Thursday, September 23, 2010

Boy Books, Girls Books, and Me

So there has been a lot of discussion among authors and agents recently about YA and boy books versus girl books. So for those of you who are out of the loop YA (young adult) fiction is pretty much dominated by girl books. So these are your books like Twilight and The Hunger Games. MG on the other hand is dominated by boy books (Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, etc). And the boys who do read skip straight from MG to adult books. There is a push among authors to want to fix this--to make more boy oriented YA books, but publishers are against it. Because boys don't read YA, so you can't sell YA boy books, and it's really an argument that's very circular and sort of self fulfilling popular.

This is a discussion I find most interesting because though I am female, I always identified with the boy side of things as a reader.

When I was in elementary school I read MG. Then I hit fifth grade and began to read adult books. I never read YA until late high school and then it was only because I made a rule to read every book my little sister read. She loves YA. Even now, I will only read YA if it's highly highly highly recommended or my little sister's reading it.

I don't like YA as a book group.

I love MG. It's all about discovering yourself, making friends, and saving the world. I love adult books where we dive deep into societal issues and the problems people have (and we save the world). But YA? Why would I like it? They're all the same. Girl meets boy. Despite girl's inherent awkwardness and boy's insane hotness, they eventually fall in love. The end.

I hate romances. I really do. Because this isn't the way life is. YA books, what they promise our daughters, are wrong. Most of my female friends didn't date in high school. Not because they're psycho school focused career driven girls (as someone once said they must be). But because boys didn't ask them out. Some of my friends still haven't been on a single date even though they are almost 24 years old. (Of course, on the other hand, others are married). Life is not like romance novels, which is why I don't like them.

And that's most of the YA section. It's not a YA novel if it doesn't have a insanely strong romance element that is probably the main plot of the book.

As a teenager, I thought there was something wrong with me because boys didn't ask me out. Because TV and the teen focused books told me that was the way life was, that was the way life should be. After all, despite the herione's numerous faults eventually she gets the hot guy.

I know YA has a come a long way in recent years. I have greatly enjoyed many of the recent YA books I've read, but YA is still drowning in these stories that are essentially harlequin romances toned down slightly (only slightly--if at all) for teenagers.

It's not just boy readers YA is losing. YA is losing readers like me. Female readers who are sick of the way girls are presented, as if romance is the only thing we care about. As if we're so shallow.

I don't think we'll ever be able to stop kids from jumping straight from MG to adult, not until writers start realizing that teenagers like the themes and adventures of MG and adult books. Please, write me a teenage book where the herione saves the world....oh wait, that's The Hunger Games.

And you wonder why it was popular.


  1. Have you heard of The Tomorrow Series? I think it would be considered in the YA genre and the books are awesome. The series is actually similar to The Hunger Games in that it's told in first person by the female main character and she leads a (pretty violent, actually) fight against an enemy country. Definitely give the books a try!
    The first book was made into a movie ('Tomorrow When the War Began') and was just released in Australia this month (the books are set in Australia). No rerelease date yet for the US but maybe it'll make it over here!

  2. Jennifer, I haven't heard of those books but thanks for the suggestion! I'll definitely look into it. I'm always excited to learn about awesome books in the YA section.