During my normal rounds this AM of the interweb I discovered this post, by author D.S. Cahr, about publishers marketing YA books largely to girls. This is not new news, but I thought I’d add my (brief) two-cents. Make sure to check out the link above, and learn more about the author’s book The Secret Root. (I am an admitted book whore, but this one sounds pretty dad-gum awesome.)
So, my thoughts, in a possibly random order. Books do not have gender. They are not Boy or Girl. (I believe Libba Bray said that, and she is a brilliant example of not writing for gender.) Some will inherently appeal more to one gender, but that shouldn’t stop the other from reading it.
As the author states, Divergent and The Hunger Games, both featuring female protagonists, have been universally loved by boy readers. Why? Katniss and Tris are both pretty kick ass. They are more plot driven (which is YA in general, not just YA for boys), and they do not shy away from violence and/or action. The romance is solid, but not the focus of the story.
Other books, with similar components, are being marketed as Girl books, even if boys would probably dig them. (I think any book written by Maggie Stiefvater will appeal to boys. Her boys rock.)
I am writing a YA book that is told in first person POV by a seventeen year old girl. It is plot-driven. It has violence and action. The romance is important to the plot, but not the only thing in the plot. The Boy has an arc with super-high stakes and tons of drama, making him a very strong, conflicted masculine counterpart.
My book will likely be marketed to girls.
This irritates me. Girls are already more likely to read a book featuring a male protagonist than boys will for a female. The pressure to be masculine is greater than the pressure to be feminine. Girls who dress in baseball caps and cut-offs, or like sports and the outdoors, are considered cool and cute. Boys who pay attention to their clothes, like art or aren’t into sports, are considered pansies.
This may not be true everywhere. I remember in New York, one of my mom-friends said she got her son a make-up kit and let him play dress up in princess gear. Sam has never been inclined to wear make-up (although, he has quite literally painted his face), and dress up is reserved for superhero costumes, but if he were, I’d let him. Self-expression is important in developing identity. New York City is not the norm, and in many parts of the country, this double-standard is still an issue.
To say a romantic book cannot be for boys, or a violent book cannot target girls, is bullshit. Boys can like romance. They can be hopeless romantics as much as girls. I have a brother who fits into the category wholeheartedly. However, he is not a reader. Why? Because early on he wasn’t connecting with the books he was being told he should connect with.
I guess, what I’m trying to say (not so elegantly) is publishers shouldn’t decide a book is Boy or Girl, but should market it as a book. Teens are smart. They can decide if they like something without you telling them to like it. To pander to the lowest common denominator is just selling your audience short. Teens do not like to be talked down to.
Publishers are about making the most money. This is fact because books are also a business. Wouldn’t they make more money if girls and boys could feel comfortable reading whatever book they want?