nothing away: it was a simple yet artistic design, of a wreath of fire over a misty blue city in the background. ‘Nuff said. But then Divergent was adapted into a movie and a new cover was published to showcase the main characters in their celebrity form. Boom! Shailene Woodley staring at you in the face. Good luck imagining anyone else as Tris Prior.

It’s one of my book-related pet peeves and always will be. I can’t exactly give any better reason than “it makes me mad! :-(“ but that’s where the buck (or book) stops, as it were. All I want is the free-reign to imagine characters in any which way I please. This also falls into the larger debate of casting diverse characters (an argument that arose after The Cursed Child cast a black woman as Hermione.) But that’s a post for another day.

This specific pet peeve also falls under my personal distaste for photographed (and subsequently photoshopped) people on book covers. I just don’t like it! Give me illustrations and art! Give me graphically pleasing covers!

There are plenty of beautiful examples of artistically-rendered book covers, like K. Arsenault Riveras The Tiger’s Daughter, R. F. Kuang’s The Poppy War, and Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone

Where do you stand on movie-adaptation covers? Are you a fan? Or do you prefer the classic covers? Leave a comment!

One thought on “Movie Adaptation Book Covers

  1. This article gave me pause and led me to form an opinion. Prior to reading this piece, I did not have any feeling about book covers. I admired them, or I didn’t, the story itself was all that mattered. But your assessment of leaving it up to the readers to create their own image of characters was a reminder that sparking our imaginations is part of the reason we pick up a book in the first place.

    Like

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