I've written a YA futuristic novel that I'm putting final polishes on. I'm also an artist, so I'm experimenting with doing ten illustrations for this novel. No can do, you say? Not for YA? I'm happy to report this is no longer the case! The age of the illustrated YA is coming of age. Pictured here is a peek at my image of a scary cult that my main characters run into in the Great Chihuahua Desert. Yup, these cowled creeps are raising the net on my guys. Oh, and those rock formations that look like... well, stay tuned. In fact, stay tuned in general, as I may post another picture soon.
Examples of lushly-illustrated YAs are popping up all over the place. Scott Westerfield's Leviathan, with art by Keith Thompson comes to mind. A Monster Calls, inspired by Siobhan Dowd, written by Patrick Ness and illustrated by Jim Kay is another shining example. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, a novel by Ransom Riggs and chock full of vintage photos, takes the already eerie novel about a 16 year-old boy sent to a crumbling, abandoned home for dangerous youth to a whole other layer of strange. Beth Kephart, a YA author posted on September 29th about this very subject, and she's excited to say that an upcoming book of hers will be illustrated.
So, who says teens shouldn't enjoy evocative images! There's no reason that gorgeously illustrated novels should only exist for the picture book and middle grade set. N. C. Wyeth and Albrecht Durer are two classic picture-makers for adult and crossover novels. With the rise of the graphic novel and the text art hybrid that Brian Selznick introduced with The Inventions of Hugo Cabret, this is fast-changing, and I, for one, am hugely excited about it.
That said, I do think that illustrations for teens need a sophistication that allows for one's imagination to paint in the main characters. Good illustration, as good fiction allows for this breathing room.
That's why, in my pictures, I'll have no images of the main characters (Or maybe one, from the side view??) and precious few of the other players. That's why I won't be giving away any big gun surprises in them either. No spoilers, only images that fuel a sharper, more fierce imagining.
I firmly believe that images in YA novels can enrich and elevate prose. Seems like the perfect time to break away from old formulas and invent fresh, new templates. What do you think? (Should I do my main players in profile?) Please share any more good examples of this phenomenon. What kinds of illustrations would you not want to see, or really love to see? Dish here.