Monday, February 28, 2011

The "Twilight" Effect, Part 2

A boy would not pick this up!
Girls vs Boys

Now what? I'm seeing more YA paranormal books with strong female leads. I still see vampires, but now I'm noticing other creatures of mythology like trolls and even evil unicorns being featured. Aren't we sick of vampires yet? Geez!

It looks like the second wave of authors might be capitalizing on the popularity of a genre - a genre that might seem new, but it's really not. Writers are taking it to the next level with stronger, more defined female leads. Romance is such a necessity within this genre, but maybe less love triangles. Despite the difference, they will stil draw comparisons to Twilight.

Personally, I wonder if we're leaving out young male readers in the current YA paranormal frenzy. I remember not really finding a whole lot for me when I was in high school - other than Robert Cormier and maybe Richard Peck. If a book looked like it was targeting girls, I wouldn't touch it. On the other hand, girls read "boy" books all the time. Double-standard, I know.

I don't have any stats, but I'm pretty sure girls buy more books than guys. Authors can go ahead and create a great book geared exclusively for girls - plaster a gorgeous svelte woman on the cover and the sales will still come. They don't need boys to buy their books.

Adolescent female readers are much more likely to pick up a book that looks more "masculine" than a guy picking up a novel with a hot chick and muscular leading man on the cover. Just a personal observation. A girl is more likely to read Westerfield's Leviathan than a boy is going to check out Moulton's Angelfire. Just sayin'!

Many girls liked Harry Potter because of the character of Hermione. They had no problem with the cover and title depicting a geeky looking boy with glasses. But if J.K. Rowling had called the book "Hermione Granger" and plastered the covers with a girl, I highly doubt you'd have nearly as many boys reading it. Why?

I guess it's the same reason it's cool for a girl to wear a guy's jacket.


Anonymous said...

So funny on the girly covers - won't touch it.

I was eavesdropping on a conversation at work as someone was looking for a new series for her 10-12 year old son to read. Since I know nothing about YA books, I tend to hang around when the other gals are chatting about it so I can recommend something. I should really just buy some but that's a different story.

The woman's comment was that if there was even a hint of romance, her son wouldn't touch it because girls are such a non-entity right now. Another customer was concerned about sex in books for her teen son. In the fight to the death/for survival books like Hunger Games & Gone, the first woman said "Well, he plays the violent video games but there's no kissing right? He won't touch it if there's kissing." Which reminds me of my younger brother when we saw Legal Eagles and this annoyed voice groans out in the theatre "They're kissing again?"

Co-worker made some recommendations even though the main character was female, there was minimal romance and strong male secondary characters.

But the majority of YA book buyers are teen girls with their girly covers. At least that's what i've noticed at the tills. There are a lot of boys under 12 because there are the Percy Jackson books, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Bones, Harry Potter etc...but when it's over 12 the market really fizzles for them until they start reading the adult fiction.

So plug that gap, Mr. Noel. It needs to be filled. It really does. Take a walk through your local YA section in the bookstore. Ignore the covers - look at whose looking at the covers. It ain't boys. So give them a story & cover they will pick up.

J. Noel said...

That's an amazing observation, Jen. I'm so glad you eavesdrop on your customers. I bet you have even more stories to tell.

I think it's funny how parents think it's okay for their boys to read about maiming and killing others, yet a peck on the lips is absolutely a no-go.

But your story reminds me of the movie The Princess Bride where the little boy keeps interrupting his grandpa when he reads a kissing part.

I really do think there's a need too. I'm hoping there's one!

Laura Eno said...

I've tried to write YA with boys in mind but two things hamper me: I write strong females and I don't put in enough fighting. Sigh. I write like a girl.

J. Noel said...

Laura, you should try writing with a male main character. It might be tough, but I think even if it's not as good as you would like it, it would be a great learning experience.

Strong females can kick ass too, though!

But it's a sad fact that boys will not read a book with a female as the main character. What's up with the male species anyhoo?

Mark Andrew Edwards said...

Yep, once again you're see the trend correctly. Boys are being left out of YA. There are a few standouts, Percy Jackson series comes to mind, but overall the genre is dominated by female characters.

