Books for Boys: What’s Missing Here?

I read an interesting blog post about the lack of good YA books for boys. Even if the books are about boys, publishers somehow put girls on the covers. Is it just a marketing tactic because generally, more girls consumer YA books or is there a serious problem in the industry?

Girls are more open to reading books about girls or boys, but boys are more narrow in their reading tastes. Realistic fiction isn’t high up on their radar as fantasy, adventure, comics and non-fiction are. Boys are bigger readers in the middle grade category with tons of choices to read, but then there’s a huge gap for YA and they jump to adult books.

Just look at the NY Times bestselling books list of chapter books for this week.

1.CLOCKWORK ANGEL

2. THE RED PYRAMID

3.TALES FROM A NOT-SO-POPULAR PARTY GIRL

4.LINGER

5. HALO

6.DORK DIARIES

7.DORK DIARIES

8.UNRAVELED

9. THEODORE BOONE:KID LAWYER

10. I AM NUMBER FOUR

Out of those 10 books, six are marketed as “girl” books, meaning about girls, for girls, with high percentage of romantic plot. Two are “boy” books but are as I said, middle grade– The Red Pyramid and Theodore. That leaves the teen sci-fi fantasies I am Number Four and Unraveled as the bridge between the two gendered categories, but I’m sure most of those devouring the two will still be female.

What’s missing here?

I understand that yes, male authors over all get attention for being literary (see the Frazenfreude twitter controversy.) I understand Maureen Johnson in saying that throughout our scholastic careers, we read lots of books by men and they are taken more seriously than ones by women writers, but those are classic, literary books. What about regular books, contemporary YA books for boys? I’m sorry but I don’t see the comparison.

When I walk through the teen section at the bookstore, I think it should more aptly be titled the “romantic-fantastical-flings-with-supernatural-species-and-hormonal-high-school-drama” section. I see covers of thin, pretty nannies, backstabbing girls on vacations, hovering kisses between some dark, mysterious guy and a glowing girl…

Yes, they are often marketed as fluffy, light books for girls, but there are lots of good, non-fluffy books by women in YA and they are all getting coverage and raving reviews all over the place.  Women should be able to write books that appeal to guys and girls, but they mostly write for teen girls. Or we should have guys write more YA books as well. Covers for books that boys mightly actually like still have girls on them or use more feminine typography that scares them away.

The guys in these YA books are the love interests or the friend lacking self esteem. They’re not real guys that boys would relate to and want to read about. I love Hannah Moskowitz’s analysis of the way boys are stereotyped in YA lit which makes boys avoid them like the plague.

You can’t simply complain that men are being hailed as better authors, while the women are only about chick-lit, so we shouldn’t say there’s a crisis for boy readers. That’s a whole different issue. It still doesn’t change the fact that YA is not getting guys, whether they are fluffy or non-fluffy stories, whether the author’s name on the cover or with neutral initials. It’s all about the story, people.

Maybe decent YA books for guys aren’t the popular books that the media is covering, so that’s why they’re not reaching their intended audience. That’s why lots of people tweet book recommendations or blog about them. Yet most book websites and blogs are run by women and have a tone, design and language that appeals to girls.

I have found a couple ones dedicated to books for boys. There’s one called guysread.com, that was created to address this concern.They categorize books by themes and genres like “people being turned into animals” or “at least one explosion.”

Another blog is called guyslitewire.blogspot.com. On their about me, it says the blog  “exists solely to bring literary news and reviews to the attention of teenage boys and the people who care about them.”

Great ideas if you ask me.

Do you think there are certain topics or genres that are more boy-friendly? Are publishers not marketing YA books the right way to boys? Or are teen boys just too busy watching TV and playing video games to care?

Thoughts?

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