The 80's and 90's had some of the best covers for children and young adults, especially when it came to the creepy factor. I still own a lot of Fear Street and Christopher Pike books, still impressed with the artwork. YA and kid covers today are pretty and stylish, but there's something for the retro vector art style.
R.L. Stine Fear Street
The exaggerated facial expressions remind me of the older Gothic novel art I enjoy, although these are a bit more cartoonish and drawn. The Fear Street series had some of the best covers...although it's rivaled by any of the below sections.There was plenty of variety too depending on the book. Pretty much every cover I've seen for this series has been good, although of course there are some better ones than others.The Fear Street books have earned a new launching, but I'm not sure how those covers will hold up - hopefully just as well.
R.L. Stine Goosebumps
The Goosebumps were Fear Streets younger cousins. While the series burst forward in popularity, even more so than Fear Street, it was a little too young-aimed for me to enjoy as much. The covers are artsy and cartoonish like the Fear Street, but more plot device effects seemed used instead of just closeups of scared characters.Tim Jacobus was the artist behind these covers (such talent!) Here is an interview with him from 2015 done by Vice. He designed over 100 covers starting in 1991. He claims the art for each book took him 30 to 40 hours of painting and airbrushing. Interestingly he was paid a few, but not based on sales of how successful the book was.
I still collect, read and review Christopher Pike - to me the man is more imaginative than most authors I've seen and writes poetically. His stuff merges into science fiction and fantasy elements quite a bit. Some of his stuff is horror aimed like it was marketed, but a lot of it is just surreal drama stuff. His covers aren't as cartoonish since they were for older YA, but they still have the same exaggerated style that I enjoy with vector drawing type images. There are still close-ups of surprised expressions, but in Pike's case more background imagery and setting is used in the cover, with the angle being more distant from the people and not right up in their faces.
Pike's idea of a Goosebumps series, I actually didn't read any until a few years back. They're surprisingly cute and affects the same group of children in the same town, instead of a different story for a different person via Goosebumps. The writing was better balanced and fun. I wouldn't pass up reading more of these if they came across my path - there were genuinely funny moments that left me giggling. The covers are fun and very exaggerated, bringing the cartoonish aspect up higher and glossier than Goosebumps.
Other Cute Collections
Who doesn't remember the cover for My Teacher is an alien? I remember seeing that all over the place growing up, and owned it at some point.Lois Duncan kept a serious, gritty vibe for her older YA themed thrillers. The Bone Chillers had bright, cute covers that - while not as good as the other franchises - were fun for young kids. Point Horror had RL Stine and other authors before they branched into their own series lines. Of course no one can forget the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series - not only the cover is tasteful, but the book is filled with haunting pen illustrations.