Thursday, May 5, 2011

Under the Cover: Shine

One of the best things about being a designer is getting to work on projects that I really care about. Shine by Lauren Myracle is hands-down, without a doubt, one of those projects. The story is raw, gritty, and just plain beautiful—and I knew the cover had to do it justice.

Book Summary 

When her best guy friend falls victim to a vicious hate crime, sixteen-year-old Cat sets out to discover who in her small town did it. Richly atmospheric, this daring mystery mines the secrets of a tightly knit Southern community and examines the strength of will it takes to go against everyone you know in the name of justice.
     Against a backdrop of poverty, clannishness, drugs, and intolerance, Myracle has crafted a harrowing coming-of-age tale couched in a deeply intelligent mystery. Smart, fearless, and compassionate, this is an unforgettable work from a beloved author.

Design Exploration 

I read an early draft of the Shine manuscript and immediately had a very vivid picture of the town and its cast of characters. I'm from southern Virginia, so the setting and the people felt very familiar. (Seriously, even things the characters would say, like, "Shit fire and save bullets!" were common expressions in my upbringing.) So I used that sense of nostalgia to compile imagery that felt appropriate for Shine.


I'm a fan of the HBO show, True Blood, so the opening credits instantly popped into my head as evoking that kind of gritty, southern energy.

This last image in particular was sort of a muse for the design direction. It just feels like the South—weathered and beautiful and a little unsettling. Other stock photography and the work of North Carolina photographer Sterling E. Stevens also lent inspiration:

Cover Creation

When I started designing this cover, the title of the book was Speechless. The design angle being how Cat was silenced by a terrible childhood event. A very early comp looked like this: 

But (thankfully!) we didn't stay with this direction long. We decided it was more important to focus on how Cat was emerging from her fearful silence and blossoming into a strong young woman. Going back to my inspiration board and childhood memories of magnolia trees and rust covered sheds, the design went in this direction:

And got a lot of positive reaction. The strongest element was the magnolia blossom—sort of a diamond in the rough—so I continued with that imagery.

When the title of Speechless became Shine, I knew the cover needed to be less about receding and more about emerging and the struggle of becoming. There's a powerful scene at the end of the book that involves water:

And another with a mourning cloak butterfly caught in a spider's web:


But what these comps were missing was hope. The struggle was evident enough, but ultimately, Shine is a story of hope and compassion and leaping off the edge of doubt.

And blooming in the face of adversity.

As with most things, this design came full circle and ended where it began—which was with this early comp. Something about this flower blooming in spite of everything, spoke most to Cat's struggle and her cause for hope.

Using several stock photos and off-centered Gor Light title type, I layered the cover together, piece by piece ...

Until I got this:

Add one very fantastic sculptural emboss (courtesy of our very skilled printer, Lehigh Phoenix):

And the case foil stamp seals the deal.

Other Shine reads and reviews:
Los Angeles Times
YA Litwit
Book Page
YA Lit Crave
Into the Morning Reads


  1. Amazing Journey. I love reading these.

  2. Good read. Glad I bookmarked it and popped over to read.

  3. That cover, on SHINE, it's so exquisite-I'm breathless!!!!!!!