Best Aotearoa book cover of 2023 – Dream girl by Joy Holley

My favourite book cover of 2023 is Dream girl by Joy Holley, published by Te Herenga Waka University Press.
Joy's inscription credits:

"Thanks to Lily Paris West for the gorgeous cover, and Ebony Lamb for the incredible author photos."

"Thanks to my family for the songs, the stories and the love. Dad for transcribing my first 'book', Mum for the notes in my lunchbox, Faith for the beautiful embroidery on this book's cover, and for being my perfect little sister."

There are many reasons why this is my favourite book cover of the year:

  • I love the book. I gave it 5 stars and reviewed it thus: Lana Del Rey. Heart shaped bed. Picnic at Hanging Rock. Fruit. Perfume. Crushes. Ah the romance of it. Dream Girl by Joy Holley might just be Aotearoa's sexiest, dreamiest, most swoonsome book.
  • The cover perfectly harmonises with what's inside. The book is a mood, and the cover shows it. 
  • The title is embroidered on the author's top. By her sister. Amazing. 
  • The vision of a field of flowers (alstromeria - a knowledgeable colleague tells me when I see the same flowers in a vase in the staffroom)
  • The cover image has stayed with me. One of my tests for best book covers, are those which are memorable and pop into mind when I think of books this year. This did.

The creators kindly answered my questions:

Joy Holley

How did you go about creating the book cover for Dream Girl? What are the touch points and inspirations for both your book and the cover?

I really liked the idea of the title Dream Girl being in the cover art somehow, like the album art for Crushing by Julia Jacklin (this was my OG inspiration) or this cover of A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin. I also thought it would be provocative/funny to put myself on the cover of a book of fiction… there’s no way it could have been anyone else!

I had countless touchpoints for Dream Girl, including a lot of the music on this playlist. Justine Kurland’s Girl Pictures are always inspiring to me, and the cover of the photo book definitely influenced Dream Girl’s cover. 

My sister Faith is very talented at embroidery, and we are very close, so I thought it would be cute for her to sew the title onto something for the cover. The top that she embroidered is a vintage one I’ve had since I was seventeen (and have worn countless times!). This felt appropriate, since there are quite a few stories in the book that draw on my teenage years.

Around the time Faith was working on the embroidery, I found Lily Paris West’s website and realised almost every design I’ve seen and loved around Wellington is by Lily! I feel so lucky that she was able to do the cover for Dream Girl. 

I’d been keen to shoot the cover on film from quite early on, but I didn’t think it was going to work out… until Lily came along! We also took lots of photos digitally, but I think the film adds a layer of dreamy nostalgia that really suits the book.

We did the photoshoot at my old flat on Inverlochy Place. Ebony Lamb was there to assist, which involved a lot of readjusting my hair and top for me! We hadn’t planned on taking photos in the garden, but there were so many of those flowers, we thought we might as well try. I’m extremely glad we did, because this photo was my immediate favourite.

What’s your favourite book of 2023?

Past Lives by Leah Dodd. Leah is one of my favourite poets and one of my favourite people, and her book is so funny and tender and true. It also has an excellent cover, which she designed herself!

Ebony Lamb

Ebony is a singer-songwriter and photographer. Read Ebony's bio

My part was as an assistant to Lily on the shoot for the cover, she is the photographer of the actual cover as well as designer. I was the photographer of the author photo and the publicity rollout images. It was so special to be a part of this vision that Joy had.

Lily Paris West

Lily is the bassist in Flying Nun band Mermaidens, and an artist and photographer. Visit Lily's website.

What was it like working on the cover? How did you bring Joy’s vision to life?

Something I love about working with other artists is being the conduit for realising their ideas. I was lucky in this project to have some time to get to know Joy and her work and world. It made it easy to create these dreamy soft visuals to accompany her writing and hero her sister Faith's beautiful and completely pitch-perfect embroidery.

You are both amazing musicians and music is part of Joy’s book. Was music part of making the cover?

That's very kind! I've been a fan of Eb's work for a long time, so it was a privilege to have her involved in the cover shoot. I think we all bonded over music, which made the shoot super comfortable.

What do you think makes a good cover?

I like a cover with bold colours and some mystique.  

Photoshoot pics

More Joy

Joy Holley Writer's File: Read NZ Te Pou Muramura

Dream girl reviews and interviews

Best Book Covers 2023

You can read more about the besties of the year in Best Book Covers of 2023 - My picks of Aotearoa's finest.