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4 Different Trends for the Dystopian Book Cover

As a dystopian author who has recently had her dystopian series re-designed, I've done a fair amount of research around dystopian book covers. And let me tell you, it was not easy to distinguish what gives a piece of cover art the elements to make readers instantly know the book is dystopian.

There have been changing designs over the years and here are four key trends for dystopian book covers that I have noticed.

Dystopian Book Cover Trend 1: A Simple Symbol

Symbol from The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
Symbol from The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

Many dystopian books use a simple symbol on its cover design. The most obvious and clear example of this is The Hunger Games book covers, which use a simple symbol of a bird. All four book covers (including the prequel - The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes) feature a bird in various positions. Another dystopian series to follow this trend is The Red Rising Series by Pierce Brown. Again, we have a strong dark background with a stylistic use of a symbol across the face of the covers - namely, a wing, leaves and something similar to a grappling hook. Other examples of this are the dystopian books Q by Christina Dalcher, the Matched Series and the later cover art of the Divergent series.

Dystopian Book Trend 2: A Girl and a City

Divergent book

It only takes a quick search on Amazon to see this dystopian book cover trend, although more generic covers seem to be taking its place. Many dystopian young adult stories have a female main character, usually a teenager, who is struggling in the setting of a crumbling city under an oppressive government regime. And so, this narrative often translates to their covers. The Divergent series book covers are one such example, and with those we see the girl's silhouette go from sitting to standing across the covers, demonstrating Tris' character development. Another example is The Cure by K.A. Riley or The Selection Series by Kiera Cass.

Dystopian Book Trends 3: A Skewed Silhouette

Parable of the Sower Book

This is probably one of the most common dystopian book cover trends. Think Handmaid's Tale, Never Let Me Go and cough, Sun of Endless Days. I'm currently reading The Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler and that also has what I called a skewed silhouette on its cover. This is either a dark, featureless silhouette or a silhouette of a figure that has its identity distorted, either through blurring or through block covers, like with The Handmaid's Tale and The Testaments. Another more modern example is Happy Head by Josh Silver.

This might be my favourite dystopian book cover trend mainly because of how well it reflects the genre. That idea of connecting with characters who are facing such extreme adversity that they have to fight to claim not only who they are, but for what is right.

Dystopian Book Trend 4: A Post-Apocalyptic Blend

The Swell dystopian book cover

A strong trend of post-apocalyptic book cover is a strong character in the forefront, standing in face of some devastated landscape or city. Quite often, they're holding a gun or are accompanied by a dog. Recently, I have noticed this trend seeping its way into the dystopian genre too. Obviously, the post-apocalyptic and dystopian genres blend easily; many dystopian books are set post-apocalypse so that comes as no surprise. But you don't often get zombies or environmental disasters happening in the plot of pure dystopian novels. However, that doesn't stop the book covers looking similar. An example is my own dystopian short story, The Swell.

What are your favourite dystopian book covers? Let me know!

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