I don't know why but, again you're right, boys/men don't read women authors or books where a woman is the main character. It might be a problem with reader identification. Most boys don't feel like putting themselves into a girl's shoes, perhaps. Or maybe the plots that appeal to boys aren't being written. Again, just my opinion but I don't think teenaged boys are interested in romance as a plot.

And I think you're right, women will read books with a good male protagonist (though they will rightfully demand that female characters in the book be realistic or sympathetic). I wish I knew why but I'm grateful for that, especially as the gender balance in readers skews increasingly female.

So what's the solution? I don't know but I plan to write YA novels with boys in mind. We'll see how it goes. April is just around the corner.

-Mark Andrew Edwards

J. Noel said...

I'm with you, Mark. I think it's important for boys to find books they are interested in. I think we lose them after age 12.

Otherwise, they either stick to video games or go up to adult books instead. If we write more books for that 13-21 year old age bracket, we'll keep them as life-long readers.

When I was an English teacher, I taught The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier. I took some heat from the administration, since it was consistently in top 5 banned books in public schools, but my students - especially my male ones - identified with the characters.

At parent/teacher conferences, I loved how parents were shocked to find their sons reading at home, and then asking to go to the bookstore or library to pick up another Cormier novel.

Anonymous said...

When I was one of those "young males", my favorite books were "The Blue Sword" and "The Hero and the Crown". Hari and Aerin were just so different from the standard "guy" heroes that I loved them. Sure, they tended to do "guy" things, but they were women and not apologetic about it. Later on, Sabriel scratched a similar itch.

I think the key was that they weren't defined by being love (read: "sex") interests, they were fully realized characters, actors in the story rather than objects of the action.

Thing is, I'm not convinced that such is purely the province of the male of the species. Sure, a historical figure like Joan of Arc might have had to pretend to be a male in a male-dominated society, but the principles of standing up and doing the right thing strikes me as genderless, even if it means something more than passive-aggressive posturing or backroom "negotiations".

J. Noel said...

I only read "The Hero and the Crown," and you're right on - they were different than typical male heroes in YA fantasy.

In fact, if I remember correctly, the cover of "The Hero..." had a big dragon with a small figure in armor on a horse.

But you put an obvious female on the cover, I will put money on the fact that nearly 100% of the boys will not pick it up.

Anonymous said...

Aye, I'm not disagreeing, just noting that there's some hope, if slight. Even though I was interested in The Blue Sword *because* it featured a very modest and powerful woman with a sword on a horse on the cover instead of Teen Male Fantasy #265, I know full well I'm an outlier. I also read a LOT of books, and those that were brave enough to break the mold were appreciated. It was important to me to find a well-written book with a heroine that wasn't just a thinly disguised sex object. It gave me hope that women had more to offer than what I saw from most books and even my superficial peers. I wanted to marry a woman like Hari when I grew up, not a waif in waiting or Morgana pretender. (And I did in the end, so there's something to that...)

Perhaps I came to that *because* I read a ton of books, and had a sense of the norm, and was thoroughly sick of it. Hard to say. Still, I think you're right, there's something to the idea of making high adventure the point of the cover, rather than silly pseudoromance. Best foot forward and all that.

J. Noel said...

I read a lot growing up too, but I just gravitated towards male lead characters...but as I got older (high school) I was MUCH more open to gender.

I just hope we can keep boy readers long enough to come to that same place.

the weirdgirl said...

I've also noticed an over-abundance of female lead books. Honestly, I think since the publishing industry is struggling they're trying to maximize on the female demographic. I don't remember the exact numbers either but they've documented that the majority of books are written and read by women, and it's been that way since the 1800s. (Think Little Women.) The thing I find sad is the increasingly sexy covers. I've been reading a new series where the lead female character is strong but plain and for the first book the cover reflected that (which I found refreshing). But by the third book they were prettying her up. This was an adult novel, but I've seen the same in YA. It's gotten so I'm passing by any novel with a girl lying dramatically on something or other, amidst a dark background, with a shot of red.

the weirdgirl said...

P.S. If you haven't read I Love You, Beth Cooper, you should. It's hilarious, male-oriented, and not anything like that horrible movie version. It's also pretty adult but I would still let an older teen read it.

J. Noel said...

I will have to check that out. I know the movie was a stinker.

amauryons said...

I like movies and mine favorite is Twilight. This is the best movies and I Watch Movies Online. You can also watch it on net just go through the link.

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