Today we have a special guest post (below) on cover art by author Ashley Hope Pérez. The Knife and the Butterfly (February, 2012) is young adult fiction, inspired by a true story of gang violence in Texas.
Blurb: Azael Arevalo wishes he could remember how the fight ended. He knows his MS13 boys faced off with some punks from Crazy Crew. He can picture the bats, the bricks, the chains. A knife. But he can’t remember anything between that moment and when he woke behind bars. Azael knows jails, and something isn’t right about this lockup. No phone call. No lawyer. No news about his brother or his homies. The only thing they make him do is watch some white girl, Lexi, in some cell. Watch her and try to remember. The knife cut, but somehow it also connected.
How do two lost souls find the truth behind bars? Azael turns to art and Lexi to her journal to come to terms with their troubling past. Azael narrates in a ghetto thug voice, but his compassion for others makes him a sympathetic character. Although her story was well told, I had more troubles relating to self-absorbed Lexi. The resolution of their overlapping narratives was both satisfying and poignantly tragic. The swearing, sex, drugs and violence might irk some conservatives, but none of it is gratuitous. The powerful writing delivers a moral message without sounding preachy.
I recommend The Knife and the Butterfly to mature teens, especially to older boys, and to teachers/counselors of teens at risk. This moving tale about redemption would cross over well to an adult audience too. With its striking cover and meaningful story, The Knife and The Butterfly would be a fine addition to any library. Brava, Ashley and Laura!
Guest Post from Author Ashley Hope Pérez:
Behind the Cover Art
With my debut novel, What Can’t Wait, I didn’t see any of the preliminary covers, just the gorgeous final selection by the Carolrhoda Lab (and Lerner) rock stars. For The Knife and the Butterfly though, my editor Andrew Karre brought me inside the process. Although Andrew and the publisher are the ones with votes, I got to see some of the preliminary cover designs and weigh in on them.
I saw about a dozen very cool designs; here I’ll show you two contenders and explain why the actual design was chosen and developed. Refining the ideas was a group effort, but the senior graphic designer at Lerner, Laura Otto Rinne, was the main mastermind behind the cover. About her work on this project, she said that she "wanted to create something as complex and meaningful as the novel's prose."
What I loved about this concept was that it incorporated drawing, which is so central to the novel. As is, it’s not the kind of sketch that I imagine Azael doing, but that probably would have evolved. And the cool thing about a sketch is that it plays into the way that everything—for Azael and Lexi—is provisional, still subject to further revision. In the end, though, I thought the overall feel of the cover (especially the banner across the top) was too playful for the tone of the book.
This cover grabbed my attention; I was especially drawn to the subtlety of the Rorschach-esque butterfly. The only thing I didn’t love about the cover was that it failed to communicate something critical about the knife in the novel: it has two blades. Which brings us to the forerunners to the actual cover...
This cover was compelling... the darkness of it, the anonymity of the male figure, how the double-bladed silhouettes fit perfectly into his shoulder blades, and of course how the silhouettes also suggest a butterfly. My concern about this cover—especially in a vampire-saturated market—was that it would play on the “dark fantasy” frequency of Twilight, especially since those silhouettes could be wings... dark angel, anyone?
We’re getting closer to the final design, but we’re not there yet. This cover has this cool double symmetry going on—left-right with the silhouettes and top-bottom with the ampersand as the fold point. Very visually compelling. The silhouette options give the reader an idea of what the knife in the novel is like. I also like how the butterfly is implied but the overall look of the cover remains stark and masculine enough to appeal to guys.
What’s perfect here that wasn’t quite right in the previous cover (in my opinion)? Here, the vertical line with the title strengthens the suggestion of the butterfly without making it too obvious. This is very close to the final cover, with some adjustments to the font (the gothic print was hard for some people to read) and shifts in color allocation.
So that—in my simplified, highly un-specialized rendition—is how I landed the gorgeous cover that the Lerner design team designed for me. Major thanks to Laura Otto Rinne, my editor Andrew Karre, Carolrhoda Lab, Lerner, and all the folks who cooked up all this awesomeness—even what didn’t make it onto the final cover. I am one lucky author.
Blog Vacation: I'll be offline next week. Next post Wednesday February 22nd.