Body image and self esteem is an important topic.
I believe that everyone should be proud of what they look like, and not worry about weight, blemishes etc. But there's a lot of people who feel insecure about their looks, society does not help by promoting that beauty=key to getting partner=happiness, and I'm wondering if YA book covers are doing anything to help.
I've been asking the internet about books with main characters who don't typically conform to society's standards of beauty, and I have a list. Thank you people! (You're all listed at the bottom). With the covers, I take either the one I've seen most often in the UK or the first one that came up in Google Images.
So what happens with books with main characters who aren't typically beautiful?
1. Publishers get it right. They get portrayed accurately.
|The City's Son by Tom Pollock.||Mortal Instruments by Philip Reeve.|
2. They get shown in shadow, they're covered up, or you see the character but you can't tell that they don't fit society's ideals.
|Jepp Who Defied the Stars by Katherine Marsh. I've been told that the main character is a dwarf, but the lack of scenery gives you nothing to compare him to.|
The Days of Judy B by Rose Heiney. I believe the issue here is weight. The skirt and hand could be anyone.
|Black Heart Blue by Louisa Reid. Rebecca, the sister with Treacher Collins Syndrome, is in shadow.||Henry Franks by Peter Adam Salomon. Henry has a lot of scars for reasons you'll find out, and the cover hints at this, but doesn't make it clear.|
|North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headly. Terra has a large birthmark on her cheek.||Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry. After the incident, Echo has scars up and down her arms.|
|Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carlson. Not only this an example of whitewashing, you don't get a full picture of Elisa.||Shark Girl by Kelly Bingham. Jane's attack meant that her right arm was amputated, we only see her left here.|
|Skin Deep by Laura Jarrat. Jenna is in a car crash that leaves her face scarred. These have magically disappeared (I doubt that a car crash would leave scars on just one side. Correct me if I'm wrong)||The Duff by Kody Keplinger. Bianca gets called the Designated Ugly Fat Friend, and her esteem suffers as a result.|
|Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce. Scarlett is scarred and missing an eye.||Wonder by RJ Palacio. The big one. August has a facial deformity. This cover doesn't really say that he's deformed, and doesn't say he isn't.|
|The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Hazel's cancer visibly takes its toll and Augustus had his leg amputated.||Fat Vampire by Adam Rex. I'm assuming that weight's the issue here.|
|Pure by Julianna Baggott. Apparently, it's full of scarred characters.|
So why is this done? It may be for practicality reasons-obtaining models etc. It may be because it is just better for the book-Black Heart Blue and Henry Franks both have covers that suit them. But the reason those who are less than ideal-looking aren't shown on covers is: Publishers or cover designers don't think that they'll sell. It may not be that person's personal view. It probably isn't.
But it is society's. Magazines aimed at teen girls are often full of tips to look better, clothes and makeup pages-sometimes for other people's benefit. I have nothing against looking good, and taking pride in your appearance. But we're being the sold the message that those who don't look "perfect" won't get anywhere. And this leads to problems in people's psych, lead them to feeling worthless.
School's might try and help. At mine an all girl's school. I think we get (the same) talks in years 7,9,10, or around age 12 and then again 13-15. Other girls get less than this. The sample of the few teenage boys I know tell me that they don't get this at all.
Stories are an important part in people's lives. They have the power to take your to another world and to change your thinking, your ideology. Teenagers are easily impressable.
So what kind of message are we getting when the majority of covers try to avoid the fact that they are centred around someone who isn't traditionally picture perfect?
Thank you to: Laura Ferguson, Cait from The Cait Files, Cicely Loves Books, Laure Eve, Jace McCoy, Kim Curran, Ellie from Curiosity Killed The Bookworm, Tom Pollock, Clover from Fluttering Butterflies, Keris from UKYA, Melissa Maria, Sean Cummings,Laura Sister Spooky, Philip Reeve, Lucy Queen of Contemporary, Rhys from Fiction Thirst, Bella/Cheezyfeet, Caroline from Portrait of Woman, Emily datawesomeunicorn, Faye, Cara, and Sarah mindspiel for giving me different viewpoints, suggesting awesome books and making my tbr list grow.
PS. This post should not have taken five hours to put together. It did. XD Please comment!