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Cover practice: How I Live Now update

Updated: Oct 23, 2022

I wrote here about a 'cover design practice' project I did, which was to come up with a new cover for Meg Rosoff's How I Live Now which seemed a good candidate because despite being one of the most esteemed YA novels of the 21st century, it hasn't had a cover update since 2005 (barring a film tie-in):

I came up with a direction I was pretty happy with and more recently have been polishing it up to a finished standard.

As I talked about before, I was taking cues from previous covers of the book, which are strongly remembered I think, and trying to bring in a more 2022 sensibility to that imagery.

How I Live Now has always featured plant/flower imagery on its covers - to the extent that previous editions don't really hint at the more extreme, speculative-fiction-y part of the story.

I wanted to keep continuity with that nature imagery and also felt I understood the reasons for not being too overt on the cover about the fact the book is also about modern warfare and occupation and survival. How I Live Now is a complex mix of ideas and touch-points from various traditions and it doesn't behove it to make it seem like a straightforward 'genre' piece.

So I wanted to tip the balance of the imagery and atmosphere to include more of the hint of horror and extremity without going too far.

The obvious addition to that end is the skull, and I've also taken the plants in a direction that makes them feel less gentle and more uncomfortable - straggly, strangling, overwhelming, flowers too delicate, fruit too ripe. This feels like the way nature is felt throughout the novel, especially in the section where Daisy is on the road living off the land. The imagery is most literally connected to final section where we see how the garden reflects the deeply traumatised and brutalised mind of the character who cares for it.

Unplanned but welcome point is how the layout and font choice feels gravestone-like.

All in all I really like the way the elements here speak to each other, enriching each other's meaning. The skull provides a direct irony the title, raises a contradiction that makes you want to know more.


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